As New Jerseyans celebrate Labor Day, here are seven recent labor leaders whose names should not escape the memory of those who closely follow politics and the state’s labor movement.
Hattie Rosenstein is one of the most influential women’s labor leaders in New Jersey history. She spent 40 years with Communications America (CWA), including 14 years as the New Jersey State Director before retiring in 2021. She helped steer Governor Phil Murphy to re-election in 2021/
Frank Forst served as vice president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO for 35 years and spent his career advocating for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the Burlington Bristol Bridge workers as an official of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 194.
Forst was appointed mayor of Jamesburg in 1975 after incumbent Frank Harvey left the city. After defeating former Spotswood Mayor Russell Kane in the Democratic primary, Forst won 58% in the general election against Republican Walter Michalczyk. The Republican Party lost its only council seats that year.
He ran twice for public office as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1973 and for the United States Senate in 1982.
A veteran of the Korean War, Forst also served as the Middlesex County Democratic State Committeeman and was one of the first members of the New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) when he was appointed by Governor Tom Kean in 1984. He died in 2015 at the age of 84. His daughter, Franceline Errett, became state director of the Communications Workers of America when Hattie Rosenstein retired earlier this year.
John T. Cosgrove became the first president of the Associated Building Trades Councils of New Jersey in 1904.
He chaired the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators and Pursers of America Local 89 in Elizabeth. In 1913, he served on the state Employers’ Liability Commission with state Sen. Walter Edge (R-Atlantic City), a future governor and U.S. senator.
Cosgrove later became the first general vice president of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, a position he held for more than 20 years until his death in 1948.
After Woodrow Wilson became governor of New Jersey, Democrats pushed hard for Cosgrove to be appointed labor commissioner. The incumbent, Lewis T. Bryant, was a Republican whose third three-year term was due to expire in 1913, just days before Wilson was due to resign to take over the presidency.
But as he prepared to leave Trenton, Wilson announced that he was reassigning Bryant. He said he wants to put merit ahead of party politics.
George W. Guthrie (R-Trenton) was one of the first labor leaders to serve in the New Jersey Legislature. He was a member of the Printers’ Union and secretary-treasurer of the Mercer County Central Union and secretary of the New Jersey League of Printers and Assistants. Guthrie served as a member of the Trenton School Board before winning a seat in the State Assembly in 1919 at the age of 38. He was re-elected in 1920 and 1921.
While Guthrie was a Republican congressman, Mercer County had a Democratic senator: S. Roy Heath (D-Trenton), a lumber company owner credited with the slogan “Trentan Makes, the World Takes.” After Heath retired in 1922, Guthrie sought a seat in the Senate, but Mercer County Republicans went with former Assemblyman William Blackwell (R-Titusville) as their nominee. Instead, Guthrie challenged County Clerk Harry Hartpence, a Democrat, and lost.
Frank Fetridge was vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Labor. He served two terms as International Vice President of the Wood, Wire and Metal Manufacturers’ Union, from 1904 to 1905 and again from 1915 to 1916. agent for Local 102 in Newark.
He spent five years in leadership positions at the State Building Board. Fetridge was a past president of the Essex Board of Trade and the Newark Building Board. He later served on the State Board of Institutions and Agencies with future U.S. Senator Dwight Morrow. Fetridge ran twice for the State Assembly seat for Essex County, in 1911 and 1915, but was unsuccessful
At the time of his death in 1943, at the age of 86, Fetridge was serving as a member of the State Commission on Rehabilitation.
Leo P. Carlin was president of the Brotherhood of Drivers and Chauffeurs Local 478 from 1933 to 1954. He served as mayor of Newark from 1953 to 1962. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1936 at the age of 27. In 1937 he ran for Freeholder in Essex County and lost. He later served on the Newark Board of Education. He lost
Carlin ran for Newark City Commissioner in 1945 and finished seventh, but after receiving the most votes in 1953, he succeeded Ralph Villani as mayor. He became the first directly elected mayor of the state’s largest city in 1954 after the charter change and was re-elected in 1958. He lost re-election in 1962 to Representative Hugh Addonizio (Newark). In 1966, Carlin took Adonizio to a runoff, but lost 61%-29%.
He was living in Avon-by-the-Sea when he died in 1999 aged 91.
Christopher J. Jackman (West New York) served on the board of the New Jersey AFL-CIO as vice president of the Amalgamated Paper Workers International Union and a highly successful Hudson County legislator. During his 24 years in the Legislature, he was a colorful but outspoken orator and advocate for labor.
Jackman was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in 1967, became Majority Leader in 1977, and Speaker of the Assembly in 1978. He held this position for three years. He was elected to the state Senate in 1983 and served until his death from cancer in 1991. He was succeeded by Bob Menendez, then an assemblyman and mayor of Union City.
John J. Horn (D-Camden) was a regional director of the United Rubber Workers Union. He later served in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature before becoming Labor Commissioner in 1976.
Horne spent nine years as a school board member in Camden and served on the city council before winning a seat in the State Assembly in 1965. He held back the Republican wave of 1967, winning District 3-D in a race where Republican Lee Luskin won second place. He served as minority leader in 1973.
He ascended to the Senate in 1973 after incumbent Frank Italiano (R-Camden) declined to seek re-election.
After Labor Commissioner Joseph Hoffman resigned in 1976 — he challenged Gov. Brendan Byrne in the Democratic gubernatorial primary the following year — Horn was named labor commissioner.
He faced a hurdle when political opponents of Byrne’s nominee to the New Jersey Supreme Court cited a provision in the state Constitution that bars lawmakers from hiring after voting for a raise during the current legislative term. Wiley voted to raise judicial pay in 1974, his first year in the Senate. Horn faced a similar obstacle after raising the salaries of cabinet members.
To avoid controversy, Byrne instead appointed Horne as assistant commissioner and then acting commissioner. In this way, Horn earned $4,200 more per year. Camden Mayor Angelo Ericchetti won his seat in the 1976 special election. (Attorney General William Hyland suggested that Wiley might have served had he not taken the $3,000-a-year raise that went to other judges.)
Horne left office in 1982 after Gov. Thomas Kean replaced him with campaign manager Roger Bodman. He died in 1999 at the age of 81.