Union Songs

Which Side Are You On?

A Song by Florence Patton Reece

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
And I'm a miner's son
And I'll stick with the union
Till every battle's won

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize

French Translation (Gwénaël Forestier)

Venez vous tous, les bons ouvriers
j'ai de bonnes nouvelles à vous dire!
Comment va ce bonne vieux syndicat?
Je te dirais qu'il est là pour durer!

De lequel le côté es tu?
De lequel le côté es tu?
De lequel le côté es tu?
De lequel le côté es tu?

Mon papa était un mineur
Et je suis le fils d'un mineur
Je resterai fidèle au syndicat
Jusqu'à ce que chaque bataille soit gagnée

Ils disent dans le Comté de Harlan
Qu'il n'y a personne de neutre ici
Vous, êtes vous un syndicaliste?
Ou, vous êtes, un voyou de la bande à J.H. Blair?

Oh, comment les ouvriers peuvent-ils vous supporter?
Oh, dites-moi comment vous le pouvez?
Êtes vous une vieille croûte?
Ou serez-vous des hommes?

Ne faites pas de boulot pour les patrons
N'écoutez pas leurs mensonges
Nous les pauvres gens, nous n'aurons aucune chance
Sans que nous nous organisions


Pete Seeger in an introduction to "Which Side Are You On?" on his record "Cant You See This System's Rotten Through And Through" says:

"Maybe the most famous song it was ever my privilege to know was the one written by Mrs Florence Reece. Her husband Sam was an organiser in that "bloody" strike in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1932.
They got word that the company gun-thugs were out to kill him, and he got out of his house, I think out the back door, just before they arrived. And Mrs Reece said they stuck their guns into the closets, into the beds, even into the piles of dirty linen. One of her two little girls started crying and one of the men said "What are you crying for? We're not after you we're after your old man"

After they had gone she felt so outraged she tore a calendar off the wall and on the back of it wrote the words and put them to the tune of an old hard-shelled Baptist hymn tune, although come to think of it the hymn tune used an old English ballad melody ... And her two little girls used to go singing it in the union halls."

Many thanks to Gwénaël Forestier for the French translation

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