Organized labor holds power in the histories of countries all across the world, coming to the forefront as a political entity at the turn of the twentieth century. In unifying the working class with a political consciousness, the labor movement quickly gained might and influence—demanding integration into government dealings, as typified by the role of labor officers in the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in the 1950s and 60s.
Yet, the labor movement shares deep roots with folk music, songs shared orally that comment on national cultures. In the mid-twentieth century, a revival of the folk tradition carried powerful political messages through a populace, often commenting on the state of labor workers and unions, as exemplified in songs like “Union Burying Ground” by preeminent folk artist Woody Guthrie. Many such folk musicians reached fame supporting union efforts at rallies and gatherings nationwide, integrating music into the fabric of the labor movement irrevocably.
Joe Glazer, a long-standing labor officer and advisor, exemplified the role of labor in international dealings, finding his start in the Rebel Workers Union in Akron, Ohio in the early 1950s before developing a decades-long career in the federal government. Upon entering USIA in 1961, Glazer moved to Mexico City, where his love for music played a key role in developing cultural diplomacy.