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The Almanac Singers

"Talking Union" (karaoke)

"Talking Union" (sheet music)


If you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do,

You’ve got to talk to the workers in the shop with you.

You’ve got to build you a union, got to make it strong,

But if you all stick together, boys, ‘twon’t be long:

You’ll get shorter hours... better working conditions...

Vacations with pay... take your kids to the seashore.

 

It ain’t quite this simple, so I’d better explain

Just why you’ve got to ride on the union train,

‘Cause if you wait for the boss to raise your pay

We’ll all be a-waiting till the judgment day:

We’ll all be buried... gone to heaven...

St. Peter’ll be the foreman then.

 

Now you know you’re underpaid but the boss says you ain’t,

He speeds up the work till you’re about to faint.

You may be down and out, but you ain’t beaten:

You can pass out a leaflet and call a meetin’...

Talk it over... speak your mind...

Decide to do something about it.

 

Suppose they’re working you so hard it’s just outrageous,

And they’re paying you all starvation wages.

You go to the boss, and the boss will yell,

“Before I raise your pay I’ll see you all in Hell.”

‘Course, the boss may persuade some poor damn fool

To go to your meeting and act like a stool,

But you can always tell a stool, boys, that’s a fact,

He’s got a yellow streak a-running down his back.

He doesn’t have to stool... he’ll always get along...

On what he steals out of blind men’s cups.

 

You’ve got a union now and you’re sitting pretty;

Put some of the boys on the bargaining committee.

The boss won’t listen when one guy squawks

But he’s got to listen when the union talks.

He’d better... be mighty lonely...

If everybody decided to walk out on him.

 

He’s puffing a big cigar, feeling mighty slick

‘Cause he thinks he’s got your union licked.

Well, he looks out the window, and what does he see

But a thousand pickets, and they all agree

He’s a bastard... unfair... slave-driver...

Bet he beats his wife.

 

Now, boys, you’ve come to the hardest time.

The boss will try to bust your union line.

He’ll call out the police and the National Guard;

They’ll tell you it’s a crime to have a union card;

They’ll raid your meetings; they’ll hit you on the head;

They’ll call every one of you a Goddamn Red:

Unpatriotic... agitators...

Send ‘em back where they came from.

 

But out in Detroit, here’s what they found,

And out in Pittsburgh, here’s what they found,

And out in Akron, here’s what they found,

And up in Toronto, here’s what they found:

That if you don’t let Red-baiting break you up,

And if you don’t let vigilantes break you up,

And if you don’t let race hatred break you up,

And if you don’t let stool-pigeons break you up,

You’ll win... what I mean...

Take it easy... but take it!


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