Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Catalog Number 2010:26:067
Collection Tim Trant Collection
Object Name pamphlet
Scope & Content Informational Pamphlet about Philip Murray

Philip Murray

Except for early years spent in the coal mines of Scotland and the United States, Philip Murray devoted his entire lifetime to the building of a powerful labor movement.
Some of the mighty Unions that live around us today stand as monuments to his untiring efforts.

Mined Coal as a child
Philip Murray was born May 25, 1886, in Lanarkshire, Scotland. He died unexpectedly following a speaking engagement at a Union conference in San Francisco, November 9, 1952.
One of the early recollections Mr. Murray often talked about was his first experience at a Union meeting when, at the age of six,his father took him to a local gathering of miners in Lanarkshire, where they ratified a settlement with the mine operators calling for 12 cents a day pay increase. Four years later, Murray went down in a mine as his father's helper and his wages were 80 cents a day.
The Murray family--father, mother and ten children--landed in New York Harbor on Christmas morning 1902. Late that night the family climbed down from a railroad train at Irwin Station, near Pittsburgh, PA., and trudged six miles to the home of relatives. Father and young Philip managed to get jobs in an area coal mine to support the family. The 16-year-old Murray spent days in the mine and studied at home in the evenings. He spent as much as he could afford on correspondence courses, with emphasis on mining, labor relations and economics.

Argument changes life
An argument with a checkweighman the miners suspected of shorting them on the coal they changed the entire course of Philip Murray's life. The argument led to his discharge from the mine and he was ordered out of the camp owned by the coal company. The miners rallied to his support and a strike was voted, but hunger forced the miners back into the pits after little more than a month.
Young Murray was put on a train bound for Pittsburgh with the suggestion by company agents that he not return. "I never had another doubt as to what I wanted to do with my life," he recalled in later years.
It was a long, uphill fight for him after that as he moved ahead in the United Mine Workers organization. In 1912 he was elected a member of the Union's International Executive Board. This was the result of the growing skills he acquired as an organizer, administrator and negotiator on behalf of the unionized miners.
In 1920 he was elected International Vice President, serving in that capacity for over 20 years.
When the drive to unionize the giant steel industry was launched with the help of other established Unions, Philip Murray became chairman of the vast effort in June, 1936.

Served in Many Areas
Along with his many other activities he served on many government boards and agencies, as well as scores of groups interested in community life at all levels. He was a member of the Pittsburgh board of Education for a quarter of a century. He was the co-author of several pieces of legislation intended to help a sick coal industry and its miners.
His belief was that most problems could be settled by reasonable men around a conference table, where his vast storehouse of facts covering the whole field of industry and economics was brought into play. On the platform he spoke quietly and earnestly. He convinced, rather than overwhelmed, his audience, and he was at his best at open forums when questions were hurled from the floor. He believed passionately in industrial unionism as the key to permanent economic security for workers.
And that belief prodded him along as he tackle the superhuman task of organizing the steel industry. With the help of a staff of brilliant organizers and administrators, Murray was successful in the dramatic drive to build a strong Union among the Steelworkers of the United States and Canada.
Within a year and a half after the drive was started, United States Steel, largest steel firm in the world, agreed to negotiate and sign a wage agreement. Subsequent contracts signed during Murray's lifetime brought amazing wage benefits and security to the Steelworkers and their families.

Union Growth Continues
Under his leadership some 2,500 local unions were founded, manned by approximately 25,000 local officers, and the Union grew to a million-member strength. After his death, David J. McDonald, a close associate for many years, assumed the top leadership and the organization continued to grow, prosper and win outstanding achievements.
Mr. Murray was elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in November, 1940, a post he held until his death. He served on numerous top-level committees and was regarded as a labor statesman in the truest sense of the phrase.
This high regard could be traced to the underlying philosophy he had in dealing with both management and the people he spoke for:
"Never try to fool the men you represent," he once advised and associate. "Tell your people what is possible and what is impossible to do for them. And look upon a signed contract as something sacred--a pact to be observed; an agreement which is your bond of good faith."

Respected by All
The name of Philip Murray will live as long as workers are active in the labor movement. He was a truly sincere and dedicated man with qualities that won the admiration, not only of the working people of America, but of those in every station in life.
He is buried in a small cemetery on the outskirts of Castle Shannon, Pa., a worked-out mining community where Philip Murray once went down into the earth to dig coal.