American Culture

Workers of the world unite

wobbly_boyNobody sings the best verses in “This Land is Your Land” anymore. And Labor Day is just a three-day weekend at the end of the summer…except that large numbers of workers will have punched the clock sometime this weekend. They are the ones just scraping by. One of the millions who lost a job in the last year. The single mother who only gets 20 hours a week, but wouldn’t be able to afford child care if she worked forty. The people who earn just enough to hang on working full time, holding on to some hope for the American Dream or pretending that it’s theirs through the wonder of consumer debt. The youth who now find themselves mortgage deep in debt for an education that only helps them qualify as “the unintentionally underemployed”. To say nothing of the immigrants picking produce for pennies, in de facto servitude.

Things weren’t so different 100 years ago. Those men and women did something about it. So for the people who brought you the weekend, a jewel from The Little Red Songbook:

The Preacher and the Slave (written by Joe Hill, performed by Mischief Brew)

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

And the starvation army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray.
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they’ll tell you when you’re on the bum:

Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
And they holler, they jump and they shout.
“Give your money to Jesus,” they say,
“He will cure all diseases today.”

If you fight hard for children and wife–
Try to get something good in this life-
You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight:
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain:
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry
Chop some wood, ’twill do you good,
And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

Ask yourself, what would a Wobblie do?

Happy Labor Day.

Image credit: (and that’s worth clicking for the short read)