Home>Highlight>Here are six labor leaders – big deals in their day – that you should know about

Christopher Jackman served as Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly. (New Jersey Legislature Photo.

Here are six labor leaders – big deals in their day – that you should know about

By David Wildstein, September 06 2021 12:02 am

As New Jerseyans celebrate Labor Day, here are six labor leaders of the last whose names ought not slip from the memories of those who closely follow politics and the state labor movement.

Frank Forst served as vice president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO for 35 years and spent his career advocating for New Jersey Turnpike Authority and 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 Garvey moved out of town.  After defeating former Spotswood Mayor Russell Kane in the Democratic primary, Forst won 58% in the general election against Republican Walter Mychalcyk.  The GOP lost their only council seats that year.

He ran for statewide office twice as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1973 and the United States Senate in 1982.

A Korean War veteran, Forst also served as a Democratic State Committeeman from Middlesex County and as became one of the first members of the New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) when he was named by Gov. Tom Kean in 1984.   He died in 2015 at age 84.  His daughter, Franceline Ehret, became the state director of the Communications Workers of America when Hetty Rosenstein retired earlier this year.

John T. Cosgrove became the first president of the Associated Building Trades Councils of New Jersey in 1904.

He headed the Brotherhood of Painters, Decorators and Paperhangers of America Local 89 in Elizabeth.   He served on the State Employers’ Liability Commission in 1913 with State Sen. Walter Edge (R-Atlantic City), a future governor and U.S. Senator.

Cosgrove later became 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 heavily for Cosgrove to be named Commissioner of Labor.  The incumbent, Lewis T. Bryant, was a Republican whose third three-year term was due to expire in 1913, just days before Wilson was set to resign to assume the presidency.

But as he prepared to leave Trenton, Wilson announced that he was reappointing Bryant.  He said he wanted to put merit ahead of party politics.

George W. Guthrie (R-Trenton) was one of the earliest labor leaders to serve in the New Jersey Legislature.   He was a member of the Printing Pressmen’s Union and Secretary-Treasurer of the Mercer County Central Labor Union and Secretary of the Printing Pressmen and Assistants’ League of New Jersey.  Guthrie served as a Trenton school board member before winning a State Assembly seat in 1919 at age 38.   He was re-elected in 1920 and 1921.

While Guthrie was a Republican assemblyman, Mercer County had a Democratic senator: S. Roy Heath (D-Trenton), a lumber company owner who was credited with coming up with the “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” slogan.  After Heath retired in 1922, Guthrie sought the Senate seat, but Mercer County Republicans went with former Assemblyman William Blackwell (R-Titusville) as their candidate.  Instead, Guthrie challenged County Clerk Harry Hartpence, a Democrat, and lost.

Legendary New Jersey labor leader Frank Forst. (Photo: IFOTE Local 194).

Frank Fetridge was the vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Labor.  He served two terms as the International Vice President of the Wood, Wire, and Metal Lathers’ union, from 1904 to 1905 and again from 1915 to 1916.  He was the Secretary of the New Jersey State Council of Lathers and spent 30 years as business agent of Local 102 in Newark.

He spent five years in leadership posts with the State Building Trades Council.  Fetridge was a former president of the Essex Trades Council and Building Trades Council of Newark.  He later served on the State Board of Institutions and Agencies, along with future U.S. Senator Dwight Morrow. Fetridge twice sought a State Assembly seat in Essex County, in 1911 and 1915, but without success

At the time of his death in 1943, at age 86, Fetridge was serving as a member of the State Rehabilitation Commission.

Leo P. Carlin was the president of the Brotherhood of Teamsters and Chauffeurs Local 478 from 1933 to 1954.   He served as the mayor of Newark from 1953 to 1962.  He had been elected to the State Assembly in 1936, at age 27.  In 1937, he ran for Essex County Freeholder 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 as the top vote-getter in 1953, he replaced Ralph Villani as mayor.  He became the first directly-elected mayor of the state’s largest city in 1954, after a charter change, and was re-elected in 1958.  He lost re-election in 1962 against Rep. Hugh Addonizio (D-Newark).  Carlin forced Addonizio into a runoff in 1966 but lost 61%-29%.

He was living in Avon-by-the-Sea when he died in 1999 at age 91.

Christopher J. Jackman (D-West New York) was a New Jersey AFL-CIO board member as the vice president of the United Paperworkers International Union and a hugely successful Hudson County lawmaker.   He was a colorful, but plain-spoken orator and labor advocate during his 24 years in the legislature.

Jackman was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly in 1967, became majority leader in 1977, and Assembly Speaker in 1978.  He held that post for three years.  He was elected to the State Senate in 1983 and was serving there until dying of cancer in 1991.  He was replaced by Bob Menendez, then an assemblyman and the mayor of Union City.

John J. Horn (D-Camden) was the regional director of the United Rubber Workers Union.  He later served in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature before becoming Commissioner of Labor in 1976.

Horn spent nine years as a school board member in Camden and served on the city council before he won a State Assembly seat in 1965.  He held off the Republican wave of 1967, winning District 3-D in a race when Republican Lee Laskin won the second seat.  He served as minority leader in 1973.

He moved up to the Senate in 1973 after incumbent Frank Italiano (R-Camden) declined to seek re-election.

After Commissioner of Labor Joseph Hoffman resigned in 1976 – he wound up challenging Gov. Brendan Byrne in the Democratic gubernatorial primary the following year – Horn was named labor commissioner.

He faced a roadblock when political opponents of Byrne’s nominee for the New Jersey Supreme Court cited a provision in the State Constitution barring legislators from taking a job after voting to raise the pay of that post during the current legislative term.  Wiley had voted to raise judicial salaries in 1974, his first year in the Senate.  Horn faced a similar obstacle after ting to raise cabinet member salaries.

To avoid the controversy, Byrne instead named Horn assistant commissioner and from there, acting commissioner.  Horn wound up making $4,200-per-year more that way.  Camden Mayor Angelo Errichetti won his seat in a 1976 special election.  (Attorney General William Hyland issued an opinion that Wiley could serve if he didn’t take the $3,000-a-year pay raise that went to other justices.)

Horn left office in 1982 after Gov. Thomas Kean replaced him with his campaign manager, Roger Bodman.  He died in 1999 at age 81.

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