1st President of the United Steelworkers, 2nd CIO President 1940-52
Autograph ID: 4671
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1886-1952) Scottish born steelworker and labor leader, 1st president of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), 1st president of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), and longest-serving president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Emigrated to SW Pennsylvania 1902 and worked as a coal miner, became involved in the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1904. In 1905, he was elected president of the UMWA local in Horning, Penna. 1905 and in 1911, became a citizen. He favored cooperation with management rather than militancy, and came to the attention of UMWA President John White, who appointed Murray to its executive board 1912. He became a close associate of John L. Lewis and supported Lewis's 1917 bid to be a UMWA VP, and president in 1920. Lewis appointed Murray VP. He supported entry into WW I, and worked closely with government officials and employers to ensure that labor cooperated in the war effort. President Wilson named him to the Pennsylvania regional panel of the National War Labor Board and the National Bituminous Coal Production Committee. When General Hugh Johnson formed the Labor and Industrial Advisory Board in 1933, Murray played a key role in writing the "Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935" (Guffey-Snyder Act, struck down by the Supreme Court in 1936). When the AF of L ejected unions that composed the CIO in 1936, Murray supported Lewis' decision to form a new organization and was named a VP in the new CIO. When the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) was formed in 1936, Lewis named Murray its chair. In 1937, SWOC signed a contract with U.S. Steel. When SWOC attempted to organize workers at Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, National Steel, Inland Steel and American Rolling Mills (“Little Steel”), employers defeated the drive. Murray was elected 2nd VP of the CIO at its 1st convention in Nov. 1938. When Lewis retired as CIO president in 1940, Murray was elected his successor. “Little Steel” capitulated to SWOC in the spring 1941 and SWOC soon had more members than the UMWA, further alienating Murray and Lewis. When he took over as CIO president, he instituted reforms to stabilize it and by Nov. 1941 the CIO had a budget surplus. When Murray transformed SWOC into USWA and installed himself as president, on May 25, 1942, Lewis forced the UMWA executive board to remove Murray as VP and strip him of his membership. Murray supported the Roosevelt administration and during WW II adopted a "no strike pledge" for all CIO unions, and supported industry union councils. He established CARD, the CIO Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination, which undertook a discrimination-awareness program that proved somewhat effective (outside the South). In 1947 Congress enacted the Taft-Hartley Act over Truman's veto and despite Murray's and the CIO's opposition. After its passage, Murray and the CIO were indicted for violating Sec. 304 of the Act, which forbade expenditure of union funds in federal political campaigns. The Supreme Court overturned the indictment. He refused to sign the required anti-Communist affidavit on the grounds that it was demeaning but aggressively purged the CIO of left-leaning unions in 1949 & 1950. In 1952, Murray led the USWA in its most famous strike against U. S. Steel. National wage controls had been re-imposed to keep inflation in check during the Korean War. In Nov. 1951, USWA negotiators asked U.S. Steel for a large wage increase, improvement in fringe benefits, and a closed shop. The company would not agree without government approval of commensurate price increases. Truman referred the dispute to the Wage Stabilization Board which recommended a 16.5c wage increase; U.S. Steel and other steelmakers opposed any wage hike. On March 8, 1952, President Truman nationalized the steel industry, overturned on June 2 by the Supreme Court. The government returned the mills to their owners hours later, and the Steelworkers struck for 51 days, an agreement reached on July 24, 1952. They won a limited version of the closed shop, and wages and benefits rose, but not as much as the WSB recommended. He died Nov. 9, and was succeeded by Walter Reuther as CIO president and David McDonald as USWA president. He was a member of the NAACP executive committee and also on the board of the American Red Cross.
Signed 3 ½ x 5 ¼ slip, undated but early-mid 1940s.”