Phillip Murray, Advocate of the Working Man

One of the presidents of the American United Steel Workers Union was a very devout Catholic. He was Phillip Murray (1886-1952), an Irishman whose family emigrated from Scotland in 1902 when he was sixteen years old. Murray, who had worked with his father in the coal mines, figured prominently in advocating the rights of workmen, especially in the 1930s, when they were very harshly exploited by avaricious capitalists. One writer summed up Murray’s passionate devotion to his Faith thusly: “[He] belonged to the Church more than to Labor and represented the hierarchy within the working-class movement. God always came into his speeches, and he did nothing without taking the advice of a Pittsburgh clergyman, Father Charles Owen Rice.” Father Rice was known as the “labor priest.” But he also was known for his wit, and, sometimes, sarcasm. He once defined an ecumenical smile for a Jewish friend: “I am not sure it isn’t like the smile of a baby. You can’t tell whether it is real or a gas pain.”