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Union Songs for Modern Singers

GUEST,High and Lonesome 14 Feb 00 - 02:54 AM
GUEST,Marymac90 14 Feb 00 - 04:05 AM
GeorgeH 14 Feb 00 - 07:57 AM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM
canoer 14 Feb 00 - 03:11 PM
Amos 14 Feb 00 - 03:18 PM
northfolk/al cholger 14 Feb 00 - 04:28 PM
Jeri 14 Feb 00 - 04:59 PM
Susanne (skw) 14 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM
raredance 14 Feb 00 - 08:17 PM
Brendy 14 Feb 00 - 08:39 PM
GeorgeH 15 Feb 00 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,Barry Finn 15 Feb 00 - 08:43 AM
dick greenhaus 15 Feb 00 - 11:26 AM
Willie-O 15 Feb 00 - 11:43 AM
bobby's girl 15 Feb 00 - 07:15 PM
GUEST,Chocolate Pi 16 Feb 00 - 01:57 PM
Sandy Paton 16 Feb 00 - 11:55 PM
canoer 17 Feb 00 - 01:55 AM
canoer 18 Feb 00 - 02:06 AM
MandolinPaul 18 Feb 00 - 09:16 AM
pastorpest 18 Feb 00 - 06:06 PM
Sandy Paton 18 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM
Liz the Squeak 18 Feb 00 - 06:31 PM
canoer 19 Feb 00 - 02:29 AM
Sandy Paton 19 Feb 00 - 08:47 PM
Susanne (skw) 31 Aug 01 - 11:04 AM
Bennet Zurofsky 31 Aug 01 - 04:17 PM
Suffet 20 Apr 04 - 09:42 PM
Dave Hanson 21 Apr 04 - 03:56 AM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Apr 04 - 08:33 AM
EBarnacle 21 Apr 04 - 07:13 PM
GUEST,guest 22 Apr 04 - 06:27 AM
Richard Bridge 22 Apr 04 - 07:21 PM
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Subject: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GUEST,High and Lonesome
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 02:54 AM

I've got two young girls to raise, ages 5 and 3, and I've been trying to teach them about the day in day out fight that the common people have to wage just to make it in this world. They have a misguided notion of what is probable, I fear. (No poor people show up in Disney movies.) I've been trying to educate them by singing them folksongs, and it seems to be working. I want to teach them about the importance of unionizing, and collective action, but all of the union songs I know sound a wee bit out of date. Any suggestions, either for old powerful songs or for new ones that really pack a punch. (Please don't give me "Look for the Union label") I'll be eternally grateful.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GUEST,Marymac90
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 04:05 AM

I used to use "Step by step" as a lullaby. Remember, little kids like repetition, humor, rhythm, drama, and easily singable melodies. If there are too many words for them to sing 'em all, they like to be able to come back with a short, snappy refrain. Whether a song applies to our own historical period may not make much difference to them. They might love Woody's Ya gotta Go Down and Join the Union, Goin' Down the Road, Do Re Mi, I Ain't got no home, or his Union Maids.

Charlie King has written quite a few about our current situation: Buy This American Car, Didn't You Eat on Tuesday?, Mi Re Do, We Just Come to Work Here, Eight Hours, Bring Back the 8 Hour Day, Our Life is More than Our Work, Taft-Hartley.

Kids also like songs that tell stories, so consider So Long, It's been Good to Know Ya, Leon Rosselson's The World Turned Upside Down, etc. Sweet Honey in the Rock do one about the hazards of the modern workplace, and another about how our clothes are mostly made in 3rd world countries.

Utah Phillips does many good songs, from the old IWW songs, by Joe Hill and others, like Preacher and the Slave, which are certainly VERY singable, to his own All Used Up. Si Kahn wrote Aragon Mill, Runaway Shop Song, Steven's Don't Allow..., and Go to Work on Monday.

There's Fred Small's 59 Cents, James Taylor's Millworker, Hazel Dicken's Working Girl Blues, Paxton's I'm changing my name to Chrysler, etc. There are also songs from the depression, and older songs, like Big Rock candy Mountain, Brother Can You spare a dime, Work o' the Weavers, Which Side Are you on, Paddy's Sick Note, Roll the Union On, Banks of Marble, The Man that Waters the Workers Beer, Nobody knows you when you're down and out.

There were also good songs from the Folkscare of the 60's: Ochs There but for Fortune; Satisfied Mind, Tramp on the Street, Malvina Reynolds' We Hate to See them Go.

These should get you started!!!

Mary McCaffrey


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GeorgeH
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 07:57 AM

You might look at the recent thread "Help: Good modern folkies" for some ideas of songs relating to social/political issues . .

Given your specific request I'd say one recording I recommended there should be ESSENTIAL listening; "Hard Cash", a CD of quite varied but generally excellent songs about work from a workers perspective. No "modern union" songs, but a couple of strong items on the misery of non-unionised labour; it's now available on the Fledg'ling label; see:

http://www.thebeesknees.com/bk-trk20.html

As for your actuall request; the two songs in modern usage which I find most powerful are "Which side are you on" - which I think Billy Bragg re-worked from an earlier source, and "Raise your banners high" (which I also THINK is not actually new). If you can find them, the two tapes released on Fuse records as a benefit for the last UK miners' strike have a fine version of "Raise your banners" and are also an excellent source (though not as consistent quality as "Hard Cash"); again I gave more details in that earlier thread. And, of course, Billy Bragg's "Between the wars" . . .

Happy hunting!

G.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 12:43 PM

Woodie Guthrie's Talking Union

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: canoer
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 03:11 PM

"Sit Down!" is great fun for kids to act out.

And, it's still occasionally useful on the job. :-)


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Amos
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 03:18 PM

I go with Talking Union, because it is timelessly humorous, even though the issues may have shifted somewhat. "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" has plenty of oomph. And for celebrating heroines, the "Union Maid", who never was afraid, still carries valuable lessons forward.

A


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: northfolk/al cholger
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 04:28 PM

Don't discount the "folk process" sources, for example, in Detroit last night we had an event that we used to raise money to help the folks who accrued legal and travel expenses as a result of their participation in the anti-WTO protests in Seattle, it was held at a music venue better known for non-folk style music, St. Andrew's hall. Attending were the most unusual spectrum of the human condition, labor, enviro, black, womens, green, animal,activists. Fed vegetarian fair...and treated to a good number of folk style songs, drumming, loud singing...real enthusiasm. Which is to say that many struggles yield their own songs and art.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Jeri
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 04:59 PM

There was a CD put out just a few years ago ('95 or '96)by a union choir. I remember the CD had some gospel songs, and quite a few union songs. What I heard on the folk show in Washington DC made me want to run right out and buy it, but I put it off too long. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM

'Sell Your Labour, Not Your Soul' by Brian McNeill. He sings it (maybe it was written for) the CD celebrating the Scottish TUC Centenary. However, I've heard him do it live, a cappella, very fast and furious, and it bowled me over. I'll try and take down the words some time. - Susanne


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: raredance
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 08:17 PM

Here are two web sites. The first contains lyrics to nearly 100 union songs. Yes it overlaps with manyalready in the DT, but there are some more recent ones also.

The second site links you to a site called Hard Miles Music - Folk Music and Labor Unions. They also have some CDs available.

http://www.chepd.mq.edu.au/boomerang/unionsong/songs.html#

http://sunsite.unc.edu/hardmile/

rich r


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Brendy
Date: 14 Feb 00 - 08:39 PM

Well, High and ...., you certainly have a few sources to check out. But for what it's worth the Strawb's "Part of the Union" is a great song for kids. It's lively, got a good, easy to remember chorus, and is basically, fun to sing.
B.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GeorgeH
Date: 15 Feb 00 - 06:50 AM

Interesting suggestion, Brendy . . The more I listen to "Part of the Union" (and it's now featured in a UK TV advert to remind me of this conclusion) the more convinced I am that it's actually an ironic, anti-union piece, attacking the "bully-boy" image of the unions at a particular time. I could well be wrong, but that's the effect it now has on me.

G.


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Subject: Lyr Add: UNION WORKER, UNION BOSS^^
From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 15 Feb 00 - 08:43 AM

I always like to throw this in when things start because to seem as if the Unions are looked upon as the working man's gift from God. My personnal dealings (working within one) after many years & my first hand knowledge of how corrupt SOME are may not sit well with most but it's there behind some closed doors that never get opened.

"UNION WORKER, UNION BOSS"
Tune; King Cotton, Traditional
Words by Barry Finn

Who'll protect you from the Union
Who'll protect you from the boss
who will care for your wages
Who will see that your job's not lost

Will you walk the line when the agent says picket
Will you fight with scabs and carry signs
Will you share in the payoff to end the protest
Will you close your eyes to the sight of crime

Where do you stand on graft and corruption
When the shop steward's a thug tell me how do you feel
When you can't find work if you can't do favors
Where will you turn to find your next meal

Does your voice start to freeze in the face of extortion
Does embezzlement seem like a white collar crime
When do you sweat from your organized labor
Do you fear that you feel like it's organized crime

Now it's the boss and the laborer who fear the Unions
One gives their blood and one gives their bone
A job begged for mercy now it cries murder
Will you be fit to work when the job's all done

Barry Finn


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Feb 00 - 11:26 AM

Try looking up Four Pounds a Day in DigiTrad. Also Flag of Blue. Also Coal Tattoo.

For Pro-union songs, Some good new ones are those composed by Si Kahn.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Willie-O
Date: 15 Feb 00 - 11:43 AM

Len Wallace wrote a great song about the Glenray coal mine disaster which killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia a few years ago--I think its called "The Midnight Shift". Chorus starts "Heres to the men of the midnight shift". The mine was very much a political boondoggle, built to dig in an inherently dangerous seam of coal, and safety was ignored despite clear indications that a disaster was imminent. Could have happened any time in the past two hundred years.

My kids really like singing "The Soup Song" (tune of "My Bonnie..."), and "Brother can you spare a dime." (Both in Rise Up Singing.

Willie-O


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: bobby's girl
Date: 15 Feb 00 - 07:15 PM

Although their subject matter is not modern, the songs from Tolpuddle Man were written in the modern era, and their subject is still relevant - see Tolpuddle Man itself - there couldn't be a better union song, especially when sung by Graham Moore outside the Martyr's Inn in Tolpuddle at the Trades Union Rally weekend


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GUEST,Chocolate Pi
Date: 16 Feb 00 - 01:57 PM

The other kids had monsters under the bed; I was scared that the goons and ginks and company finks were coming. My mother used to sing me "Union Maid" and "Pie in the Sky When You Die." The Malvina Reynolds song about the Little Red Hen was always great too, and "Step by Step." We made up new verses to "Which Side Are You On" all the time. "Bread and Roses," and "El Pueblo Unido" and writing our own verses to Solidarity Forever were also favorites.


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Subject: Lyr Add: TOO OLD TO WORK (Joe Glazer)^^
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 16 Feb 00 - 11:55 PM

I like Joe Glazer's "TOO OLD TO WORK," but that may be a reflection of my own antiquity.

TOO OLD TO WORK
(Joe Glazer)

You work in the factory all of your life,
Try to provide for your kids and your wife.
When you're too old to produce any more,
They hand you your hat and they show you the door.

Chorus:
You're too old to work,
Too old to work,
When you're too old to work and too young to die.
Who will take care of you?
How'll you get by,
When you're too old to work and too young to die?


You don't ask for favors when your days are through;
You've got a right to what's coming to you!
Your boss gets a pension when he gets too old.
You helped him retire; you're out in the cold.

They put horses to pasture, feed them on hay,
Even machines get retired some day.
Your boss gets a pension when his days are through;
Fat pension for him, brother, nothing for you!

There's no easy answer, there's no easy cure.
Dreaming won't change it, that's one thing for sure!
But, fighting together, we'll get there some day,
And when we have won, you will no longer say...

Too old to work...

Joe wrote this, I understand, when the UAW was struggling for a pension fund. What do you know about that fight, Mick?

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: canoer
Date: 17 Feb 00 - 01:55 AM

Until Mick gets here, I can say that the UAW pension battle was a two-month strike against Chrysler in l950, to set a pattern for the industry. I believe it was 68 days altogether.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: canoer
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 02:06 AM

Oops, correction, it was 104 days.

In the same year, they struck Int'l Harvester for 72 days to win a pension plan.

It wasn't until 1970, in a 10 week strike vs. GM, that "30 and out" was won at GM; in l973 it was won at Chrysler after a token strike of 9 days. I don't have Ford information; but anyway, "Too Old To Work" was supposed to have been written after he had an experience on a picket line where someone had put something like that saying on a picket sign. For the '50s strikes, not the '70s.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: MandolinPaul
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 09:16 AM

Hey H&L.

I posted Minimum Wage Strike, by David Rovics, a couple of weeks ago on THIS THREAD, with a link to the MP3 for it.

I think this song has more of the contemporary content that you're looking for.

Paul.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: pastorpest
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 06:06 PM

Ewan MacColl's "My Old Man" is on the Digitrad here. Also I asked the digitrad for @union and got 97 listed songs and @labor and got 51 listed songs.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 06:21 PM

The 1950 strike seems to me to be the proper time-frame for Joe Glazer's "Too Old to Work." Are you reading Jeremy Brecher's Strike!, or some similar history? Let me have your recommendation for another good, concise history like Brecher's.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 18 Feb 00 - 06:31 PM

What about the song that Lisa Simpson sings in one of the episodes available on video, can't remember the exact one, but the Nuclear plant has closed down and she sings a song that has the tag line 'they have the ...... but we have the power'. Sorry, swiss cheese brain has struck again...

LTS


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: canoer
Date: 19 Feb 00 - 02:29 AM

Well, Sandy, you've probably got all these, but as "concise histories" they are in the same league as Brecher and, as each one (Brecher included) leaves in and leaves out certain things according to their point of view, all together they are very informative. In my favorite order of importance:

"The Labor Wars," Sidney Lens

"100 Years of Labor in the USA," Daniel Guerin

"History of the American Working Class," Anthony Bimba (only goes up to 1936 and is not easy to find)

"Labor's Untold Story," Boyer & Morais, commissioned by United Electrial workers' union

Regards, -- Larry C.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 19 Feb 00 - 08:47 PM

Thanks! The Lens is the only one of the four you list that I have. I'll go look for the others now.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 31 Aug 01 - 11:04 AM

I've finally managed to take down Sell Your Labour Not Your Soul, as promised 18 months ago ...


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Subject: Union Choir
From: Bennet Zurofsky
Date: 31 Aug 01 - 04:17 PM

I just read this thread for the first time. Back in February, "Jeri" asked if anyone knew anything about a CD she had heard over the radio in '95 or '96 of a choir that sang both Union and Gospel music. Jeri is probably looking for the "Whiteville Apparel Choir" which has two CD's published by UNITE, which is the name of the union that resulted from the merger of the ILGWU and ACTWU several years ago. The Whiteville Choir is from North Carolina and was formed by the union entirely from itsd members working for the Whiteville Apparel Company. They sing their own arrangements of traditional union songs, some gospel, some gospel tunes with union lyrics written either by members of the choir or for the choir, and some new union songs written for the choir. At the founding convention of UNITE, for example, they sang a new song in honor of the occassion written by the same folks who wrote "Look for the Union Label" for the ILGWU.

I do not have the address for UNITE in North Carolina, but the address for the International Union HQ in New York City is 1710 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Telephone 212-265-7000. Ask for the Education Department.

Both of the Whiteville Apparel Choir albums are well worth listening to.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SOLIDARITY FOREVER
From: Suffet
Date: 20 Apr 04 - 09:42 PM

This seemed like the appropriate thread.

To be zipped into SOLIDARITY FOREVER wherever and whenever appropriate. Tune: JOHN BROWN'S BODY (traditional). Original words: Ralph Chaplin © 1915. New words: Stephen L. Suffet © 2004.

They say our day is over,
They say our time is through,
The say you need no union,
If your collar isn't blue,
Well that is just another lie,
The boss is telling you,
For the union makes us strong!

Chorus as in original:
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong!

They divide us by our color,
They divide us by our tongue,
They divide us men and women,
They divide us old and young,
But they'll tremble at our voices,
When they hear these verses sung,
For the union makes us strong!

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong!


Now go out and sing 'em!

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 21 Apr 04 - 03:56 AM

' Talking Union ' Mill Lampell. Lee Hays and Pete Seeger, not Woody.
eric


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Apr 04 - 08:33 AM

"even though the issues may have shifted somewhat

I don't think they've shifted much. You've still got management bullying people and trying to keep unions out of workplaces. You've still got people being paid starvation wages, where they can get away with it.

The jargon has changed, and they talk about downsizing instead of laying people off; and there's teh growth practice of employing people via intermediaries instead of directly, so making it harder to achieve solidarity. And there've been all kinds of restriction in various countries on effective ways of operating.

The big change is that in many places large numbers of people have bought into the idea that unions are not for them, and restrict their independence. But when push comes to shove and you are faced with all kinds of problems, it's a frightening thing not to be able to turn to a union to back you up.

And the paradoxical thing is, the kind of distortion within unions which Barry Finn refers to in that song are brought about primarily by ordinary people when they fail to joining their union and to take an active part within in, it to keep it healthy and true, and to win it back for the members, if it's gone wrong.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE COMPANY UNION
From: EBarnacle
Date: 21 Apr 04 - 07:13 PM

In my younger days, I was working in a plastics factory which was organizing. The company said they wanted the teamsters, we wanted Steel Workers. Here's the song:

The Company Union
Melody: Betsy from Pike, Speak the last line of each verse.

One summer I work-ed in a plastics plant;
This is a true tale, so I'll not rave or rant.
We wanted a union, the comp'ny said "Fine,
You can have any union, so long as it's mine."

We wanted Steel Workers as our own voice,
The comp'ny said Teamsters and no other choice.
They sent round recruiters, two big and none small
Who said "You'll choose the Teamsters or no one at all."

We all chose the teamsters as we were told.
They got us no raise, just out in the cold.
We paid in our dues and went without shoes;
We would have done better to keep our mouths shut.

The other inspiration for the song was that Pete Seeger in "The incomplete Folksinger" said that he had never heard a good anti-union song. When he heard this one, he laughed with me.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 22 Apr 04 - 06:27 AM

Jon Heslop has written loads of Union songs. Try 'Fight Fight Fight' with the chorus of

We must fight fight fight
For life's a bloody battle,
We must fight fight fight
from the cradle to the grave
We must fight fight fight
or be nothing more than cattle
If we don't fight now there'll be nothing left to save.

It encompasses the history of Miners Unions in one song.


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Subject: RE: Union Songs for Modern Singers
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 22 Apr 04 - 07:21 PM

We have no unions with balls left in the UK. The TV this year is doing political pieces about the miners strike of 1984 (Thatcher smashed Scargill) which leave me breathless with their anti-union bias.

Settle for "William Brown" which sets out the folly of the capitalist system.


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