A Brighter Day – Happy Labor Day 2016

For this Labor Day weekend, JP brings us a new song he wrote, dedicated to his son and his brothers and sisters at work. If you’d like to buy any of JP’s music, you can do so here. Happy Labor Day!


This pencil that I wear in my pocket
the one with the union clip on the side.
It may not be very fancy –
but it’s the little things in life that makes me smile.
See, my uncle Jimmy he was an electrician.
He had four boys, he called men!
He was a quiet man and loved to sing.
Married his high-school sweetheart and wore her ring.
They put his work pencil in his pocket when he died.

I grew up with that I.B.E.W symbol
with the lightning in a clinched fist.
My grandma, she worked at the union hall,
she’d bring scrap paper home, for us kids to play with.
My dad taught me how to play guitar.
He, and his brothers were my favorite band!
My whole family, singing at the German Club.
A tight knit family filled with love.
Those are some of my fondest memories.


The good ol’ days seem so far away!
Don’t forget to make a bunch of them now!
Take the goodness from the past!
Try and leave behind the bad –
and move forward to a brighter day.

I wrote this song while I was workin’.
Driving trains all the live long day.
It’s no joke to say I’m lonesome!
Jimmie Rodgers said it would be this way.
Always rollin’ up and down the railroad line –
day dreaming about all the things I’ve done.
This song ain’t never gonna be a hit.
I get so tired I just wanna quit, but
there’s something, Oh, about a train.


Sometimes it seems like time is slippin away.
Time, is what we all need!
Time to work, time to play and time to rest –
time to sing time to love and to pray.
If this world seems kind of crazy?
Just remember it’s been crazy for a long time.
It doesn’t matter what color you are!
With community and family love ain’t that far –
and that’s what we all want anyway.


There really ain’t a moral to this song.
Just a little bit about where I came from –
and a little bit about what is going wrong
and it’s been going wrong for far too long.
It’s easy to figure out what happened!
All you have to do is follow the money.
The rich got richer and the poor got poor’er.
We all became slaves to big box stores!
and now all our family farms are all gone!

I really don’t have a solution.
I think it might be the chorus of this song!
And it don’t take a rocket scientist to figure out,
we’re all just gonna have to get along!
so, before I put my pencil back into my pocket,
There’s just one more thing I’d like to say!
My Uncle was a hard working union man!
Good payin’ jobs and families built this land!
and love can only come from a human heart .. and …


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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