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Release: Aug. 30, 2001

Minnesota union member pens winning song for UI Labor Center contest

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jim Pichler, a 38-year member of the International Association of Machinists, has penned the winning song in the University of Iowa Labor Center's 50th Anniversary Labor Song Contest.

"Union Song" was chosen from 20 entries from entrants from 10 states, including Iowa. The Labor Center sponsored the contest to mark its 50th year of labor education. (Click here to hear "Union Song" in Real Audio. Requires Real Player, available for download free here.)

"Rather than sponsor an event or dinner to celebrate our anniversary, we wanted to do something that represented what we do as labor educators," said Clara Oleson, an educator at the Labor Center. "There's a long tradition of work and union songs, and so this contest was a great way to celebrate the union movement and its values."

Pichler, 58, of St. Michael, Minn. (near Minneapolis), is financial auditor for the Machinists. He won a $500 prize from the center and a $200 private gift for his winning composition. He doesn't read music and only plays songs by ear, so the Labor Center will get the song transcribed into sheet music so it can be played and sung at labor meetings and gatherings around the state.

"I play about three or four times a year, usually at a cookout, or things like that. I have always been able to make up words that rhyme on the spot -- don't ask me where they come from," Pichler said. "I never expected to win the contest, and I feel honored to have done so."

The song premiered at the Iowa State Federation of Labor annual convention Aug. 17 in Waterloo with Pichler dedicating its first live performance to Roberta Till-Retz, an educator at the UI Labor Center. Contest judges included Si Kahn, a renowned labor and folk music composer; David Gompper, director of the Center for New Music at the UI; and Midge Slater of the Communications Workers of America.

Here's a sample of the lyrics:
The union is here for you and me,
It gets stronger with every member you see,
So come and join the union and you will be,
One of the elite of society,
Come and join the union, come and be free.

(Chorus) - The darkness of the night,
Gives way to a brighter day,
The union way of life,
Gives way to better pay.

For more information, contact Oleson at (319) 335-4144 or clara-oleson@uiowa.edu.