On July 5th, 1916, my great grandfather Dan Murray died at Worcester City Hospital as a result of a broken neck that he sustained repairing a trolley as an employee of the Worcester Consolidated Railway Company. He was 46 years old. The Worcester Evening Gazette reported about his death on the front page of their July 8th edition, and his obituary appeared in the Worcester Telegram the same day. The work accident occurred in the trolley garage on Market Street in Worcester. Market Street is no longer in existence and the MCPHS University dorm and academic space near Lincoln Square stands where the trolley garage was once located. The Worcester Consolidated Railway Company is today known as the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, as buses replaced the trolley in later years. He was a member of the Street Railway Employees Union which today is known as the Amalgamated Transit Union.
He was survived by his wife and two young children. One of those two children was my grandfather, Daniel F. Murray Jr. who was 8 years old at the time of his father’s death. His funeral mass was held out of St. Bridget’s Church in Millbury and his pall-bearers included his co-workers and fellow union members.
At the time of his death, labor law was underdeveloped and workers compensation and social security did not exist. My great grandmother went to work full time at a local textile mill after her husband’s death. She would also die a premature death caused in part because of her working conditions.
Unfortunately, the story of my great grandfather’s death was not uncommon at the time as the United States was rapidly becoming an industrialized nation. The Labor movement led the fight along with forward-thinking business and government leaders in establishing new protections for workers. These protections, provided through compromise and negotiations in the legislative process would ensure that workers injured or killed at work had a financial safety net for themselves and their families.
The reverberations of my great grandfather’s death at 46 years old have been felt by the Murray family over the years in many ways both negative and positive. The loss of a parent or a spouse at such a young age causes a pain and trauma that manifests itself in different forms. A void is created that cannot easily be filled.
For my grandfather remedying the circumstances of how his parents died would be in fighting for protections and financial security for workers like his parents. He would become a well-respected labor leader known throughout the state for his commitment to those he represented.
His voice would be one among Labor, Business and Government leaders that sought consensus and advocated for the establishment of the workers compensation system and social security survivor benefits for those injured at work, or who died because of a work related injury.
These common sense reforms were examples of how labor, business and government could come together to protect the nations biggest asset – The American Workforce. As our leaders begin to gather in Washington this fall to discuss important issues such as tax reform, infrastructure investment and immigration, may they remember in our democratic form of government, principled compromise is a virtue, not a vice. It is my Labor Day wish that they collaborate in seeking policy solutions that reward hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit that has made the United States the greatest nation on earth.