There are as many voices who have something to say about the workplace as there are occupations throughout the nation.
We invite you to read what others have to say about labor today, and to join in by submitting your stories and thoughts.
She Was Standing on a Box of Grapes (Si Se Puede)
1)I take wages for my labor, like any other man.
I work all day, you might say I'm living hand to hand.
'N I bet ol'Woody Guthrie 'd roll over in his grave.
If he could see the working man,how he's become a slave.
2) The union hall is empty, the labor camps tore down.
And everything we worked for, lies broken on the ground.
Me and Gabriella, we roam from town to town.
A grubstake here, some work, a job, no place to call our own.
3) It was out in California, up north in San Joaquin.
I met Gariella, when she was seventeen.
Her mom was a Bracera, he daddy up and gone.
Her hair was black, her eyes so bright, her laugh was like a song.
she was standing on a box of grapes, talking to the crew.
She said: "We'll go to hell and back, before this thing is through."
"We got a fight to fight."
"And it's a good one.
"For the American working man."
"And it can be won."
"Si, se Puede."
Gabby went to college, came back mad as hell.
It was all a bunch of bullshit, as far as she could tell.
She said: "I swear, they can't read the writing on a wall."
"And acadame don't give a damn, for me and you at all."
Refrain:(Si, se Puede)
4)The union hall is empty, the labor camps tore down.
And everthing we worked for lies broken on the ground.
And I'll bet old Cesaer Chavez,'d roll over in his grave.
If he could see the working man, how he's become a slave.
Refrain: (Si, se Puede)
Words and music Larry Gardner 3/14/95 C P BMI all rights reserved
Marina del Rey, California
God, what a wonderful program. Many thanks. I never dreamed I would ever see a documentary about Joe Hill, especially from your source (KUED). When I first saw the listing, Joe Hill, in my TV schedule I merely thought it was the name of a new talk show host and wasn't prepared to tape the show. By the time I got set up I had misssed a sizable portion of it. Therefore, I will order the tape from you.
I can't carry the red card as I am an employer. I do have copies of the little red song book and consider myself a parlor Wobbly. The IWW has been one of my favorite studies. Too bad it remains so obscure. We need a whole lot more education regarding our labor history and struggle for social justice. Also, too bad Big Bill and other leaders failed to see the importance of political direction. Perhaps the movement would be more relevant today if they had. Again, thanks.
Patrick M. Flannery
The Docmentary is an excellent portrayel of a union and worker activist..... However, the only flaw it has, is the narrators are writers, actors, or historians. I take no criticisim, that they are experts knowledgeable, in the times of Joe Hill. However, not interviewing at least one union leader or union worker, on the historical impact of Joe Hill, in the documentary, really does further injustice to the life of Joe Hillstrom.....
Quoting Bill Haywood or Sam Gompers, was good from a labor perspective, however leaving out current union organizers, many who were inspired by Joe Hill's words and lyric's to organize, is a terrible blow, for Joe Hill's life....
The film wants us to accept for face value, that the legacy of Joe Hill, goes on amongst union workers and union organizers, today, but deems it not important to interview "actual union workers", to substantiate it's notion. No creditable and documentive story, should exclude the very voices, in which the documentative study attempts to link the legacy of Joe Hill from the past to the present......
Transport Worker's Union
The last line [in the documentary] regarding the ashes of my brother Joe Hill should have been followed with one more concluding note: That the State of Utah has since then issued publicly a formal "apology" regarding the conduct of the trial. I will check my source (Witness to a Century by George Seldes?) but it was something to that effect. Also, the wobblies that came to Los Angeles were immediately identified and murdered by the Los Angeles Police Departments death squad. This was the official welcome based on greed then, and it would appear the same system of greed even today.
Highly organized and unfettered capitalism is by definition nothing else but fascism. My thoughts on this Labor Day will be on how I will respond in the days ahead to the worst aspects and effects of capitalism in America today and do honor to my dear brother Joe Hill. Thanks for a good show.
Michael John Keenan
American workers still face many of the same challenges that they faced in Joe Hill's day. The U.S. has some of the weakest labor laws, in terms of protecting workers, of any industrialized country. The U.S. still refuses to sign a number of internationally recognized conventions that would require it to adhere to standards recognized by the International Labor Organization.
The job I used to have is a good example. I worked for nearly 23 years for S_____, a large grocery wholesaler. We had always enjoyed relatively good relations with management, who were left over from the days before S_____ acquired the family-owned business. I had felt a need for a union for some time, but it was only in the last couple of years that this became apparent to many of my fellow workers when the last of the old managers retired and were replaced by a new team. They were far more interested in how big they could make their bonus next year, rather than in the long term health of the company and the loyal service of their employees.
Despite our transportation department's record of being one of the top two or three performers among S_____'s nearly 30 divisions, pay cuts and other changes were unilaterally imposed on these efficient workers. The drivers and mechanics reacted by calling for a union election. It was a close vote, with a number of disputed ballots.
The NLRB drug its feet for over a year in coming to what should have been a quick decision. In the meantime, the company totallly changed its tune. No longer were the previous cutbacks going to be enough to save our jobs. They announced that they had decided they had, for "economic reasons", decided to contract out our jobs to what turned out to be a rather infamous outfit of gypsy truckers from Texas, who had a reputation for helping other companies deal with their labor "troubles" in this fashion.
It is interesting that they used the claim of "economics" to justify this action. If you were a sharp businessman, would you start by cutting out one of your most efficient divisional transportaion deprartments (like us) or would you start at the other end of the scale, with the least efficient (like the more than 25 other divisions in S_____ that had transportation departments less efficient than ours)?
The former head of the transportation department had resigned, apparently because he was unwilling to lie for the company. He later offered to testify against the company for the union and had copies of internal documents that proved the case that S_____ really contracted out our jobs, not for the stated reason of "economics", but to squash the union organizing drive, which was illegal. He was not allowed to testify and the NLRB summarrily dismissed any further action against the company. 150 workers (and their families) lost their jobs to scabs because the NLRB refuses to enforce what little labor law we do have in this country.
With the toothless labor laws that we have, the situation currently is that the company always seems to hold the only vote the government recognizes and the only one that seems to count. Everyone knows that this is in large part why unions are so weak in this country. The corporations get away with it now, but the time may come when others rise up like Joe Hill against these injustices. It is still possible that more blood may be shed, because all will not always cooperate with this unjust system. Then there may be hell to pay.