CCT Blog Post



The Labor Leader: Peter J. McGuire
Peter J. McGuire was the driving force behind gaining national acceptance for the eight-hour workday and laying the foundation for a five-day workweek
Published On: Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Authored by: Christine D’Agostino, Vice President, Carpenter Contractor Trust

Peter J. McGuire (1852-1906), the son of Irish immigrants, was a carpenter and a labor pioneer. McGuire, the founder and first general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in 1881, first proposed Labor Day as a holiday in May of 1882 and in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation officially acknowledging Labor Day as a national holiday.  

In 1872, McGuire joined the Cabinet Makers Union of New York and recognized the need for one international union of wood workers. In 1881, he organized the Chicago convention where he led 36 carpenters from 11 cities across the United States to form the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA). 

McGuire is credited the “Father of Labor Day” having first proposed the concept of a day to honor all American workers more than 130 years ago. McGuire was the driving force behind gaining national acceptance for the eight-hour workday and laying the foundation for a five-day workweek. McGuire spearheaded efforts that led to the founding of the American Federation of Labor and promoted one of the first Bureau of Labor Statistics in the United States. McGuire’s efforts ultimately affected all industries and occupations, not just tradespeople.

In 2014, Peter J. McGuire was formally inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and shares a permanent stage with Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Bruce Springsteen, and other notables from a cross section of science and the arts to sports and entertainment. He is the first labor leader in the Hall of Fame’s history to be recognized for his contributions to the working class. 

In Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken, N.J., stand two monuments dedicated to Peter J. McGuire. One marks the resting place of the labor leader and the second is a memorial which ensures that McGuire’s service to our nation and the American labor movement is given the distinction it deserves. Peter J. McGuire was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the American labor movement and his legacy to American and Canadian workers lives on in Labor Day. 

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