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17 May 2011

There's not a woman in this town-row / will look at the blackleg miner / USA's Astroturf political movement busts our unions / I'm a Dickhead

 Click image to enlarge. 
Then run over a scab with your truck.

One of the most vile aspects of recent American politics -- the Tea Party, an Astroturf (a synthetic, purchased imitation of grassroot) movement bought and paid for by the creepy gazillionaire Koch Brothers -- is its attempt, in states where it has enjoyed election success, to bust and destroy unions.

In the UK, labor unions enjoy more of a history and more broad public support, often passionate, occasionally violent.

In the UK, "blackleg" is the word for "scab" -- a scumbag who goes to work for a company whose union workers have gone out on strike.

Just singing this anti-scab pro-union song,  which seems to date from early or mid-19th century Northumberland, stirs up such passions and starts such violence that many folk music clubs have banned its performance as recently as the late 1980s -- an era of a protracted, bitter coal-miner strike in the north of England.

Steeleye Span said fuck that (or perhaps sod that) and sang this spirited folk-rock version in Nottingham in 1986 right in the thick of the strike. Read the Comments below. People are passionate on both sides, some spit and curse Steeleye Span, others just embrace them more belovedly.

Another remarkable cover is by Richard Thompson. I love Richard Thompson. (Which makes me, I'm embarrassed to say, a Dickhead.)

I come from a very anti-union family and neighborhood. I started working on newspapers when I was 18, and joined the American Newspaper Guild (AFL/CIO). I've been in other journalist unions since then.

You want to know what's wrong with unions? Just ask me, I have tons of complaints about how labor unions have degenerated and soiled their ideals and promise in modern times.

Want to know what life will be like if the Koch Brothers get their way and buy enough politicians to get rid of unions in America? Here's a sample of the American workplace when there weren't any unions. 

These could have been your sisters or your daughters or your mother. Their crime -- for which they earned a uniquely ghastly variety of the Death Penalty -- was in needing to work to feed their families.

Crap like that made Americans demand unions. Unions keep crap like that from happening. (Do you think bosses give a rat's ass about workplace safety?)

I've never crossed a picket line in my life.

I guess people who microwave and eat babies are worse than scabs.

But not by much. Dirty fucking scab, dirty fucking blackleg miner.


Blackleg Miner
(author/composer unknown, 19th century)

It's in the evening after dark
When the blackleg miner creeps to work
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt
There goes the blackleg miner!

Well he takes his tools and doon he goes
To hew the coal that lies below
There's not a woman in this town-row
Will look at the blackleg miner

Oh Seghill is a terrible place
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face
And around the heaps they run a foot race
To catch the blackleg miner!

So, dinna gan near the Delaval mine
Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner

They grab his duds and his pick as well
And they hoy them down the pit of hell
Doon ye go, and fare ye well,
You dirty blackleg miner!

So join the union while you may
Don't wait till your dying day
For that may not be far away
You dirty blackleg miner!

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