Peter J. McGuire Labor Day Landmark Act
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ACTING ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 149, A BILL TO DESIGNATE THE PETER J. MCGUIRE MEMORIAL AND PETER J. MCGUIRE GRAVESITE LOCATED IN PENNSAUKEN, NEW JERSEY, AS A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
OCTOBER 14, 2021
Chairman Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on H.R. 149, a bill to designate the Peter J. McGuire Memorial and Peter J. McGuire Gravesite located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, as a National Historic Landmark, and for other purposes.
The Department recommends deferring action on H.R. 149. Although H.R. 149 stipulates that the Peter J. McGuire Memorial and the Gravesite would not be considered a unit of the National Park System, we would recommend a study be conducted to determine whether it meets the criteria for national significance, suitability, and feasibility that are applied when considering other potential additions to the system since the bill would authorize the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements to provide educational and interpretive facilities and would authorize the Secretary to provide technical and financial assistance to any entity with which the Secretary has entered into a cooperative agreement.
H.R. 149 would designate the Peter J. McGuire Memorial and Peter J. McGuire Gravesite, located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, as the Peter J. McGuire Memorial National Commemorative Site. The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with public or private entities for the purposes of providing educational and interpretive facilities and programs regarding the site and would further authorize the Secretary to provide technical and financial assistance to any entity with which the Secretary has entered into a cooperative agreement. The bill does not, however, designate the site as a National Historic Landmark, as stated in the title of the bill as currently written.
Peter J. McGuire was a national leader in the labor movement during the 19th century. He founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and is widely acknowledged as a “father” of Labor Day. Upon his death in 1906, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners commissioned the granite headstone at his gravesite in the Arlington Cemetery in Pennsauken, New Jersey. In 1952, the centennial of his birth, the organizations that he helped found sponsored the design, construction, and dedication of the Peter J. McGuire Memorial, also in Pennsauken.
The Department appreciates the desire of the bill’s sponsor to bring greater recognition to the history of the labor movement and specifically to Peter J. McGuire’s story. However, in addition to our recommendation to conduct a study, designating the Memorial and Gravesite as a National Commemorative Site could create confusion among the general public about the significance of the title and the site’s relationship to the National Park Service – especially if that relationship involved the provision of technical or financial assistance to the site. The title “National Commemorative Site” has been sparingly employed by Congress. There is no definition by law or custom defining a National Commemorative Site.
If the Committee decides to move forward on this bill without a study, the Department would appreciate the opportunity to provide technical amendments to clarify the bill intentions.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.