Happy Labor Day

At the celebration of Dan Berrigan, S.J.'s 85th birthday (five years ago!  Ad multos annos, Dan!) at St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in New York City, singer Natalie Merchant performed a classic union song, "Which Side Are You On?"  The song, made more popular by Pete Seeger in the 1940s (but covered by many more, including recently by the Dropkick Murphys), was written by Florence Reece in 1931 during a United Mine Workers of America strike, after she and her family were terrorized by deputies purportedly hired by the mining company.  Her husband, Sam Reece, was a union organizer during that strike; he died many years later of black lung disease, also known as "miner's lung."  

Reece's song became a staple of union strike meetings and pro-worker rallies, and a favorite of the American political left for decades.  Reece performed the song numerous times during the violent labor unrest in Harlan County, KT in 1973 (recounted in the Academy Award-winning documentary Harlan County, USA).

You can watch Merchant's performance here--the video quality is not great, but the lyrics remain poignant and pertinent eight decades after Reece wrote them.

Happy Labor Day!

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Immigration officials “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” and “have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws.”
Michael O'LoughlinFebruary 21, 2017
El sistema de libre empresa es compatible con nuestra preocupación por los desfavorecidos, escribe un economista y católico converso.
Arthur C. BrooksFebruary 21, 2017
The pope's emphasis on protecting undocumented workers is particularly significant for Europe and the United States, where the treatment of refugees and migrants has been a consistent challenge.
Gerard O'ConnellFebruary 21, 2017
With his 5,800-word manifesto on “Building Global Community,” the Facebook C.E.O. seems to be easing ever more into his role as benevolent dictator of the media universe.
Nathan SchneiderFebruary 21, 2017