Friday, April 16, 2010

Talking Union

For Christmas, LynnieC gave me a Pete Seeger compilation called Talking Union.  Traveling by a somewhat convoluted route , it arrived her a couple weeks ago. Great songs from a great performer and a true believer that humankind ought to be at least a little more equal than it is.

I've been a fan of Pete Seeger and the Weavers since I was old enough to stand up.  I remember Good Night Irene, Weaver's big hit from 1950 playing on someone's car radio (back then a car radio was a luxury few could afford).  The Weavers (Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman) were blacklisted during the McCarthy era, disbanding (so to speak) in 1953 but re-emerged in 1955, leading the folk music revival of the late 50's and the 60's.

Pete Seeger was active in organizing and motivating the common working man through his union songs.  He also sang protest songs in support of civil rights, helping make "We Shall Overcome" into the anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

I remember the TV Special "The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time" filmed live at Carnegie Hall in 1981.  The final get together of the original group, just before Lee Hays died.  Watched it twice and would like the DVD if I can find it.

It is hard to think of me being a union supporter, having been opposed to them most of my life.  There are lots of horror stories of corrupt unions, union stupidity, union inefficiency, union fossilization.  All true.  There are more horror stories of workers without unions or with ineffective unions.  Wal-Mart.  A woman in Haiti making dolls who needed to work 100 years to earn as much as the CEO of the toy company yearned in a single day.  Coal miners killed in mine disasters because it is more profitable to ignore safety regulations and kill miners.  Sweat shops in SE Asia making high priced sports shoes for companies I could name but would be sued.  Maybe I should just do it but I am a coward.

America has done its utmost to destroy unions.  Independent unions were illegal in the Soviet Union and are still illegal in China.  Not sure of their status in today's Russia but can guess.  They were illegal in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany too.  Funny thing, that.

My daughter May-B is at a Union meeting today, representing her group of workers.  One of her Great Grandfathers would be rolling in his grave, the other very very proud of her.  As I am proud.  She is not a confrontationalist, and is frustrated by the idiots on both sides who either demand everything or deny everything. 

Stand together.  Bargain sensibly and work for the good of both employee and employer.


  1. What's so funny (or strange) about independent unions being banned by both communists and fascists?

    We tend to think of political "right" and "left" as being on a line. They aren't; they're part of a circle. Besides the "right" and "left," there is a "top" and "bottom." The top half of the circle is democracy; the bottom half, dictatorship. And the "right" and "left" dictatorships meet on the bottom middle of the circle. (Drawing it is easier than explaining it.)

  2. The point was that strong independent unions are unwelcome in countries run by totalitarian governments - of ALL stripes.

  3. Precisely.

    Not only totalitarian governments, but countries where tea-baggers can get more attention than their numbers justify. They make up about 20 per cent of the population, and are primarily right-wing, white, male, 45 years+. And, I suspect, gun-toting. (A private army in waiting? Brown shits or black?)


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