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Labor-lore and Working Class Culture

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Labor-lore and Working Class Culture

This is a group for anyone interested in the folklore and cultural expression of workers. If you're into work songs, labor movement art, shop-floor lingo, occupational folklore, or any related topic, then this is the group for you.

Members: 167
Latest Activity: Oct 19

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Comment by Nathan Moore on October 17, 2011 at 7:27
Gordon: Bill Adler is going to be in Eugene on Wed.  I'll take your word for it and check out the event.  Looking forward to getting a copy of the new book on Joe Hill.
Comment by Gordon Glick on October 17, 2011 at 4:28

Bill Adler came to Tacoma last Tuesday evening to read from and answer questions about his new book, "The Man Who Never Died." The Tacoma Branch of the IWW was proud to sponsor this event at King's Books on St. Helen's Ave. in downtown Tacoma, WA. This author has done meticulous research into the life and final days of Wobbly troubadour Joe Hill, and gave a great presentation. Tacoma IWW obtained the musical talents of local folk musician Gary Cantor to sing a few tunes by and about Joe Hill.

Bill is a genuine working class historian and author, and his book is highly recommended by Tacoma GMB IWW.

Comment by Nathan Moore on October 17, 2011 at 0:12
Check out my interview with ILWU member Bryan Bingold about The Little Red Album, Vol. 1, an album of labor songs played in contemporary styles by rank and file union members in Portland, Oregon.  http://wobblynate.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/the-little-red-album-vol...
Comment by Viola Wilkins on September 22, 2011 at 2:20




Conan Doyle based "Valley of Fear" on the MM's, or Scowrers, as he called them. There was an excellent movie, "The Molly Maguires" (1970), with Sean Connery as Jack Kehoe and Richard Harris as the conflicted Pinkerton who infiltrates the group.

I felt the most sympathy for their plight when the miner played by actor Richard Harris is at the paymaster to receive his first weeks wages. He has extracted 33, 1-ton loads of coal at 30 cents a ton for a total of $9.90. After deductions for his lantern, pick, drill bits and gunpowder used in the extraction he has 24 cents left. Marvellously acted, the look on his face goes from utter joy to defiant disbelief. 
The veteran miner behind him fares a little better delivering $19 worth of coal and taking home $9 after mining and company store expenses. 
That business practice is still common today, the uniform or equipment must be bought from a company store and is overpriced, which is exactly what the mining company was doing in the movie. 

The "stealing" of wages by the company wasn't just reserved for these poor unfortunate Irish immigrant workers to 19th century USA. 
The Wellingtonian army had their wages taxed for things that you might expect would be provided. The rich staying rich and the poor staying poor same thing across the globe through out history. Fat cat bosses these days over paid exec's, underpaid staff over taxed populous. 

It's also worth noting that many historians believe that claims of "secret societies" such as this sabotaging the mines were actually largely the inventions of a sensationalist press and mine owners wanting more draconian labor laws. Exaggerating what happened was a good way of boosting both their profits. 
During the British miners' strike in the 1980s there were similar rumors of mines being sabotaged by strikers in the Murdoch owned tabloids. In reality, without being in constant use and without constant maintainance the equipment was just breaking down naturally through neglect and rust. 

The Molly Maguires: The Life Of A Tragic History


The Sons of Molly by the Irish Baladeers

The daughter of Molly Maguire

Broken Families - daughter of Molly Maguire
Comment by Mark Gregory on September 5, 2011 at 12:54
Comment by Mark Gregory on September 5, 2011 at 12:54
Westword: What inspired your interest in Joe Hill?

 

William M. Adler: I was reading Bob Dylan's memoir shortly after it came out in 2005, and he devotes three pages where he talks about Joe Hill's influence on Woody Guthrie. He said that if Hill was a forerunner of Woody Guthrie's, that's all he needed to know. But I needed to know a bit more. I was also attracted to the whodunit nature of his story. And another thing fascinating to me is how this was a largely unexplored period of American history. It's the closest Americans had come to an actual class war.

How is Joe Hill relevant today?

A lot of the issues Joe Hill was fighting for are still with us today: the income equality and callous disregard for health insurance. People have been fighting against those things for a long time. Joe Hill stood for the concept of solidarity of working people. In a time when other states are stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights, we can learn from what the IWW went through. There are many similarities with those times: The economy was rapidly changing, there was a lot of brand-new technology, it was a rising era of capitalism. In a way, we're right back there again.

You say you've uncovered evidence that could exonerate Joe Hill of the murder of a butcher during a botched robbery attempt.

First of all, not everyone knows that Joe Hill was shot on the same night as the grocery store owner who was murdered. It was then alleged that he was shot by the son of the grocer, but the evidence was said to be circumstantial. No one could ever ID Joe Hill, and there was no motive or murder weapon ever found. Hill told a physician who was treating him that he'd been shot in a row with a friend over a woman, but he never named the woman or the friend. But 35 years later, the woman in question came forward and wrote a letter to researcher Aubrey Haan, who was then gathering material for a book about Hill. The book was never published, but her notes remained in an attic in Michigan. My research led me to her survivors, and her daughter went into the attic and found a trove of material. That was a holy cow moment! In there, she detailed how he came to be shot.

How do Joe Hill's songs stand up over decades?

He was not a classic songwriter. He never performed, but his songs, which were written and intended to be sung en masse, were mainly topical and satirical. Sometimes satire doesn't wear very well. Some hold up, but mostly satire written in the crucible of the time wouldn't work that well now. But if Joe Hill were around now, I'm sure he would be out there still, writing modern material.

Do you have a favorite Joe Hill song?

There's a song, "The Preacher and the Slave," that contains what is probably his most famous lyric, which actually helped coin the phrase "pie in sky." It goes like this:

You will eat, by and by, 
In that glorious land above the sky 
Work and pray, live on hay -- 
You'll get pie in the sky when you die -- that's a lie!

Comment by Nathan Moore on August 25, 2011 at 19:54

Hey Folks:  I just interviewed labor scholar and songwriter Bucky Halker.  Check it out at:

http://wobblynate.wordpress.com/

Comment by Doug Taylor on August 22, 2011 at 8:10

Here is a different take on working class culture...Red Vienna, a geography of working class influence.

The Architecture of Red Vienna, 1919-1934

By Eve Blau
MIT Press
March 1999

In 1919 the Social Democrat city council of Vienna initiated a radical program of reforms designed to reshape the city's infrastructure along socialist lines.

The centerpiece and most enduring achievement of "Red" Vienna was the construction of the Wiener Gemeindebauten, 400 communal housing blocks, distributed throughout the city, in which workers' dwellings were incorporated with kindergartens, libraries, medical clinics, theaters, cooperative stores, and other public facilities.

The 64,000 units housed one tenth of the city's population. Throughout this socialist building campaign, however, Austria was ruled by a conservative, clerical, and antisocialist political majority. Thus the architecture of Red Vienna took shape in the midst of highly charged, and often violent, political conflict between left and right.

In this book, Eve Blau looks at how that ideological conflict shaped the buildings of Red Vienna—in terms of their program, spatial conception, language, and use—as well as how political meaning itself is manifested in architecture. She shows how the architecture of Red Vienna constructed meaning in relation to the ideological conflicts that defined Austrian politics in the interwar period—how it was shaped by the conditions of its making, and how it engaged its own codes, practices, and history to stake out a political position in relation to those conditions. Her investigation sheds light both on the complex relationship among political program, architectural practice, and urban history in interwar Vienna, and on the process by which architecture can generate a collective discourse that includes all members of society.

About the Author:Eve Blau is Lecturer in Architecture at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

Poster for the exhibition Red Vienna (Museum Postsparkasse Vienna), 2010
Comment by Nathan Moore on August 15, 2011 at 23:08

Hey Folks:

Here's a link to a free download of "Every Stitch," a Low Tide Drifters song. I play guitar and sing in this band, and we have a new album coming out on August 31st.  This song is dedicated to the 146 workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911. It is also dedicated to all of the textile workers in Bangladesh who struggle daily for basic labor rights  Feel free to share it!  

http://www.zshare.net/audio/9372636904ec733b/%5D05%20Every%20Stitch...

Comment by Nathan Moore on August 12, 2011 at 6:38

Hey Folks: I've just started really listening to Maria Dunn, an incredible songwriter from Canada.  Much of her music deals with issues of social justice and labor, and she writes some wonderful historical songs.  Her album "We Were Good People," which focuses on working class activism in 1930s Canada, is incredible.  Here is a short video of her performing "Can You Blame the Poor Miner?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydayK5NiUUU

 

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