Skip to main content
Select Source:

Philip Murray

Philip Murray

Philip Murray (1886-1952), American labor leader, helped organize America's mass-production workers into industrial unions through the establishment of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Philip Murray, John L. Lewis, Sidney Hillman, and David Dubinsky built the American labor movement as it now functions. During the Great Depression and the New Deal of the 1930s, they brought trade unionism out of the doldrums and, through the creation of industrial unions, into a position of power whereby labor influenced big business and national politics.

Murray was born on May 25, 1886, in Lanarkshire, Scotland, to Irish immigrant parents. His father was a coal miner active in the Scottish trade union movement. When Philip entered the mines at the age of 10, he was already a novice trade unionist knowledgable about strikes. In 1902 the Murray family emigrated to America. They settled in the western Pennsylvania mining district of Westmoreland County, where they had relatives.

Early Union Career

Within 2 years Murray had become a union militant, leading a strike against the coal company for which he worked. As a result, the Murray family was evicted from a company house and Philip was banished from the county. From that moment he decided to devote his life to the labor movement.

Murray rose rapidly within the ranks of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). By 1912 he was a member of the international executive board, and in 1916 he won election as president of District 5, the powerful Pittsburgh bituminous region. In 1920 John L. Lewis, the UMWA president, appointed Murray vice-president.

Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, when the UMWA was racked with factionalism and suffered a sharp membership decline, Murray remained unshakably loyal to Lewis. Because Murray proved so knowledgable about the economics of coal and other major industries and because of his proven negotiating ability, when Lewis formed the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) in 1936 he appointed Murray chairman.

Ideas and Programs

By then Murray had firm ideas about the place of the labor movement in American society. Devout Catholicism and the family tradition of unionism combined to form his own vision of social justice. Unionism led him to espouse the workers' case against employers; Catholicism caused him to oppose all so-called revolutionary "isms" and, in accord with the papal encyclicals on labor-management relations, to see the employers' as well as the workers' rights in the industrial and social systems. He expounded these ideas in a book he coauthored with industrial engineer Morris Llewellyn Cooke, Organized Labor and Production. The book asserted that if employers recognized trade unions and engaged in productive collective bargaining, the result would be justice for the worker, harmonious industrial relations, security for private ownership of property, increased productivity, and higher profits and wages.

Congress of Industrial Organizations

As chairman of SWOC, Murray sought to put his ideas into action. Financed by Lewis and the UMWA, SWOC succeeded in February 1937 in winning a collective bargaining agreement from United States Steel and from many smaller companies. But later that year the "Little Steel companies" defeated SWOC in a brutal and bloody strike.

Murray's patience, warmth, and negotiating skills kept SWOC alive and vital until conditions once again favored union growth. When World War II erupted and America moved into defense and war production, Murray succeeded in 1942 in breaking down Little Steel's barriers to trade unionism. That same year he transformed SWOC into the United Steelworkers of America (USA) and became its first president.

As president, Murray demonstrated what he had learned as Lewis's loyal lieutenant. Other industrial unions that emerged during the 1930s had democratic union constitutions and rank-and-file participation, but the USA was controlled from the top down. At the 1942 founding convention Murray demanded and won a constitution that vested almost complete power in the leadership, meaning in this case Murray, who was also president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as well as a vice president of the UMWA.

Relations with Lewis

Despite his debt to Lewis, Murray could not avert a break. When Lewis repudiated Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, Murray remained committed to the President and the New Deal. As a result, Lewis retired as president of the CIO and was replaced by Murray. Lewis called Murray before the UMWA executive board in 1942, charged him with disloyalty, and stripped him of his union vice presidency. Murray, however, retained his presidencies of the CIO and the USA until his death.

Always a moderate attuned to the climate of the times and eager to make the labor movement more respectable, Murray rode the tide of anticommunism after the war. At the 1949 CIO convention he declared that, while there was room within the organization for all varieties of thought, there was no room for communism. He then led the convention delegates to expel 11 allegedly Communist-dominated unions from the CIO. He died in San Francisco on Nov. 9, 1952.

Further Reading

There is no substantial biography of Murray. The best place to find information on him is in two long and detailed histories of labor by Irving Bernstein, The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920-1933 (1960) and The Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941 (1970). For Murray's part in the struggle for industrial unionism with the American Federation of Labor see the dry, objective account by Philip Taft, The A.F. of L. from the Death of Gompers to the Merger (1959). The best study of Murray's role in the SWOC and CIO organizing drives in the mass-production industries is Walter Galenson, The C.I.O. Challenge to the A.F. of L. (1960). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Philip Murray." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Philip Murray." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-murray

"Philip Murray." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/philip-murray

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Murray, Philip

Philip Murray, 1886–1952, American labor leader, b. Blantyre, Scotland. He emigrated to the United States in 1902 and worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines. After he was discharged for fighting with a foreman, 600 miners struck, formed a local of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), and elected (1904) Murray local president. A skillful negotiator, he rose to the vice presidency of the union by 1920. When the CIO was formed (see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), he became a CIO vice president and headed (1936) its successful steel workers' organizing campaign. He broke with John L. Lewis, whom he succeeded as CIO president (1940). For supporting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's reelection in 1940, Lewis forced Murray out of the UMW. (Lewis supported the Republican Wendell Willkie). However, Murray was elected president of the United Steel Workers of America in 1942 when that union was formed. Retaining the presidency of both the CIO and the United Steel Workers of America until his death, Murray was active in expelling (1949–50) Communist-dominated unions from the CIO.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Murray, Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Murray, Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-philip

"Murray, Philip." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-philip

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Murray, Philip

MURRAY, PHILIP

Philip Murray (May 25, 1886–November 9, 1952) was the founding president of the United Steelworkers of America (USA) and president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) from 1940 to 1952.

Murray was born in Scotland, where he began mining coal at age ten. In 1902, he immigrated with his family to western Pennsylvania, where he followed in his father's footsteps to become a union activist. Murray was elected president of a United Mine Workers (UMW) local in 1904 and began a quick rise through the ranks to a district presidency in 1916, and to the vice presidency in 1920.

Over the ensuing two decades Murray worked closely with UMW president John L. Lewis. He became an effective adjunct to Lewis's flamboyant leadership by mastering the technical details of the coal industry, union organization, and government policy. Although a staunch fighter for union members' interests, as a devout Catholic, Murray rejected radical solutions to industrial conflict for the papal vision of cooperation between labor and management. His belief in the sanctity of contracts and his abilities as a conciliator earned the respect of employers while his honesty and tough negotiation skills secured his popularity among union members.

Murray believed that a strong union and government intervention in the coal market would be mutually beneficial to workers and mine owners. When the Great Depression hit he became an early advocate of national legislation to regulate the industry. His efforts bore fruit with the early New Deal when the UMW used section 7a of the National Industrial Recovery Act to regain its membership and Murray took a leading role in writing the coal code under the National Recovery Administration.

Murray was a key player in the creation and success of the CIO. His experience and close relationship with Lewis placed him at the head of the Steel Workers' Organizing Committee (SWOC), one of the CIO's major initiatives. By early 1937 the SWOC negotiated an agreement with industry giant U. S. Steel, but failed to do so in the rest of the industry. Murray's skilled leadership of SWOC and ability to work with the government finally organized these "little steel" companies in 1941. The next year he founded the USA with himself as president. Unlike many other CIO unions that were born of rank-and-file action, the USA was a more hierarchical and bureaucratic entity from the start. To a great degree this suited Murray's vision for a labor movement that had to survive in conflict with similarly organized large corporations.

Murray took the reigns of the CIO in 1940, after Lewis followed through on a promise to resign the CIO presidency if Franklin Roosevelt won a third term. In this position he maintained his ties to the administration and succeeded in stabilizing the organization and seeing to its growth during the war years and successful institutionalization thereafter. Worried that early Cold War-era attacks on the CIO's left-led unions would compromise the organization, Murray expelled eleven tainted organizations in 1949. He remained in charge of the CIO until his death in 1952.

See Also: COLLECTIVE BARGAINING; CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS (CIO); NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL RECOVERY ACT (NIRA); NATIONAL RECOVERY ADMINISTRATION (NRA); STEEL WORKERS' ORGANIZING COMMITTEE (SWOC); UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA (UMWA).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bernstein, Irving. The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920–1933. 1960.

Bernstein, Irving. Turbulent Years: History of the AmericanWorker, 1933–1941. 1970.

Zieger, Robert H. The CIO, 1935–1955. 1995.

Andrew A. Workman

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Murray, Philip." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Murray, Philip." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-philip

"Murray, Philip." Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. . Retrieved August 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-philip

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.