A Labor Leader’s Catholic Vision: Phil Murray at CUA

Phil Murray belongs on the short list of any Catholic union activist’s heroes alongside Cesar Chavez and Msgr. John Ryan. The devoutly Catholic immigrant Pennsylvania coal miner would leave his own union (the United Mineworkers) in the 1930s to lead organizing efforts in the steel industry, creating the United Steelworkers Union (which celebrated its 75th birthday on May 22!). Murray also served as the leader of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO in AFL-CIO).

During the 1940s Murray pressed (unsuccessfully) for a system of industry councils where labor organizations and employers could meet and cooperate, a system of industrial democracy based in large part on his reading of the Papal Social Encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. After World War II, Murray played an important role in labor’s campaign for civil rights. Murray’s papers reside in the Catholic University of America Archives – to learn more about Murray, check out A Pennsylvania Scot in Big Labor’s Court by CUA Archivist William Shepherd.

1 reply
  1. Rosary Beads
    Rosary Beads says:

    Over the past 200 years, the Catholic church has consistently held a favorable attitude toward labor unions and the rights of workers to organize. A key step in attaining this position was the action of an American Cardinal, James Gibbons of Baltimore, in pursuading Pope Leo XIII not to condemn the Knights of Labor in 1887. The Knights were an American attempt to organize workers and some bishops argued that the group possessed the characteristics of a secret society. But Cardinal Gibbons saw that it was important to support the recent immigrants to American shores, many of them Catholic, whose work conditions were hard and often unjust.

    I’m glad to see strong catholic leaders supporting fair labor and fair pay. Fight the good fight in His name!

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