You’ll find “Custodian” on Si’s album Courage

“Custodian” came about when I was challenged by my long time friend JoAnn Mar of KALW-FM in San Francisco to write a song about privatization.  I remembered a man who called in when I was being interviewed by Don Jacobson on KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon about a book I co-authored with Elizabeth Minnich (public philosopher, feminist, educator, author, my best friend for 60 years, my beloved partner and spouse for 40) about a book we co-authored titled The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy.  The caller, Grant Walter, told me how he had lost his job as a school custodian because it was outsourced – privatized –and how much he and the kids in that school he took care of had lost as a result.  It’s not in the song, but Grant was also President of SEIU Local 140, and there’s a happy ending to his story: The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in favor of the union members, and they were all offered their jobs back.

Listen to “Custodian” here.


    –For Grant Walter

I was interviewed last week

On public radio

A man called up with something

That I didn’t know

My name is Grant, he said

Here’s what you need to hear

I’m a custodian –

At least I was until last year

This word custodian

It means to take good care

When something might have hurt the kids

Well, I was there

For any troubled kid

I was their right hand man

The school custodian

There to lend a guiding hand

But now the jobs we did

Have all been privatized

Our lives, the public good

Sold for the lowest price

A corporation does

The cleaning work we did

They want the money

Not to help some troubled kid

I see them on the street

Down at the movie show

My kids rush up to hug me

Grant, where did you go?

Their parents say to me

The school’s just not the same

If no one cares

Custodian is just a name

Now we are standing at the edge

Of a forest of lies

Where all we hold in common

Has been privatized

Where corporations own

Every corner of our land

When everything is private

Where will freedom stand

When those who only live for profit

Work to tear this country down

All we have to stand on

Is our common ground

And only we can find

Our way back home from here

We are custodians

Of all that we hold dear

    We are custodians

    Of all that we hold dear

Words and music by Si Kahn.  © Joe Hill Music LLC (ASCAP).  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.