Union Songs

The Telephone Tree

A poem by Wendy Lowenstein©1998 Wendy Lowenstein
(acknowledgements to Leigh Snelling)

In the Union rooms
on the night the coppers came
the phones never stopped.
a working-class poem.
Wharfies, rally round the telly:
a footy game,
Melbourne vs Collingwood.
And the Magpies won,
against top brass.
A metaphor. Workers
knocking off the ruling class.

Hullo, is that the MUA?
My dad's a copper,
has been called out.
Is that the MUA?
Drinking with a copper mate
he said expect a thousand cops
tonight. All right?
Hullo, is that the MUA?
In Geelong
coppers are away,
will be in town tonight ...
Is that the MUA?
My mate's a copper,
wants to say,
a lot are on your side,
the Union's here to stay.

Quickening, the tree sprouts buds,
flowers, tendrils, weaves a net,
trawls seas and docks,
Brings an Indonesian wharfie
and another from LA
A Japanese bloke yet,
to say, hold the line,
Hands off the MUA.

On the tree,
burgeoning flowers of solidarity,
thorny twigs of resistance,
strong stems of disobedience
and seeds of victory.

Alight with love,
strong in struggle,
two old women (with comrades)
the next and
not-to-be-forgotten day
defeat black cargo,
turn a train away.


Many thanks to Wendy Lowenstein for permission to add this poem to the Union Songs site.
The Telephone Tree appears in the wonderful oral history of the wharfies, "Under the Hook", by Tom Hills (a wharfie) and Wendy Lowenstein, originally published in 1982 but now reprinted in an expanded form to cover the 1998 waterfront dispute.
Copies of "Under the Hook" can be ordered by sending $30.00 to
Wendy Lowenstein (Ph. 61 3 9510 8579)
PO Box 1033

A telephone tree allows an individual to phone say 20 who each have another 20 to phone and so on, so that very large numbers can be contacted rapidly.

Maree Delofski recites the poem on the MUA Centenary CD "With These Arms"

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