“Even though we ain’t got hats or badges, we’re a union just by saying so!


My favorite union movie, hands down, is Newsies, which also ranks pretty high on my list of favorite Disney musicals.  The show is about the real life newsboys strike at the turn of the century.  Among it’s many virtues: excellent choreo (the dancing is all energy and not fussy), a Teddy Roosevelt cameo, Christian Bale not gargling gravel, a great message, and an almost invisible romance because this is a movie about friendship and solidarity.  (The Broadway staging amped up the romance, unfortunately, and made the dances a little too polished and balletic).

This is probably my favorite song from the film:


But if you’d like a song that’s a little more soteriologically focused, and, I guess, more germane to this blog, perhaps you’ll fancy “Casey Jones, Union Scab.”

By the midpoint of the song, here’s what’s happening:

When Casey Jones got up to heaven to the Pearly Gate,
He said: “I’m Casey Jones, the guy that pulled the S. P. freight.”
“You’re just the man,” said Peter, “our musicians went on strike;
You can get a job a-scabbing any time you like.”

Casey Jones got a job in heaven;
Casey Jones was doing mighty fine;
Casey Jones went scabbing on the angels,
Just like he did to workers on the S. P. line.

You’ll have to listen to Pete Seeger to see how it ends.

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  • For other international readers as confused as I was:
    Google told me Americans celebrate the first of May on the first Monday of September.

    • Skittle

      They all dance around a phallic symbol covering in spurting ribbons?

    • deiseach

      But why do they celebrate the feastday of St. Joseph the Worker on the feastday of St. Giles?


  • Lukas Halim

    20. Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss…Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?

    from Rerum Novarum

  • Have been lurking but had to comment: Newsies is one of my favorites 🙂
    Thanks for the open and honest sharing regarding your conversion. I am recently Catholic, having grown up in a Protestant home, idyllic childhood, wonderful family, a pastor’s kid no less. You’re being encouraged to articulate your beliefs so early on in your journey! That is one thing that I enjoyed during my RCIA experience – learning that I was on a journey – and that it might look different than anyone else’s, and that was okay. The mystery, the depth and breadth of Catholicism — even the laboring, imperfect, messed-up parts of this Church (God working through bumbling humans!) makes sense to me. I think that humans being responsible for spreading the Gospel is a huge risk for God to take — but that’s just what makes it so compelling. And maybe what makes it so misunderstood. The opportunity for failure in the carrying out and the interpretation of God’s plan seems unavoidable. And yet it continues to carry on – sincere and saintly members right alongside the rascals. It’s a miracle to me that it survives. But it does, generation after generation. Just wanted to encourage you – the articulation of your faith as it develops is an extremely valuable thing to many of us. You’re able to put into words some of the very thoughts I’ve never had the ability to describe. Thanks.

  • rgrekejin

    Umm… I’m pretty sure the Roosevelt in this movie is Teddy, not FDR.

    • leahlibresco

      Yikes! Thanks for the catch.

  • Kelley

    A classic! People can’t stand watching that movie with me because I can’t resist singing along. Btw… my singing voice sucks! 🙂