CAMDEN COUNTY, NJ (CBS) — Each Labor Day, people from near and far travel to a Camden County cemetery. There, the man credited with founding the holiday is buried, and this week a bill is being introduced to congress in his name.
In the rear of a quiet South Jersey cemetery there is a statue of a man, who spent his life making a whole lot of noise.
“He was a radical robust red haired rabble rouser,” said Bob Shinn a Camden County historian.
Born in New York in 1852, Peter J. McGuire was a key founder of the two largest trade unions in the country, what is now the AFL-CIO and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
He also spoke at the first labor day parade in 1882, there suggesting there that it become an annual tradition.
“I don’t know that I ever was told who the father of Labor Day was and here we now stand before his memorial, Shinn said.
McGuire died in Camden in 1906.
His grave sits several yards from the memorial in Pennsauken’s Arlington Park Cemetery, where each Labor Day his admirers can be found.
“Sharon and I typically come out on labor day just to stop by and pay our respects,” said visitor Garry Smith.
McGuire is considered a hometown hero for many, including Congressman Donald Norcross who is introducing a bill that will designate the memorial and grave site as a national historic landmark.
“It was not uncommon to work 11-12 hours a day, six days a week during his lifetime,” said Shinn.
Shinn adds that McGuire also championed the eight hour work day, laboring tirelessly for laborers until the end of his own shift.