Guthrie wrote this song to give a woman’s point of view about the union. Some of the comments are perhaps anachronistic today but the main point is “I’m sticking with the Union.”
Both Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were staunch socialists and union supporters. They had seen the deprivation of American workers without a union.
“I’m proud to say I was present when ‘Union Maid’ was written in June, 1940,” said Pete Seeger “in the plain little office of the Oklahoma City Communist Party. Bob Wood, local organizer, had asked Woody Guthrie and me to sing there the night before for a small group of striking oil workers. Early next morning, Woody got to the typewriter and hammered out the first two verses of ‘Union Maid’ set to a European tune that Robert Schumann arranged for piano (‘The Merry Farmer’) back in the early 1800s. Of course, it’s the chorus that really makes it – its tune, ‘Red Wing,’ was copyrighted early in the 1900s.” The Incompleat Folksinger, by Pete Seeger, edited by Jo Metcalf Schwartz. Simon and Schuster