Friday, February 24, 2017

Labour & Pop Culture: Work Away

This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture is “Work Away” by Classified. I’m a collaborator on a SSHRC funded project about Employment-Related Geographic Mobility (ERGM) called On The Move.

One of the most interesting and moving parts of the research that I’ve been able to read are the stories of mobile workers—whether they are nannies or kitchen staff or construction workers from the Atlantic Canada or the Philippines. The complex ways that they maintain a connection to their families and how they manage being away (and back and then away again) is amazing.

This song tells the story of these migrant workers (mostly interprovincial migrants) who travel (often for extended periods) to work away. It touches on the effect separation from family has on the workers and their families. And it reveals their motives (bread on the table).

In looking at the experiences of mobile workers, it is important to keep this in mind. For example, many mobile workers are prepared to accept long hours (often beyond what is legally permissible) because their primary reason for being in Alberta is to work and earn money. This has policy implications because it undermines the complaint-based system of employment regulation that we have.


My name's Cole [?], I'm from Prince George, BC, Canada
I work in Fort Mac, I'm only home about 7 days out of each month
My family lives in Enfield, Nova Scotia and I work in Baffin Island, Nunavut
I'm Wendy [?], I'm from Vancouver Island and I work up in the Alberta oil sands

[Chorus: David Myles]
I may be tired but I'm not asleep
My eyes are open and my heart still beats
I may be outside, but I'm not out cold
I got my heart and I still got my soul
It's time to get my feet back on the ground
It's my last night home, tomorrow, I'm gone
I work away, I work away
Tomorrow, I'm gone
I work away, I work away
It's my last night at home, tomorrow, I'm gone

I gotta wake up before the sun's up
I gotta catch a flight in the early morn
My bags are packed and my favorite hat
I work away to make it work at home
I'm gone again, gone again
Give the kids kisses, I'm off again
They don't wanna see me have to leave
But I'll be back soon, I promise them
I work away cause there ain't enough work where I come from
But honestly, I love where I come from
So I'm back home under one month

From the West coast to the East coast
To my family and my people
Don't miss a beat when my heart skips
I gotta work hard through these hardships
I put my head down and go for it
Put in overtime with no bonuses
And my girl's birthday is next week
I'm just hoping that I'll be home for it
So leave the lights on, keep the bed warm
I'll be there in just a minute
I'll see you soon as I can, but I got business that I gotta finish
I work away


I know  I'm gonna miss this when I'm gone
But I'm optimistic and stay strong
I write this song for anybody who gotta work long distance and beyond
Anybody working 3 weeks on to get a week off, then put your feet up
Then you gotta try to give the weed up
Cause it might be your week to fill the pee cup (awww)
I'm feeling it for ya, but you work it out
There ain't much work in this town
But we put our head down and search it out
We drive away, fly away
And I don't wanna say goodbye today
I love my home, but I gotta go
And I know it's just a small price to pay
Cause if you don't work, then it won't work

Tonight, let's have a little toast for
The people leaving in the morning
We can't wait 'til you come back home, work
I got pictures on my cellphone, I got memories on my mind
They'll be back, just a matter of time
Then we'll do this again, but it's back to the grind
We work


[Outro: (David Myles)]
Alright, my name is A.J. [?] I work 5 hours away, 5 days a week for my wife and 2 little girls in North Bay, Ontario
C.J. [?] from New Harbour, Newfoundland, I work all over the world, I leave for four weeks at a time
This is [?], my family's from North Toledo, Ohio
(I may be outside, but I'm not out cold
I got my heart and I still got my soul
It's time to get my feet back on the ground
It's my last night home, tomorrow, I'm gone)

-- Bob Barnetson

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