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Erik Visits an American Grave (VIII)

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This is the grave of Philip Murray, former CIO president and of the United Steelworkers of America. Murray emigrated from Scotland in 1902, arriving in Pittsburgh. He was 16 years of age. He then went into the coal mines. He became involved with the United Mine Workers of America in 1904 and he punched the man who weighed his coal because he felt the man was cheating him. The company then threw Murray’s family out the company housing where they lived. At that moment, a lifelong unionist was born. A relatively conservative unionist in terms of worker militancy, Murray soon became a favorite of UMWA leadership, including John L. Lewis. He became a vice-president of the Mineworkers in 1920. Murray followed his mentor out of the AFL and became vice-president of the CIO. When the UMWA created the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in 1937 to organize the steel mills, Murray led that charge and became first president of the union, which became the USWA in 1942. When Lewis left the CIO in 1940, Murray took over. Lewis and Murray soon split over the latter’s independence from his mentor and their friendship ended. That Murray strongly supported FDR and the New Deal while Lewis became an isolationist and endorsed Republicans over Roosevelt contributed to this divide. Murray continued leading the USWA and CIO both after the war, including guiding his union through the 1952 strike. He died of a heart attack soon after. Walter Reuther replaced him as head of the CIO and David McDonald followed him as USWA president.

Philip Murray is buried in Saint Anne Cemetery, Castle Shannon, Pennsylvania.

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  • Bruce Vail

    He lived in the shadow of Lewis almost all his life. He was always loyal, even when his position as president of CIO forced him to support Roosevelt after Lewis had broken with FDR. I don’t think Lewis held it against him.

  • Bruce Vail

    The official AFL-CIO biography — http://www.aflcio.org/About/Our-History/Key-People-in-Labor-History/Philip-Murray-1886-1952 — puts some emphasis on Murray as the inventor of the modern political action committee.

    Before then, I guess it was all sort of under the table stuff…

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