Monday, August 27, 2018

New Union Maid

 No, that's not a union maid on the left. That's legendary troubadour Woody Guthrie, with a message that's tragically relevant today, 80 years later, pasted to the face of his guitar. When I was very young, my mother played folk music on the radio in our house almost every day. I know a whole lot of his songs.

After Janus, I am reborn as a unionist. I see it as a moral imperative, but alas, here in America, there are few morals, and fewer imperatives. I'm horrified by this concerted attack on union, but it tells me leadership needs to be reborn as well. Trump and his illegitimate SCOTUS thugs have moved us back decades. The only bright spot is that activism is no longer simply an option. So where are the union songs? You have to look back to 1940 to find Union Maid, Woody's classic anthem.

Things have changed, though, since 1940.

There once was a union maid, who never was afraid, of the goons and the ginks, and the company finks, and the sheriffs who made the raids...

We don't have a whole lot of sheriffs raiding us nowadays. So I changed that a little.

There once was a union maid, who never was afraid, of the Kochs and the Trumps and the hedge fund chumps who thought they had her played...

That's who we're fighting right now. And it's not really about beating us up with sticks and stones. It's about fooling us into thinking they're on our side. So instead of:

Oh, you can't scare me I'm sticking with the union...

New Union Maid sings you can't fool me, I'm sticking with the union.

That's the entire premise of "right to work." We're fighting, they say, so you can save a few bucks on union dues. "Your pay, your say."  Of course, people like the Kochs are not here to help us. If you believe they are, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale at a bargain basement price. The Kochs, along with all the politicians they own, want to weaken us by tearing us apart and cutting our resources, and thus add money we need and deserve to their already countless wealth.

And when they said don’t pay, it put her in a rage,
With half a chance they’d change their stance and pay her minimum wage.

That's a fact, Jack. If you don't believe it, go work in a non-unionized charter school. Bring home a cell phone and spend the night answering homework questions. Or go around the neighborhood on days "off" knocking on doors to canvas your students. Instead of writing your own plans, follow the ones Eva gives you. If you don't like them, too bad, and if you don't make the kids do test prep until they pee their pants, you're fired. There's a reason why charter teachers burn out after a few years, and that's beneficial neither to them nor their students.

It's pretty easy to find fault with leadership. I know, because I've been doing it right here for over thirteen years. The 2005 contract was an abomination, likely as not the biggest mistake we've ever made. We pay for it each and every day with the Absent Teacher Reserve, not to mention the inability to grieve preposterous letters to file. We need to work on that.

On the other hand, we just negotiated paid parental leave, a remarkable advance, for a one-time delay in contract. I've seen this agreement parsed to the nth degree, lately because of arguments we paid too much. I don't buy that. More importantly, new teachers with whom I speak, and I've spoken to many over the last week, don't buy it either. I was asked to recruit new members by telephone, and every one I spoke to was thrilled by it. It was my best selling point, and no one turned me down.

This is a time to embrace and promote unionism. This is a time to look at the New Union Maid, who's markedly different from her 1940 counterpart:

You gals who want to be free, just take a tip from me;
Get you a man who's a union man and join the ladies' auxiliary.
Married life ain't hard when you got a union card,
A union man has a happy life when he's got a union wife.

At this point, women aren't joining ladies' auxiliaries. Our profession in particular is actually dominated by women. So the new union maid is actually a working person, not just someone supporting her husband on the job. It's a great song, but it's dated, so I updated.

New Union Maid was mostly made in my dining room on my new Macbook Pro. Apple offered an educator package for $199 that contained professional recording and video software. I'm a sucker for a bargain, and got right to work on Logic Pro X, which challenged the hell out of me. After a particularly brutal battle trying to find a suitable reverb for the voices and fiddle, I turned to my friend Bob Harris, guitarist extraordinaire, who has a professional recording studio. Bob finished and mastered the recording, and also took over on the bass guitar after I brutally fired myself. I thought he made it sound almost like a stand up, but I guess that's debatable.

I see this as an anthem with potential for a promotional video, assuming someone finds a suitable union maid. I'd love to record this completely at Bob's studio with a full bluegrass band. My next project is a song about Boy Wonder, the 30-year-old supervisor who knows everything. I don't know how long that will take. As currently conceived, it will entail my mastering the frightening and formidable drum machine in Logic Pro X. A music teacher in my school actually understands it, and I'm hoping he can get me to understand it too.

If you haven't listened to New Union Maid yet, you can find it right here.
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