Throughout history, songs and stories have been written to record and celebrate the struggle against oppression. Many of these have found their way into popular culture. One of the most well known such tales was turned into the stage musical, and then the movie, of The Sound of Music, a heart-rending tale about an Austrian family's bid to escape the clutches of Nazi tyranny during the second world war. Yes, who will ever forget how those cute little Von Trapp children one by one left the stage singing "So long, farewell" and fled in a waiting veteran car.  Sixty years later, we too, wish to celebrate the struggle of an oppressed group facing a mighty tormentor. That is, the recent history of the union movement. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein kindly, albeit unknowingly, provided us with the music, while The Partners in CRIMT updated the lyrics to chart the recent past, present and future, for want of a better word, of the unions. They call this musical masterpiece The Sound of Unions. And it received its world premier – in two languages – at the International Colloquium on Union Renewal to a captivated (or was it captive?) audience. Audience reaction was overwhelming, with one CRIMT member reportedly saying afterwards "pass me another drink, please". Here, in full, is the libretto of this operatic magnum opus.

Lyrics (The Sound of Unions) : David Peetz

Singers - Recital of November 19th 2004 (Montreal, Canada)

David Peetz
Leonor da Cunha Rêgo
Charlotte Yates
Larry Haiven
Gregor Murray
Élisabeth Woods
Pierre-Antoine Harvey
Nicolas Roby


1. The Unions Say Goodnight
(So Long, Farewell)

There's a sad sort of clunking
On the factory floor
In the office towers too
And night and day the conditions of work
Are sending the workers cuckoo!
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!
Regretfully they tell us
The unions fell asleep
And say goodnight, to you...

So long, farewell,
The unions say goodnight
The bosses love to see this mournful sight.

2. The Boss's Favourite Things
(My Favourite Things)

Girls in white dresses with blue cotton sashes
Work through the night, sweat drips off their eyelashes
Minimum wages that high profits bring
These are a few of my favourite things

When the tax bites
The stock price swings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don't feel
So sad

Sweatdrops on noses from long working hours
Workers who love me and workers who cower
Watertight contracts where I pull the strings
These are a few of my favourite things

3. Thirty Going on Twenty
(Sixteen Going on Seventeen)

We're forty per cent
Going on thirty per cent
Maybe it's time to think
Better beware, better be careful
Maybe we're on the brink

We're thirty per cent
Going on twenty per cent
Bosses are out of line
We're getting screwed, the workers are too
We're fast running out of time

Totally unprepared were we
It was all beyond our ken
Scared and in shock and wondering
Where our members went

We are twenty per cent
Going on ten per cent
Unsure of what to do
What's the answer? Where do we find it?
Isn't it time we renewed?
[segue to:]

4. How do you Solve the Problem of the Unions
(How do you Solve a Problem like Maria)

How do we solve the problem of the unions?
What do we do, it's getting pretty tough?
How do we find a word that means the unions?
The voice of the masses?
A bit of mess?
Stuffed?

Many a reason workers need the unions
Many a thing they need unions to do?
But how do we make them stay?
They leave after just a day
How do we make them stick to us like glue?
How do you solve the problem of the unions?
How on earth do we get out of this stew?

5. Dough rai mi
(Do Re Mi)

Let's start at the beginning
A very good place to start
When we grew we began with
Unity
To renew we begin with
Dough rai mi
Dough rai mi
Dough rai mi far so las tea

Dough - put into organising
Rai - sing workers' sense of power
Mi - nimising disunity
Far - sighted mapping and plans
So - lutions workers can find
La - sting more than just a week
Teams - of members organise
Which will bring them lots more
Dough dough dough dough dough

[And to do all this means...]

6. Reform the Union
(Climb Every Mountain)

Reform the union, start from below
Follow every lesson, every one you know
Reform the union, try any scheme
Democratise the union, until you hear the screams

The screams from officials
Who used to have an easy life
Cause the members were quiet
Didn't give them any strife

Reform the union, democratise and grow
Power to the members, till they run the show

7. Organise
(Edelweiss)

Organise, organise,
Every worker who meets you
Black and white, noisy and quiet
They'll be happy to greet you
Consciousness flows and it blooms and grows
The workers will lose their fetters
Organise, organise, things will start to get better

Mobilise, mobilise
The community as well
Use the press, do not rest
And you can give the boss hell
Consciousness flows and it blooms and grows
The workers will lose their fetters
Mobilise, mobilise, things will start to get better

[And what do workers need to do this?]

8. I Have Been Through Union Training
(I Have Confidence)

I have been through union training
I've been taught a thing or three
I have confidence the union will be there
I'll make my workmates see
I have confidence in me

I've learnt about my workplace
I've learnt what's to be done
I've learnt how to make my workmates work together as one
Just watch us!

[And where will that take us?]]

9. The Sound of Unions
(The Sound of Music)

The mills are alive
With the sound of unions
With songs they have sung
For two hundred years
The workers are alive
With the sound of unions
The boss starts to cry every time he hears

Members want to
Go out on strike for a ten per cent rise
And a cut in working hours
To say 'child care, please' and then put on the squeeze
And demonstrate their power

I go to union meetings
Though my boss don't like it
I know I will hear
What I heard before
The workers are alive
With the sound of unions
And I'll organise once more!