For those of you who don't know Phil, "Mr. Picketman" was a name given to him during a rally one day, after he scrawled out a song on the back of his picket sign - a song he would soon lead the crowd in singing. Music has been a lifetime hobby for Picketman, but, throughout his 20 years as a union member and Albertson's employee in Southern California (where he served as a department manager for years, and then as a front end service supervisor) he's developed ideas for songs that he could use to help further the fight to protect working families.
On what the union means to him, and how it has prompted his songs, Mr Picketman has this to say:
"Over the years, working at Albertson's and being able to negotiate contracts and the conditions in which we work under, its been a positive experience."
Mr. Picketman has been a union member ever since he began working at Alberston's, but says that he became much more involved within the union during the 2003-2004 Southern California strike:
"That's when I learned how to stand up for what I believe in."
After returning from the strike, Mr. Picketman became a steward within his store, as well as Local 1428 executive board member. Phil wrote several songs about the strike, and from there, the music sort of "just took on a life of its own." His songs got out to all sorts of people all over the country and Phil then began receiving calls from people wondering if he could tailor songs to various causes. Phil helped out a few of these callers, but found that nothing resonated with him as much as the union related songs he had created from the heart, and from his own experiences.
"After making the first song for the union, about pro-worker type stuff, its just become an even bigger hobby of mine."
Phil soon gained more popularity with the creation of an Obama-themed song, during the 2008 election. Of course, he says, he has a 2012 re-election song in the works too. His recent work includes two songs with OUR Walmart, inspired by his work as a member organizer on the Making Change at Walmart campaign. He has also been contacted by a Local 8 member for help making a song related to the ongoing negotiations with Raley's in northern California.
"I love being part of organizing and helping membership within UFCW grow. I know that if we can rebuild union membership we can rebuild the middle class and the economy. Definitely having the experience of helping the union, helping others achieve a voice in their workplace has really been the most rewarding experience. And as for working on the OUR Walmart campaign, being able to talk to the workers who don't have some of the benefits and privileges that we have as union members."
One of Picketman's recent songs, about the situation in Wisconsin and Scott Walker's agenda to take away collective bargaining, is a rousing hip-hop style anthem that calls on workers to "build our communities to save our jobs", and to "stand up, get up, we gotta keep our head up." The song, entitled "Fight On" has a motivating and catchy chorus that begins: "Anything in life that's worth having is worth fighting for." Picketman's musical style is one that many of our young members are sure to be drawn to, yet members of all ages can appreciate the message in each song, and the vigor with which he sings them.
The following YouTube video provides a slideshow of pictures capturing scenes from the Wisconsin protests for a re-election, set to "Fight On."
Click here to download another catchy beat from Mr. Picketman.