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September 2011, Week 1

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Guitars and Bagpipes: Tom Morello's Justice Tour Links
Rockers and Unions for a Labor Day Fightback

By John Nichols The Nation September 4, 2011

http://www.thenation.com/blog/163142/guitars-and-bagpipes-tom-morellos-justice-tour-links-rockers-and-unions-labor-day-fightb

When the members of Fire Fighters Local 311 learned Tom
Morello was returning to Madison, Wisconsin, for a
Labor Day show, the union men and women asked if they
could welcome the veteran Rage Against the Machine and
Audioslave guitarist to the city's historic Barrymore
Theatre with the pomp and circumstance accorded a
returning champion.

Bagpipes and razor's-edge rock 'n' roll?

Madison firefighters and an amplified Woody Guthrie who
is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Rolling
Stone magazine?

Absolutely. It's right in tune with the struggle that
Wisconsinites have engaged in for the past seven
months.

This is the new solidarity, crossing lines of class,
politics, ideology and musical genre. And Morello has
understood from the day, last February, when he rallied
the tens of thousands of protesters outside the state
Capitol in Madison. "I've played hundreds and hundreds
of demonstrations but I've never been in the middle of
anything like this," Morello told me the other day,
when we talked about his planned return to Madison for
the Labor Day show at the Barrymore Theatre with
McIlrath, Kramer and other musicians as part of a
Justice Tour that will go on to the battleground states
of Ohio and Michigan. "The people of Wisconsin are
forming one of the last lines of defense against
complete corporate control. There's a vicious class war
going on, but only one side was fighting it-the
billionaires and the politicians they prop up. There
wasn't a fightback, at least not a sufficient
fightback, until Wisconsin."

Back in February and March, the Local 311 bagpipers
were on the front line as they led marches on the
Capitol in defense of labor rights and local
democracy-and against the corporate cronyism of
Governor Scott Walker. For some of the largest
protests, they were joined by pipers from across the
state who played the ancient instrument of popular
insurrection.

Morello's instrument is different. He plays the guitar,
so brilliantly that, with Rage Against the Machine, he
won two Grammy Awards and was nominated for five more.
He's been to the top of the Billboard charts with Rage
and Audioslave.

Yet his passion remains politics. And, as The
Nightwatchman, he's forged a parallel career as one of
the edgiest and most determined movement troubadours
this side of Pete Seeger. In February, Morello was one
of the first national figures to show up in Madison to
join the protests-performing Guthrie's "This Land Is
Your Land" at the Capitol and reading a letter from
Egyptian activists cheering on the Wisconsin protests.

In a piece he penned for Rolling Stone, the rocker
wrote: "The future of workers' rights in this country
will not be decided in the courts or in Congress, on
talk radio or on Fox News. The future of workers'
rights in this country will be decided on the streets
of a small Midwestern city, on the streets of Madison,
Wis. And who knows? Maybe in your city too. Yeah, this
land is our land, and to those occupying the Capitol
building tonight, or marching in the streets across the
Midwest tomorrow, and to the people still deciding
which side they're on at this historic crossroads, I'd
like to pass along some advice from the immortal Woody
Guthrie: `Take it easy. but take it!' "

Since then, Morello has written a great song about the
Wisconsin fight-"Union Town"-and donated profits to
union groups in the state. And his new album, World
Wide Rebel Songs, celebrates street protests from
Madison to Cairo.

On Labor Day, Morello and other top artists such as
Wayne Kramer of Detroit's legendary MC5 and Tim
McIlrath of Rise Against will launch their Justice Tour
of states where unions are battling against right-wing
assaults on labor rights. They're raising money for
nonprofit media (via The Nation Institute) that expose
corporate abuse and highlights union struggles. But
most of all, they're celebrating the rise of a new pro-
labor, pro-democracy movement that marches to the sound
of guitars-and bagpipes.

___________________________________________

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