Working-Class Saints Catholic Reformers and the Building of the Steel Workers' Union, 1937
Buffeted between militant Communists and red-baiting industrialists like Ernest Weir of National Steel and Thomas Girdler of Republic Steel, the CIO wins a few notable victories in 1937 but loses the struggle to unionize most of Little Steel. Violence erupts on picket lines from Chicago to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as strikers, national guardsmen, and company security personnel clash. The Roosevelt administration, aware of a mounting public backlash against the CIO, distances itself from organized labor. Phil Murray and the steel workers sorely need friends like fathers Charles Owen Rice and Carl Hensler and Bishop Hugh Boyle to rally blue-collar Catholics and reassure workers that their cause is untainted by Communism.
In 1913, Phil Murray had an appointment at the Pittsburgh Labor Temple on Webster Avenue. He was to meet with John L. Lewis, a rising organizer for the American Federation of Labor. When Murray arrived at the rendezvous, he found a hulking Welshman beating up two men. The battle was nearly finished. One combatant had gone down for the count while the other desperately sought an exit. Overcoming his amazement, Murray asked, "Is there a fellow by the name of John Lewis here?" Lewis, disinclined to interrupt his important business, replied, "Yes, but I'm busy now, see you in a few minutes." It seemed that two representatives of the Westinghouse Corporation had waylaid Lewis in nearby Turtlecreek. Licking his wounds, Lewis had made some inquiries in Pittsburgh and then located his friends.1