Union Maid

Today was the first day back at work/school after the winter break, and really, it was a good day with my students, despite their sleepy and jet-lagged energy levels.  They jumped in and were eager to get the ball rolling again, or so it seemed from my own highly caffeinated but sleep deprived vantage point.

My colleagues, too, helped me ease back in because of the incredibly thoughtful, dedicated, smart, selfless group who work on the executive board of our school’s AFT local. We are a small local, relatively speaking, and because we teach at a private school, our union issues are different, sometimes, than the ones tackled by larger unions and school districts.  However, our union board met today with an administrator who attempted to rationalize the “reallocation of resources” (in non-administrator non-doublespeak, the erasure of a current job) in order to expand and hire a “teacher on special assignment” (translation from doublespeak — an administrator who earns a teacher’s salary while reporting directly to yet another administrator). Without getting into all of the details, the meeting was both frustrating and enlightening.  The administrator’s pendulum swung a wide arc, and swiftly, allowing us to exercise our mental muscle, but also providing us with an opporuntity to refine our expectations for ourselves and each other.

Coincidentally, a former colleague posted on her Facebook page a link to the Pulaski High School Marching Band (from Wisconsin), breaking out into a rollicking version of “Union Maid” during the Rose Bowl Parade. It was great to listen to the TV announcers miss the whole darn thing. Listening to the band made me want to find another version or two so I could hear the lyrics, which is surprisingly easy to do on You Tube. For those of you union minded folk, here are a couple of reminders to keep up the faith, courtesy of LG, my former colleague and union supporter.

I also wanted to suggest to the administrator, that like the Union Maid, our union won’t run and hide when he comes a-calling with threats veiled as “Hey, I get what you’re saying; I’m on your side.” We’ve been around the block and have watched as administrators have come and gone, while we do the work that means children learn to read, write, think and create.

“Union Maid”
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come ’round
She always stood her ground.

Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn’t be fooled by a company stool, she’d always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.
She’d show her card to the National Guard
And this is what she’d say

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.

© Copyright 1960 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed)

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