Phillip Murray
Phillip Murray began his career as a coal miner, became involved with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and became head of its Pittsburgh region.

When mineworkers chief John L. Lewis led the formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) within the AFL to organize unions in basic industry across craft lines, he tapped Murray to head up organizing steelworkers.

The CIO was expelled from the American Federation of Labor in 1936 and constituted itself as its own labor federation.

Murray won a major victory at the giant U.S. Steel in 1937 when the company recognized the union. However, the smaller (though still very large) steel companies resisted with violence and Murray suffered a temporary defeat.

It wasn’t until 1941 when favorable court rulings, strikes and National Labor Relations Board elections forced “Little Steel” to capitulate.

Murray was named head of the CIO in 1940.

After the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act was passed, Murray headed a brief CIO campaign to refuse to sign the non-communist affidavits as a means of rendering the Act meaningless.

With the defection of the United Auto Workers and several other major unions as well as the rival American Federation of Labor, the campaign failed.

Murray, who had tried to steer a “neutral” course between left and right wing union leaders, abandoned his neutral stand after the left-wing unions endorsed Henry Wallace for President in 1948 and as the burgeoning Red Scare gained traction.

Murray then led the expulsion of 10 unions from the CIO in 1950 for alleged communist-domination.

As president of the steel workers union, he led another strike in 1952 for 51 days. The run-up to the strike saw President Truman seize the mills, but return them to their owners when the courts ruled against him.

When workers went on strike, they lacked a significant strike fund to sustain the strike. As President Truman prepared to draft the strikers into the army, Murray reached an agreement that made limited gains.

He failed in his attempt to overturn the Taft-Harley Act and in the 1952 elections, Republican Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency and Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress.

Murray died shortly after the election in 1952.
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