Sunday, September 06, 2009

YouTube - Which Side Are You On

Written by Florence Reese and her daughters on the back of a calendar after being roughed up by thugs looking for her husband, who was a union organizer. People were beaten and murdered in this country for working for workplace equality, and some folks have forgotten that, and how important that battle was.

Labor Day, 2009, more Americans are unemployed than any time since the Great Depression. Fewer people are unionized, fewer people have pensions and fewer people have health insurance than any time in our lifetimes. Our government unloads trillions of dollars to the bankers and their wars, and has nothing to spare for honest workers who are losing their homes. It's time to ask the question, "Which side are you on."

Without unions, you have corporate dictatorship. The current health care crisis is a direct result of declining union membership due to exporting of American jobs overseas, sanctioned and orchestrated by both of our major political parties.

Written to the tune of the old Baptist Hymn, Lay The Lillies Low, which, in turn, was written to the tune of an old english ballad.

Which Side Are You On?

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I'm a miner's son
And I'll stick with the union
Till every battle's won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize

-- "The Earth is not dying. She is being murdered, and we know who is killing her and we have their names and addresses."

Utah Phillips

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A trip to Weedpatch Camp

On the trail of Woody Guthrie, Erin and I visited Weedpatch Camp, in Lamont, the other day. I believe it's the last existing migrant camp that was set up under the New Deal, in the 1930s, to house the dust bowl refugees. I had heard that Woody Guthrie played there for the migrants, and I've been wanting to check it out for some time. Displaced farmers, fleeing the dust bowl, came to California by the thousands in the 1930s seeking employment. There was always more workers than there was work, and wages were abysmally low, and they wound up living in ramshackle camps on the edges of the fields enduring hunger, disease, discrimination and abuse, until the government set up "clean" camps to house them safely and humanely. This is the story told by John Steinbeck's, The Grapes Of Wrath, and Woody Guthrie's great Dust Bowl Ballads. The Weedpatch Camp was the first of the government camps and it's still here, still in use by migrant farmworkers, and some of the original buildings have been preserved.

You can drive out there any time and see the old buildings. A couple of them can also be seen in the 1939 film version of The Grapes Of Wrath, with Henry Fonda. They're adjacent to the Arvin Migrant Housing Center on Sunset Road, between Weedpatch Highway and Comanche Road. If you make an appointment with the folks who take care of it they'll have a docent open it up for you and give you a guided tour. We were given a very authoritative presentation by researcher, Doris Weddell, and treated to the personal reminiscences of Earl Shelton, who actually lived in the camp in the 1940s and worked in the fields for much of his life. I highly recommend taking the tour. All you have to do is call them, or send them an email, and they're happy to do it. There's a public celebration called Dust Bowl Days that is held there every year in October. I've been meaning to go to Dust Bowl Days for a couple years now, but it seems that I'm always busy on that weekend, so I was glad for the opportunity to check it out in this way. I've been a Woody Guthrie scholar for years, and I'm working on a Woody Guthrie show, so it was inspiring and illuminating to walk around the grounds and stand on the fine old stage, there. I had an idea of recording a music video there, and I had my guitar with me, but it was just too doggone hot at this time of year. Maybe in the Fall... Erin did get some video of Mr. Shelton telling his great old stories, though, and maybe she'll share some of that with us. It represents an important page from our local history and is well worth a visit. Check out a copy of The Grapes Of Wrath before you go to put your visit in the proper context.
For more information about Dust Bowl Days, and to book a private tour, check out the Dust Bowl Days Website.

Here's a link to a slideshow of our trip:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bailout Blues

I've been working on this song for a couple of weeks. These are trying times we are living through and it's mind blowing to watch our government throwing huge amounts of money at the banks that are foreclosing on people's homes while abandoning the working class that creates the foundation of our economy. A house without a foundation cannot stand no matter how much money you pile up on the roof...

Bailout Blues
Lost Hills

Johnny works construction
When there's work to be had.
He fell behind on his child support,
Now he's a dead beat dad.
They took away his license,
Now he ain't supposed to drive.
Now how's gonna do
What he has to do to survive?

Now he's driving in to Oildale
To pick up his son.
He gets pulled over for a burned out tail light
And his troubles really bugun
Now he's staring at the pavement
As the tow truck hauls his pick-up away.
Johnny needs a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today....

Johnny needs a job
That will pay a living wage.
So he can pay his bills on time
And hold his head up straight.
It ain't his fault no one's buying houses these days.
Johnny needs a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today...

Johnny's ex-wife, Susan,
Has been waitress for years.
Now she's working two jobs,
But they've both cut back her hours.
Both her ex-husbands are out of work
And about out of time.
She's got two beautuful kids
That need more than what she can provide.

Now she's waitin' on Johnny
To come pick up little Joe.
She doesn't know that he's standing
There alone by the side of the road.
And Joe keeps asking,
"How come my Daddy's so late?"
Susan needs a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today....

Susan needs a bailout
in the worst kind of way,
Maybe she should change her name
To A.I.G.
If she had an office on Wall Street
The government would rush to her aid.
Susan needs a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today...

Susan's parents, Bob and Helen,
Have worked hard all their lives.
Well, they never got rich,
But they've done all right.
They were thinking about retiring early,
But that's not to be.
Because everything they've worked for
Has up and blown away.

They had some money with an invester
That turned out to be a fraud.
Bob's pension disappeared
When his company went belly up.
Now they're looking through the want ads
For anything that pays minimum wage.
Bob and Helen need a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today....

Bob and Helen need a bailout
Because they've worked hard all their lives.
They shouldn't have to be flippin' burgers
Or standing in a wellfare line.
And the president's on the radio
Saying, "Everything's gonna be okay!"
Bob and Helen need a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today...

Now Johnny's picking up cans by the roadside
Just to get himself a beer
And Susan's getting letters from the landlord
By certified mail.
Bob and Helen are selling their furniture
Just to help out Sue.
And little Joe's left wondering
What happened to the world he once knew.

America needs a bailout,
But it ain't comin' today.
Ain't no check in the mail,
Ain't no help on the way.
Seven Hundred Billion
To the crooks that put us in this place.
And the president's on the TV
Saying, "Everything's gonna be okay!"

America needs a bailout--
But it ain't comin' today...

Hell, I could use one, Brother--
And I need it today.

Be sure to pause the Soundclick Player before playing the video.