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Labor Unions: The Working Class’ Best Defense Against the “Rich Men North of Richmond”

Oliver Anthony made headlines when he topped the charts in 2023 with his breakout working-class anthem “Rich Men North of Richmond.” His lyrics spoke to the majority of Americans, middle class workers who toil every day and are exploited by corporations cutting corners to make a buck. 


Anthony spent years working in a paper mill in North Carolina. He described his job as a "living hell.” He made $14.50 an hour in dangerous conditions. Eventually, he fell at work and fractured his skull, forcing him to move back home to Virginia.

I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.

oliver anthony comments

Comments from supporters on Oliver Anthony's break out music video, posted to YouTube. 

Missing the point of the song, Republicans tried to align themselves with the working class through the song in the first Republican presidential debate. 


Anthony set the record straight on the Joe Rogan show. He said, “The other thing that I find aggravating is, uh, well, you know, like it was funny seeing my song in the presidential debate because it's like I wrote that song about those people, you know, so for them to have to sit there and listen to that, that cracks me up.”

“I'm disappointed to see, like, it's aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I'm one of them. It's aggravating seeing certain musicians and politicians act like we're buddies and act like we're fighting the same struggle here, like that we're trying to present the same message.”

His lyrics specifically attack the corporate and political elites who would do anything to build their power and money. The same elites that have made it their mission to go after labor unions across the country, many Americans’ only bargaining chip to receive fair wages, hours, and working conditions.

Livin' in the new world / With an old soul / These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control

Controlled by billionaire and corporate donors, these politicians introduce anti-union legislation left and right, doing their best to protect their deep-pocketed friends from any legal consequences. 


Ever since 1935, when  Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), they have been working to undermine its protections—and with it, the American middle class.  In recent decades, employers have been able to violate the NLRA with impunity, routinely denying workers basic rights. 


Starbucks is one of the companies that has engaged in illegal retaliation by firing 150 pro-union baristas and closing a dozen recently unionized stores But it’s not the only one.


Unions protect American workers from the “Rich Men North of Richmond” and other elites who sit at the top of the corporate ladder, greedily taking wealth from workers across the nation. 

As Anthony said himself, "[Rich Men North of Richmond] is knocking the system collectively, including the corporate-owned conservatives.”

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