‘Which Side Are You On, Boys?’
Is there a wave of nostalgia for the 1930s? I wouldn’t have thought so, at least not until the Republicans of Michigan passed the bucket of anti-union legislation last week. The procedure they used to pass “right-to-work” was pretty sneaky: no hearings, no public readings, voting by a lame-duck legislature and signature by a governor who had given the impression that such doings and law were not part of his agenda.I was surprised at what Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, and his boys did. I was even more surprised when I found myself humming “Which Side Are You On?” — Florence Reece’s labor anthem of 1931.Reece was the wife of Sam Reece, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. In 1931, the miners of that region were locked in a bitter and violent struggle with the mine owners, who hired the local sheriff to break the union and a few heads in the process. The sheriff and his imported thugs forced their way into her house, looking for Sam. This is just a bit of what she wrote after her husband escaped out the back door:“Come all you good workers“Good news to you I’ll tell“Of how the good old union“Has come in here to dwell “Which side are you on boys?
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