“Are you Mr Quinn? I have something for you?”
The person speaking was a curator at a regional Northeast Carpenters union museum. He wanted to share a biography on my late great great grandfather and labor pioneer, Arthur A. Quinn. Yes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
It is awkward at times with me in this Republican party. For while I do proclaim facetiously that I am allergic to taxes, occasionally in the last 12 months I have heard, “All unions are gangsters”. Normally, when we begin a sentence with the word all it implies an untruth. While we may have unions in our state that take the power bequeathed to them for granted, many are good, sound, and just.
My family is obviously very proud of what Arthur A Quinn did for our state, even if his name is forgotten to time. Among his accomplishments:
- Founded Perth Amboy local carpenters union in 1896; This later transitioned into the Local 254 we know today
- Was instrumental in helping to found the New Jersey Department of Labor in 1904
- As Senator (1929-1933), helped to establish 8-hour workday in our state. Attempted during his term as Senator to pass New Jersey’s first workman’s compensation act
- President of New Jersey Federation of Labor 1913-1933 (now AFL-CIO)
- General Organizer for the International Brotherhood of Carpenters
- Nominated for Governor several times throughout his lifetime
- Ardently fought for women’s working rights during his political and private life
Of all of the accomplishments, perhaps I am most proud of his drive to secure children’s labor protections. I am including in this media release a copy of a draft change to New Jersey’s child labor law in 1931. We look around the world see examples of what our country was like prior to these protections. We should be thankful for these rights that many have fought and died to give us. My family was no exception to the suffering endured.
Upon his passing, it was sadly remarked “He did great things for the people of New Jersey and helped Democrats and Republicans work together”. We need more people like that in this world. Forgive me if at times if I sound like a politician. I don’t mean to and find the thought intolerable. However as much as I might not want to admit, it may be as some of my supporters say…politics is in the blood.
Robert A. Quinn is a candidate for New Jersey State Assembly in Legislative District 17 (Franklin Twp, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Milltown)