Harvey Murphy

Harvey Murphy, trade unionist (b Poland 1900; d Toronto 30 Apr 1977).

Murphy, Harvey

Harvey Murphy, trade unionist (b Poland 1900; d Toronto 30 Apr 1977). Of Polish-Jewish origin, Murphy (his adopted name) grew up in a working-class milieu in Ontario, joined the COMMUNIST PARTY OF CANADA in the 1920s, and became perhaps the most influential communist in the Canadian trade-union movement in the 1940s. He played a leading role in the militant Mine Workers Union of Canada 1932-35, and took direction of the Western regional district of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (Mine-Mill) in 1943. Mine-Mill locals at Sudbury and Trail were key centres of the struggle over "red" unionism during the Cold War years; Murphy was a colourful and resourceful foe of anti-communist forces. His orchestration of Paul Robeson's Peace Arch concert in 1952 anticipated the radical theatre of the 1960s in important ways. He was less successful as the alleged CP "commissar" of the BC Federation of Labour, from which he was purged in 1948. Most Sudbury miners joined the United Steel Workers of America after the failure of the 1958 strike, but Trail remained loyal to Murphy and Mine-Mill until the formal merger of the two unions in 1966. Murphy's part in those negotiations may be regarded as the beginning of a historical reconciliation between left-wing unionists and mainstream Canadian labour; factional and ideological issues, however, contribute to the continued neglect of his contributions and career. Son Rae Murphy became a well-known writer and political commentator from an independent left perspective.