Creative Commons/Flickr user Zakaria Sayed.
       Camden, N.J., part of Folsom, N.J., Local 351 and an important city in American labor

Dan Cosner grew up in an IBEW home and followed his father into the trades. He decided early in his career a leadership position would be the right fit for him.

Folsom, N.J., Local 351 Business Manager Dan Cosner,
recipient of this year’s George E. Norcross,
Jr., Humanitarian Award.

At one of his first meetings after becoming a member of Camden, N.J., Local 439, Cosner was struck by how an executive board member settled the crowd down and brought an animated discussion about a contentious issue under control.

“When that guy stood up, he kind of quelled the whole room,” he said. “I thought wow, I wanted to be that guy. I thought it was pretty cool.”

Local 439 was amalgamated into Folsom, N.J., Local 351 in 1994 and Cosner ran for a spot on the executive board soon afterwards --- and lost.

Turned out to be the last election he’s lost. He was hired as a business agent in 2001 and recently began his second term as Local 351’s business manager. He received another honor earlier this year, when labor leaders across southern New Jersey named him the recipient of the George E. Norcross, Jr. Humanitarian Award.

The award, named after the legendary labor and community leader in the Garden State, is awarded by the Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council as part of its Peter J. McGuire Labor Day celebration. Norcross Jr., who died in 1998, is the father of U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a former Local 351 business agent and the only IBEW member in Congress. The younger Norcross received the award in 2013.

McGuire founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and lived in Camden for much of his adult life. He was co-founder of the American Federation of Labor with Samuel Gompers and is credited by many labor historians for coming up with the idea for Labor Day. President Grover Cleveland signed legislation to make Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894.

Cosner has been president of the Southern New Jersey Building Trades Council since 2013. Council members, along with other labor leaders, have chosen the award’s annual recipient since 1996.

“My heart is with the IBEW but the building trades are part of my family, too,” Cosner said. “That’s what made it so important to me. The people I work with to make this a better place selected me for this award.”

Third District International Vice President Mike Welsh said Cosner is deserving, noting that he’s “so respected in the communities down there and has been for a long time.”

“Dan is so full of energy,” Welsh said. “He’s willing to try new and innovative things. He’s always there to help when you call on him.”

Cosner, 51, has had numerous leadership roles in his local union and in the community and Welsh said he’s built connections that have proven helpful to his members and the rest of the IBEW.

“He’s very politically active,” Welsh said. “It’s truly in his blood. Dan always has a smile on his face and says things are great, even when you know he might be worn down a little bit.”

Cosner’s father, Ray, retired at 55 because of his IBEW pension and savings. He and his wife, Ruth, celebrated with their son when he received the honor. So did Dan’s wife, Denise, who is a journeyman wireman and a Local 351 member, along with the couple’s two children.

The younger Cosner proudly notes he’s missed just one local union meeting since beginning his apprenticeship in 1987, shortly after graduating from high school.

“My dad was able to provide for us and my mom was able to stay home with me,” he said. “That’s why I went into this. I saw the upbringing I had was great. That was because my dad’s wages and benefits were great.”