Steve Earle, who's hands-down one of the best songwriters of our time, has re-released two union-themed songs on iTunes to support the Madison protesters. “Harlan Man” and “The Mountain” are being issued as a special "2-track digital single" (I didn't know you could do that), with all proceeds going to The America Votes Labor Unity Fund, through SaveWorkers.org.
“Unions are a fundamental component of democracy throughout the free world," said Steve." All eyes are on Wisconsin.” I'll go with that.
In fact, I was thinking about exactly that earlier today - unions and democracy, I mean. I was working with USAID and the State Department when the Communist countries were changing over back in the early nineties. I went to the Silesian mountains in Poland back then to talk to the Solidarity folks about financing a health care plan for the workers. I spent a lot of time in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, even Albania when it was first opened up after forty years as a "garrison state." That was under the first President Bush.
And I was just thinking today how funny it is how some of the people who got so excited about the unions over there are working as hard as they can to destroy the unions over here. You should have seen them: They had Solidarity coffee cups, Solidarity posters in the original Polish ... they had everything material you could acquire that had anything to do with "solidarity."
They just didn't have solidarity, if you know what I mean.
I was in Prague once with a World Bank mission, and on our way home from dinner a group of us saw two young girls playing guitars for spare change. My companions bribed them into letting me play the guitar and sing with them. I don't want to brag, but we made some really good money. They didn't want me to leave. (To be completely honest,, there wasn't a lot of competition on the street that night.)
The only problem with singing for a group of non-musical people from a lot of different countries, like the people on that mission, is that at least back in the nineties you would almost be forced at gunpoint to take a crack at singing "Hotel California" or "Country Roads." On another trip I heard a Hungarian country band play Merle Haggard songs for Mossbacher, Bush's Secretary of Commerce (I forget his first name, although I shook his hand. He was all hair and teeth and tan, like all these guys are.). The event was a "Texas style barbecue" in Mossbacher's honor at an ancient fort overlooking the Danube.
Life throws some weird curves at you sometimes.
Anyway, back to Steve: The songs are from the bluegrass album he did with Del McCoury and his band back in 1999. The whole album's great. Earle's got an uncanny way of writing original songs that sound about 150 years old. (You should hear Levon Helm sing "The Mountain," too. He was born to do it.)
Both songs deal with life as a (union) miner, so you can buy the single for the mineworker in your life.
According to the press release, "The America Votes Labor Unity Fund is the fiscal agent of the AFL-CIO State Unity Fund, a special account of the AFL-CIO and directed by a broad coalition of national labor organizations ... The America Votes Labor Unity Fund united labor organizations, allied progressive groups and individuals to fight for workers -- on the ground and on the airwaves. Contributions help activists campaign in 11 states ..."
You can contribute at saveworkers.org, and you can buy Steve's single on iTunes here. The two actions aren't mutually exclusive, either, so you don't have to make a vexing decision here. Why not do both?