Peter Joseph Brennan was born May 24, 1918 in New York, New York, the son of John J. and Agnes (Moore) Brennan. His father was an ironworker who died when he was three. After attending the College of the City of New York, he became an apprentice painter and joined Local 1456 of the Painter's Union. He married Josephine Brickley. During World War II, he served in the Naval Reserve. His career as a union official started when he was elected as Business Manager of Local 1456 in 1947. In 1951, he became the Director of the New York Building Trades Council's Maintenance Division. He became the President of the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council in 1957 and served until 1973. He was President of the New York (State) Construction Trades Council from 1958 to 1973. He also served as the Vice President of the AFL-CIO in New York. He served on the National Advisory Committee on the Education of Disadvantaged Children; New York State Job Development Advisory Committee; Safety Advisory Committee to the New York State Labor Department; New York State Workmen's Compensation Advisory Committee: Advisory Board for Prevailing Wages for Public Works in New York State. Brennan was a strong opponent of affirmative action measures to increase the number of construction workers from minority groups. Following the "hard hat riots" of 7 and 8 May 1970 by construction workers protesting the decision of New York City mayor John Lindsay to fly the American flag at half mast after the Kent State shootings, he was wooed by the Nixon administration as a potential supporter in the 1972 presidential election. His work for Nixon in that election was crucial in increasing the vote for Nixon in New York and in the union movement. Brennan served as Secretary of Labor from February 2, 1973 to March 15, 1975. While serving as Secretary, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was enacted in 1974, adding another major dimension to the Department's regulatory role. Also enacted was the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 (CETA), which de-centralized much of the funds and decision-making to states and localities, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which increased Department's work for the handicapped. After government service, he returned to his union positions and eventually retired in 1992. He died of lymphatic cancer on October 2, 1996, at Massapequa, New York, and was interred in Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
From the description of Brennan, Peter J., 1918- (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10574008