Which side are you on?

Coalition is what we need in our country. Individual rights, yes, but coalition is needed to combat emergencies.

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Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner,
And I’m a miner’s son,
He’ll be with you fellow workers
Until this battle’s won.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can?
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Which Side Are You On? tells the story of the classic union song that was written in 1931 by Florence Reece in a rain of bullets. It has been sung by people fighting for their rights all over the world. Florence’s husband Sam was a coal miner in Kentucky. Many of the coal mines were owned by big companies, who kept wages low and spent as little money on safety as possible. Miners lived in company houses on company land and were paid in scrip, good only at the company store. The company owned the miners sure as sunrise.

“That’s why they had to have a union. Miners went on strike until they could get better pay, safer working conditions, and health care. The company hired thugs to attack union organizers like Sam Reece.”

“Which Side Are You On” should be the song for today, as we stumble about in trying to fight coronavirus. We used to have a public health system, which would have helped immeasurably in fighting the virus. Instead, we let this union fall into shambles, so that now we only have a disorganized private health “system,” which really isn’t a system at all, but a collection of enterprises bent only on making money for themselves.

If we are lucky, we’ll re-invent a short-term public health system and fight the coronavirus, coming out (hopefully) at least as well as China or Italy. If we do, this will show us the way to a more permanent and effective system to fight future pandemic. And, even more importantly, we’ll learn the path towards fighting climate change. 

Coalition is what we need in our country. Individual rights, yes, but coalition is needed to combat emergencies.

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