The Philip Murray Building History
In 1946 the Monroe County CIO Industrial Union Council filed papers with the State of Michigan to form a nonprofit Corporation known as the Monroe County Council CIO Social and Welfare Association for the purpose of purchasing the property at 41 West Front Street. Speaking on behalf of the Association, we believe the thought behind forming this Corporation was so no one entity could take possession of the building. The Articles of incorporation spell out that if the building were ever to be sold; all the proceeds are to be given to charity. Every CIO union member had to pledge $12.75 for the purchase of this property, which would later be known as the CIO Headquarters. On June 8, 1947, after the building was renovated, the new hall was dedicated with Walter Reuther as the keynote speaker. In June of 1951 there was a mortgage burning ceremony. After the passing of Philip Murray the building was named in his honor and has served labor for over 60 years.
One of the first notable events I came across in reviewing the minutes started in March of 1960. Emanuel Lieto addressed the issue of having social activities for retirees after they left the work force. After some discussion at a CLC meeting, Emanuel convinced the delegate body to explore this further, and a committee was set consisting of Lieto, George Baker, John VanSlambrouck, Andrew Davis, and Bill Pinchoff to show that the community needed a place to socialize, Lieto’s committee provided a place and an event. They planned a gathering in the Philip Murray Building on September 3, 1960. It was received very well with 150 attendees. It would eventually be called “the senior drop in center.” Due to the volume of visitors, the drop in center soon had out grown the social hall at the Murray Building and moved to a house at 103 W. Front St. for a short time. The senior center moved once again, to 411 E. Front (the former Coca-Cola bottling plant) and then to the basement of the United Way Building. This group of seniors eventually established what is now the de facto Monroe Senior Center in the Mable Kehres building. It is one of the oldest senior centers in the state. There was no organized approach in addressing some of needs of the seniors, until labor got involved. In 1976, Mable Kehres put together a steering committee for senior housing and a new home for the senior center. Mable Kehres is the mother of State Representative Raymond Kehres, who by the way was a delegate to the CLC from Consolidated Paper Company. Representative Kehres was instrumental in securing funds for senior housing in Monroe and in 1978, the Mable Kehres senior housing high-rise was dedicated in her memory. She passed away before seeing what she started come to completion. One of the first senior mileages in the state was passed in 1980. This was done with the help of labor, and was led by another CLC delegate from Consolidated, Jessie Reese. The millage made it possible for the only senior program in the state to be open 7 days a week. It appears that the labor movement in Monroe was ahead of the curve when it came to addressing the issues of the fastest growing segment of society, the “seniors.”
The Philip Murray Building was home to many unions through the years holding monthly meetings and community events. Unfortunately, the building came into disrepair and Dar Tom a retired Steelworker who had cared for this building like it was one of his own children for years, could no longer manage the custodial upkeep. The last remaining resident of the building the United Steelworkers Local 2511 AFL-CIO was ready to walk away because the steam boiler need to be replaced and there was only 300.00 in the bank.
Bob Hoffman, President of the United Steelworkers reached out to Bill Conner, President of the Monroe/Lenawee County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council for help. The first issue that needed to be addressed and was the boiler and we reached out to the Michigan State A.F.L.-C.I.O. for a 6,000.00 loan.