PENNSAUKEN, NJ – Today, U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) – a lifelong labor leader and Pennsauken native – announced that the Peter J. McGuire memorial and gravesite is now part of the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places.
“While many people know that Peter J. McGuire is the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ they don’t often know he lived in Camden and was buried in Pennsauken. This remarkable man, with South Jersey roots, understood the American workforce is our greatest asset and honoring his achievements with this historic landmark is the least we can do,” said Congressman Norcross. “I spent decades installing and restoring power for New Jersey homes, businesses and industrial sites, as well as fighting for New Jersey working families – and Peter J. McGuire set the stage for all of that. I’m humbled that – as just a kid from Pennsauken – I’m in a position to properly memorialize my hometown hero.”
Norcross unveiled the new designation at the 124th Annual Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Observance and Scholarship Breakfast alongside Senator Bob Menendez, Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and the SNJ AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Bob Schiavinato.
“As a fierce and bold labor leader, Peter J. McGuire has served as an inspiration to me throughout my time in Congress,” said Senator Menendez. “From proposing the celebration of Labor Day to fighting for higher wages and fair workplaces, McGuire’s work has benefited generations of New Jerseyans. Congressman Norcross has been an extraordinary colleague in helping improve the lives of all workers and I applaud his work in memorializing McGuire’s gravesite.”
“I am extremely proud that this Administration’s State Historic Preservation Office approved the placement of Peter J. McGuire’s gravesite and memorial in Pennsauken’s Arlington Cemetery on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Peter J. McGuire fought for fairness and respect in the labor workforce and helped to improve the lives of all working people. Thank you Congressman Norcross for your leadership to preserve and protect the legacy of Peter J. McGuire.”
“As a lifelong union member, I have gratitude to two fathers — my dad, an iron worker and proud Union man, and the ‘Father of Labor Day,’ Peter J. McGuire,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Peter McGuire, who lived in South Jersey and is buried in Pennsauken, helped form the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. He fought for the respect and the fair wages, we, in the building trades enjoy today. Organized labor helped build our modern, industrial nation and Peter McGuire helped build organized labor. As we celebrate Labor Day, it is only fitting that we honor the work of Peter J. McGuire with this dedicating.”
“By recognizing Peter J. McGuire’s work and legacy, we no longer consign this monument and statue to the mausoleum of memory. Instead, we can visit and be inspired and energized to lock arms with our friends and neighbors, with our allies and elected representatives, to continue the struggle for the American Dream,” said Bob Schiavinato, the President of the SNJ AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. “I’m proud to stand here today and recognize how much of what we take for granted began over a century ago and how much work we have ahead of us.”
The New Jersey State Register of Historic Places is the official list of the state’s historic resources – approved by the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites – that includes properties and districts with historical significance in architecture, history, archaeology, engineering and/or culture.
Norcross said that obtaining the historic status for the memorial and gravesite was only possible because of the research conducted by Robert Shinn.
“Researching the struggles and triumphs of Peter J. McGuire was a humbling experience, an honor, and a privilege,” said Robert Shinn, Treasurer of the Board of the Camden County Historical Society. “While McGuire is most famous for proposing Labor Day in 1882, our research confirmed that he was a figure of transcendent national significance in the labor history of the United States having founded and led both the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the American Federation of Labor and having organized and successfully led the eight-hour work day movement.”
About the Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Landmark Act
On Labor Day 2017, Norcross introduced the Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Landmark Act, which is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. (Click here to read the full text of the Act.)
“The story of Peter J. McGuire, the “Father of Labor Day,” reminds us that workers have been fighting for over a century to win the freedom to negotiate for higher wages and better jobs. We have come a long way since the first Labor Day in 1882, but we still have a long way to go,” said Richard L. Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Today’s labor leaders stand on the shoulders of visionaries like Peter J. Maguire, and we commend our Brother, Representative Don Norcross, for honoring our past, but more importantly for helping build a better future.”
“Peter J. McGuire is our founder, one of the great labor leaders of the 19th Century and most deserving of this honor,” said Douglas J. McCarron, President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. “We thank Congressman Norcross – our champion and union brother – for proposing this bill and encourage other Members of Congress to join him in honoring the ‘Father of Labor Day.’”
About Donald Norcross – Representing the American Worker
A member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 351 and electrician by trade, Norcross has a long history of fighting for workers in South Jersey. He fought day in and day out to ensure workers had good-paying jobs as a business agent and as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO. In the state legislature, he was part of the successful fight to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey.
As the only member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Donald is working to raise wages, protect the middle class, strengthen workplace protections and advance paid leave and equal pay.