Along with "Talking Union", this song was one of the many pro-union songs written by Guthrie during his time as a member of the Almanac Singers. Another member, Pete Seeger writes,
"I'm proud to say I was present when 'Union Maid' was written in June, 1940, 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 song's final verse, on women's role in unions was written later by Lampell and other Almanac members. In performance, this verse has been adapted over the years to reflect changing attitudes, or dropped altogether. An alternate version, credited to Nancy Katz, appears in the 1973 (34th) and subsequent editions of the IWW's Little Red Songbook, and starts, "A woman’s struggle is hard, even with a union card".; another version in the 1985 song anthology Carry It On! edited by Seeger and Bob Reiser urges women to "Like Mother Jones, bestir them bones".
The 1973 single "Part of the Union" by British rock band The Strawbs, draws on similar themes to Guthrie's song to the extent that some sections - in particular the second verse - could be considered as a cover version. This song has also been adopted by supporters of the Philadelphia Unionsoccer team, who will sing the chorus of the song outside of and at matches.