Before the Union Came to Town

Before the Union Came to Town,
You toiled in the heat and the cold,
Trying to provide for your family.
Keeping your head down, only looking at the ground.

You ‘retired’ from the line in one of three ways,
The Grim Reaper called out your name,
Your age, the stress and back breaking work broke your body,
Or the man just decided he didn’t like you.

With option one you at least didn’t see the pain.
The grave you couldn’t afford accepted your body,
Your children dropped out of school to find work,
Your wife moved into a tar paper shack and took in laundry.

Option two made you into a burden to all,
Becoming another useless mouth to feed,
Living on the generosity of neighbors and family,
No longer able to hold your head in pride.

Option three left an able body man with no choices,
Word would spread and you became a ghost,
No one would dare to take a chance less they find wrath,
The Poor House became your only choice.

Then Wyndham Mortimer came to town and told a different story.
You could organize, strike and shut this company down.
The corporation sent in spies to find the dissidents.
But word spread and support grew.

In December 1936 they tried to deceive and sneak,
“They want to shut us down? Let’s move the tooling down the road.”
But word got around and the plant was ‘occupied’, the shipment stopped.
The men sat down and Flint’s Sit-Down strike had started.

For forty-four days the brave men held the plants,
Food was brought by wives, mothers, daughters and girlfriends,
The heat and power were turned off,
Thugs and police were sent, all hell was sure to break out.

One night, the police armed shotguns and tear gas attacked,
It was sure to be a quick battle, who could withstand the power of the bulls?
But the strikers pelted them with hinges, bottles, and bolts,
And watched the bulls run.

Governor Frank Murphy heard the pleas of the workers,
He sent the Michigan Nation Guard to town to keep the peace.
He became the go between to keep them talking, on track.
On February 11th an agreement was made.

At last representation, someone to cover your back.
It took time to realize the protection afforded today.
Along with teaching the corporation it’s dues,
Social reform was pushed into the limelight by the Union

Today we have options, that leave us real choices.
Retirement, disability and life insurance,
And don’t forget protection from the ‘man’
Yes the Union Makes us strong!

Roy Richard January 2023

Solidarity Forever: Song by Jane Sapp, Pete Seeger, and Si Kahn

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever, (x3)
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.


It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.


All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.


They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.


In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, multiplied a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.

Copyright Roy Richard

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