Rise As One

I love this song. I was introduced to it by a good friend and union activist. I grew up in the 60’s, and I was a huge fan of folk music and protest songs. So, I am no stranger to this kind of message.

Backstory: There was a strike in a small town in northern Ohio in the 1990’s–a  small group of school workers–custodians, maintenance workers, school bus drivers, and food service workers in the school cafeterias. They were asking for small increases in their pay. Remember: These are adults providing valuable services everyday to children. Adults employed to take kids to school and get them safely home; to prepare breakfasts and lunches–two meals a day–meals that may mean a great deal to some kids in the community; and people who keep the schools clean and safe. People who our children and their schools could not do without. Many of them make very little money for working what may be a full-time job. Others fit jobs together like pieces of a puzzle–ending up having to work two or even three jobs to keep food on the table. I don’t know the details, but I can guarantee that the raises that they were asking for were not much.

I can recall food service workers in one local district back in 2006 asking for a 25 cents/hour raise. 10 cents was the best counter offer from the district. Folks in school cafeterias typically work shifts from between three and six hours in length. We are talking here about the difference between a 30-cent a day raise and a 75 cents a day increase for some–and as much as a whopping $3.75 a week increase for those few who work the longer shifts. Holy Cow! Plus, I do believe that school cafeterias are self-funding and self-sustaining.  

The song will offend the offendable, especially the last verse. Unions and victories are not two ideas that some folks like to think about, let alone see memorialized in song. But, this is a great new union song–one in a pantheon of union anthems. 

BTW: Delaware public school employees are not permitted to strike–unlike those in the neighboring states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A strike is a very serious job action, with very serious consequences. Trust me, it is not like we are all hankering to strike. So, not to worry.

Here’s the YouTube link to a great rendition of the song by its creator, the singer/songwriter Joe Jencks and a few friends.

Rise as One

I dedicate this recording of ‘Rise As One’ to my new niece Annika Jencks. “We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons…” …and our nieces & nephews! Thanks to Mike Tadsen and John & Judy Gallo for inviting me to meet some of the workers and for sharing the story with me. The workers of OAPSIE Local 419 are heroes in my book.    (from I Hear Your Voice)

It is we who serve the lunches, we who sweep the floors,
We who drive the busses with your children off to school,
We keep the buildings warm in winter, and cool when it’s hot,
And we will not let you play us for the fool.
When we ask for better healthcare, or an increase in our wage
You tell us that the township can’t afford to pay the bill.
But you found half a million dollars from within those very coffers
To try and break the union’s back and break our will.

We will never give up, we will never give in,
And we’ll never, ever go away.
We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons;
We will work ’til all workers rise as one.

We believe in education and the future of our town
And the children that we serve from day to day.
Whenever there’s a need, we always go the extra mile–
God knows we do it for the love, not for the pay.
We have worked as hard as any for every inch of ground
That we’ve gained in the struggle for our rights.
And we will not stand by idly as you try to tear us down.
If we have to we will organize a strike. 

We will never give up, we will never give in,
And we’ll never, ever go away.
We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons;
We will work ’til all workers rise as one. 

Well, we didn’t have a penny in our strike fund, sad but true;
That made us all a little bit afraid.
But the call went out to every other union in the state
And somehow all the workers’ bills were paid.
See this isn’t just our struggle, and it isn’t just our  jobs,                                                                                                                                            And it isn’t just the schools within our town.
When we dare to raise our voices in solidarity we stand
With every other worker all the world around. 

We will never give up, we will never give in,
And we’ll never, ever go away.
We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons;
We will work ’til all workers rise as one.

We held a rally at the fairgrounds, to show them our resolve
And to drum up some support for our campaign.
A thousand people hit the street, and that’s more than half our town,
After that, you know things couldn’t be the same.
Now whoever would’ve guessed it, when this whole thing began
We’d have the strength to hold out for so long
But three months have now gone by, and the school board just gave in
On their demands, now we can sing our victory song.

We will never give up, we will never give in,
And we’ll never, ever go away.
We will build a brand new future for our daughters and our sons;
We will work ’til all workers rise as one.


© 2002 Joe Jencks, Turtle Bear Music

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This entry was posted in Attacks on Unions, Education Unions, Teacher Unions, Unions. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Rise As One

  1. gilda says:

    Great rendition.
    My favorite has always been “Joe Hill”-timeless.

  2. Frederika says:

    I love Joe Hill, too. Especially the rendition by Paul Robeson.

    Check out YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Kxq9uFDes

  3. John Young says:

    just use the wordpress format for YT videos:

  4. Frederika says:

    Thank you. You have got to teach me how to do that! Or else, I will just have to pay you a retainer fee as my blogaide. LOL

  5. Uncle Bob says:

    Here’s another great union song. The blackleg is a British reference to scabs–workers who cross the picket line while the real workers strike.

  6. Santa Anita says:

    Here’s another one. From the 1940’s which explains the “Japanese spies” reference.

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