The Union Makes Us Strong

Abby Zimet

For Labor Day, the incomparable Pete Seeger sings a stirring "Solidarity Forever." Past, present and future: Thank a union member for the holiday and the 40-hour week; see three scary charts on the current, largely unorganized economy; hear Robert Reich on Paul Ryan's marvelous economic plan to take (even more) from the poor and give (ditto) to the rich.


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Solidarity Forever, written by Ralph Chaplin, is perhaps the most famous IWW song. Sung to the tune of John Brown's Body.

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, Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever, 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 'mid the wonders we have made
But 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
And of course, more verses have been added:
It is we that wash the dishes, scrub the floors and chase the dirt
Feed the kids and send them off to school and then we go to work
Where we work for half wages for a boss that likes to flirt
But the union makes us strong.

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