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Warm up your vocal cords for a May Day song session

April 30, 2021

Release some feel-good chemicals and express your passion for workers’ rights by singing along to some great union songs this May Day.

Here are some suggestions from musical director of One Word… We!, singer, banjo player and former Federation President Maurie Mulheron.

“Solidarity Forever”, written by David Welsh and Ralph Chaplin contains so many great lines: “When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run/There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” and “Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?”

Check out these different versions:

“There is Power in the Union” begins: “There is power in a factory, power in the land/Power in the hands of a worker/But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand/There is power in a Union.” Belt out the lyrics with songwriter Billy Bragg; it already has more than more than 1.4 million plays on You Tube alone.

Billy Bragg also wrote “Which side are you on?”. Sing along with American alternative rock singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant.

Before labour activist Joe Hill was executed on a controversial murder charge in 1915, he wrote in a telegram: “I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!” Alfred Hayes wrote the song “Joe Hill”, which includes the words: Where working men are out of strike/Joe Hill is at their side”. Sing along with renditions by Bruce Springsteen or bass baritone and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (singing at the construction site for the Sydney Opera House).

The words “Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union/I'm sticking to the union till the day I die” are part of chorus of “Union Maid” by songwriter Woody Guthrie. Take a listen to Billy Bragg, Mike and Ruthy Merenda, Dar Williams, New York City Labor Chorus singing it at Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Concert at Madison Square Garden.

Along with these classics you can add some Australian union songs to your playlist by checking out these:

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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

Privacy Policy