Philip Murray Labour Leader

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Philip Murray – Labour Leader

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Philip Murray - Labour LeaderPhilip Murray (May 25, 1886 – November 9, 1952) was a steelworker and an American labor leader. One of the most important American labor leaders of the 20th century, he was the first president of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), the first president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and the longest-serving president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

Philip Murray was born in Blantyre, Scotland, in 1886. His father, William Murray, was a Catholic coal miner and union leader who emigrated from Ireland to Scotland prior to his son’s birth. His mother, the former Rose Layden, was a cotton mill weaver. Rose died when Philip was only two years old. William Murray remarried and had eight more children. Philip was the oldest boy, and after only a few years of public education he went to work in the coal mines at age 10 to help support the family.

In 1902, Philip and his father emigrated to the United States. They settled in southwestern Pennsylvania and obtained jobs as coal miners. Young Philip Murray was paid for each ton of coal he mined. By the following year they had saved enough money to bring the rest of the family to America.

Career in the United Mine Workers

Murray was working in a coal mine in 1904 when he became involved in the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Feeling that a manager had purposefully altered and lowered the weight of the coal he had mined, Murray punched the man and was fired. The other coal miners went on strike to demand his reinstatement. In response, the company threw Murray’s family out of their company-owned home. Murray was shocked and angered by the company’s actions. Convinced that unions were the only means workers had of protecting their interests, Murray became an avid and lifelong unionist.

In 1905, Murray was elected president of the UMWA local in Horning, Pennsylvania. Determined to become the best local president he could, he enrolled in an 18-month correspondence course in math and science. Although he had little formal education, he completed the course in just six months.

Murray married Elizabeth Lavery (the daughter of a miner killed in a mine accident) on September 7, 1910. They adopted a son.

In 1911, Murray became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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