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).

Advertisement

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!

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta arrives in Osorno, Chile, on June 14, beginning a pastoral mission to promote healing in the wake of a clerical sexual abuse crisis. (CNS photo/courtesy of Archdiocese of Santiago)
The pope’s decision gives the Maltese archbishop the lead role in the fight against abuse in the church and in the protection of minors.
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 13, 2018
“This hypothesis—that the reality of personal sexual misconduct by bishops...was a factor which inclined some bishops not to vigorously pursue allegations of abuse among their clergy—I believe that this is a valid hypothesis.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 12, 2018
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, center, leads the opening prayer Nov. 12 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. Also pictured are Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
U.S. bishops tell the authors of a groundbreaking new book that they feel a duty to speak out on issues of the day, but they must tread carefully with a secular press and fallout from the sexual abuse crisis.