Marcin Witkowski, a student from Poznan, Poland, now studying at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, holds a sign celebrating the renaming of the 10th Street Bridge as the Philip Murray Bridge yesterday. Mr. Witkowski is pursuing a doctorate in labor history and labor relations.
By Nate Guidry Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One can hardly think of Pittsburgh without thinking of the role the labor movement played in its development.
And one cannot think of the labor movement without thinking of Philip Murray, the first president of the United Steelworkers of America and a leader of the early movement.
That was the theme from many who spoke during a renaming ceremony of the 10th Street Bridge in honor of Mr. Murray.
"It's a great tribute to a great man," said Mr. Murray's granddaughter, Erin Murray of Upper St. Clair. "Everyone loved him. He was humble and very religious. He believed that a person's reputation and honor were all they had."
About 200 people gathered in the center of the bridge yesterday afternoon for the ceremony. Two copies of the plaque will be mounted at the entrance of the south end of the bridge and two on the north end.
After an opening prayer by the Rev. Jack O'Malley, several union and county officials spoke, including Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, who talked about the many bridges across the county renamed in the past few years.
Mr. Onorato mentioned the Roberto Clemente Bridge at Sixth Street, the Andy Warhol Bridge at Seventh Street and the Rachel Carson Bridge at Ninth Street.
"Now, we have the Philip Murray Bridge," said Mr. Onorato. "I can't think of a more appropriate person. It is very fitting that we rename this bridge for a man who worked to improve conditions for those who have labored to build our great region and nation. Philip Murray dedicated his life to the labor movement, and his efforts led to wide-ranging improvements, including health insurance benefits and pension benefits for countless working people across our country."
Mr. Murray was born in Scotland in 1886 and emigrated to the United States in 1902, where he worked as a coal miner in Westmoreland County. Two years later he joined the United Mine Workers of America and was elected president of his local the next year.
Mr. Murray remained active in the labor movement and was named the first chairman of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee when it was formed in 1936, then four years later he was elected president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
After the Steel Workers Organizing Committee coordinated several significant and successful strikes, the committee was disbanded and became the United Steelworkers. Mr. Murray was the first president.
"He loved Pittsburgh very much," said Erin Murray. "We are very pleased to have his name placed on this bridge. He lived his life working for workers' rights."