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Solidarity Forever

"In the pantheon of American labor history there is a very special place for Ralph Chaplin, the man and his work. As the poet laureate of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), he is probably remembered best for giving organized labor its fighting them song, Solidarity Forever."

--Bruce Le Roy


Solidarity Forever - lyrics by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915
Tune: John Brown's Body (aka Battle Hymn of the Republic)
First Appearance: Little Red Songbook, 9th Edition, 1916

When the union’s inspiration through the workers blood shall run
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun
Yet what force on Earth is weaker than the feeble force of one but
The union makes us strong

Chorus:
Solidarity Forever
Solidarity Forever
Solidarity Forever
For the union makes us strong

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight? For…
The union makes us strong

(Chorus)

It is we who plowed the prairies, build the cities where they trade
Dug the mines and build the workshops, endless miles of RR laid
Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made but
The union makes us strong

(Chorus)

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone
We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own
While the union makes us strong

(Chorus)

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn that
The union makes us strong

(Chorus)

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old for
But the union makes us strong

(Chorus)


Since the 1970s women have added verses to "Solidarity Forever" to reflect their concerns as union members. One popular set of stanzas is as follows (the second of which appeared in the 36th edition of the Little Red Songbook, published in 1995 by the IWW Hungarian Literature Fund):

We're the women of the union and we sure know how to fight
We'll fight for women's issues and we'll fight for women's rights
A woman's work is never done from morning until night
Women make the union strong!

(Chorus)

It is we who wash dishes, scrub the floors and clean the dirt,
Feed the kids and send them off to school - and then we go to work,
Where we work for half men's wages for a boss who likes to flirt.
But the union makes us strong!

(Chorus)

A variation from Canada goes as follows:

We’re the women of the union in the forefront of the fight
We fight for women’s issues, we fight for women’s rights
We’re prepared to fight for freedom, we’re prepared to stand our ground
Women make the union strong

(Chorus)

Through our sisters and our brothers, we can make our union strong
For respect and equal value we have done without too long
We no longer have to tolerate injustices and wrongs
For the union makes us strong

(Chorus)

When racism in all of us is finally out and gone
Then the union movement will be twice as powerful and strong
for equality for everyone will move the cause along
for the union makes us strong

(Chorus)

The centennial edition of the Little Red Songbook includes these two new verses credited to Steve Suffet:

They say our day is over; they say our time is through
They say you need no union if your collar isn't blue
Well that is just another lie the boss is telling you
For the Union makes us strong!

(Chorus)

They divide us by our color; they divide us by our tongue
They divide us men and women; they divide us old and young
But they'll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung
For the Union makes us strong!

(Chorus)


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