Songs To Inspire Your Union Pride
Never forget that history tends to repeat itself. Your Union is under attack as much as it ever was. Pick up your IBEW banner and your American flag and hold them high!
"Which Side Are You On?" is a song written by Florence Reece in 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 called the Harlan County War. In an attempt to intimidate the Reece family, Sheriff J. H. Blair and his men (hired by the mining company) illegally entered their family home in search of Sam Reece. Sam had been warned in advance and escaped, but Florence and their children were terrorized in his place. That night, after the men had gone, Florence wrote the lyrics to "Which Side Are You On?" on a calendar that hung in the kitchen of her home.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics probably stretch back to the slave era, although there is no indication of when the song was written or who wrote it. It is a spiritual song that was adapted by the activists of the 1930s, with lyrics changed to "We Shall Not Be Moved," similarly to how "We Shall Overcome" took on the collective voice in protest rather than its original singular voice.
"We're Gonna Roll The Union On" was written by John Handcox (1904-1992), a black union organizer and labor poet, he was born in Arkansas and started out as a farmer. He began organizing for the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union in the 1930s. In 1937, he recorded this and other songs for the Library of Congress. The authorship of "We're Gonna Roll the Union On" is disputed, and it was probably not written entirely by Handcox, although his version was the first one recorded.
"Solidarity Forever" was written by IWW bard Ralph Chaplin in 1917, while in West Virginia helping organize the Kanawha Valley coal strike. This would become the unofficial anthem of the country's labor movement by the 1930s.