Mean-Minded Worker

Synopsis: A poem criticising fellow workers who are not members of a trades union and intended to shame them into joining a union


By E. Byrne.
DEDICATED TO ALL NON-UNIONISTS. (Reprinted from the Factory Times.)

When you've backed your fav'rite " gee-gee," when the football match you've seen,
When you've had sufficient ale to slake your drouth, [Note 583.1: The use of the word drouth to mean thirst and the surname of the author "Byrne" hint that the author was Irish.]
 Will you kindly spare a little for the union that has been
And put the bread and butter in your mouth ?
You're a shallow-minded worker, and to manhood a disgrace,
Letting other folks do all the work and paying
Though your "bob" is always ready for a "good 'un " in a race— [Note 583.2: i.e. the mean-minded worker is always ready to bet on horse racing]
And, of course, the "ale shot " goes without the saying.
Tradesmen, lab'rers, workers, one and all
(Earning better wages through the union ev'ry day),
If you have a conscience, can't you hear it call ?
Join the union of your trade, and pay, pay, pay !

If you go to church or chapel, and profess to be “elect," [Note 583.3: The elect are those chosen by God. King James Bible Matthew chapter 24,]
And help your mission's efforts with your purse,
When you bow in prayer next Sunday will you kindly recollect
Your Christianity's not worth a "tinker's curse" [Note 583.4: i.e. your Christianity is worthless]
Religion ought to teach you to be honest and do right
(Nor or should any let base greed or fear blind him) ;
But you leave to another all the dangers of the fight—
And just pick up the benefits behind him.
Tradesmen, lab'rers, workers of ev'ry class
(I oftentimes have heard the union leaders say
There was precious little diff'rence 'twixt you and the common ass)—
Clip your ears, for your credit's sake, and pay, pay, pay

No doubt you think yourself a lot above the “knob-stick" tribe,
Who go about and undersell their labour
But don't you be too ready, now, to sneer at him and jibe—
For, in truth, he is your very near neighbour.
He's “honest " in dishonesty, and that's more than you can say---
For, to tell the truth, and put it plain and flat,
While you want the union wages, and yet refuse to pay,
You're no better than the common " ^scab " or " rat ."
Tradesmen, lab'rers, workers, whatever you do,
Surety it is time you learnt the error of you' way ;
But If you have a spark of manhood left, do let it glimmer through-
Get a union card at once, and pay, pay, pay!

NOW, a special verse for women—they're as bad as any men—
In fact, I think they're far the worst of any,
For, although they're often driven to the vilest sweating den,
Of their money unions seldom get a penny. [Note 583.: women were reluctant to join trades unions]
They're the catspaws of the bosses, who are piling tip their hoard,
And play the girls against their male relations ; [Note 583.: women were paid less than men]
But to join the women's unions they really can't afford
And - ‘twould jeopardise their splendid situations!
Female workers, women of ev’ry trade -
Slaves of brutal capital, toiling from day to day -
Do as the Lancashire weavers do, heed not who upbraid
Free yourself by union, and pay, pay, pay


This is one of several poems which take The Absent-Minded Beggar by Rudyard Kipling as a structural model. See also Bar568 ~The Absent-Minded Chairman and Bar566 ~ The Absent-Minded Ganger.