A Compilation to Benefit the Greater Chicago IWW
The plight of the working class is a struggle well known to musicians of any genre. We shell out our hard-earned cash to own and maintain expensive equipment, we spend years studying and perfecting our craft, we pour everything into our careers only to be exploited by an industry that cares more about what sells than the people who create it. But we don’t do this to make a living; after all, it’s well known and, for some reason, accepted that music doesn’t pay the bills. We do this to make living worthwhile, for ourselves and for others.
I started Don’t Panic Records & Distro after graduating from Northern Illinois University at the end of 2011. It was a way to share the music of the bands I loved. I put together a compilation of local DeKalb bands and another of local DeKalb poets. I collected CDs from local and touring bands and lugged them from one show to another distributing them to a variety of audiences. I put out a split 7” of two touring bands that would come through DeKalb regularly. I wanted everyone to know about the bands I was coming across. It was and still is a labor of love.
While I was at NIU, I majored in organizational/corporate communication; not the most exciting subject to study but I knew it was a degree that would land me a decent job. My true passion in college was history, so much so I picked up a minor in it. I took courses in American radicalism, the American labor movement, and a critique of capitalism. I found I enjoyed learning this history because hearing about the atrocities our country has committed against working people infuriated me. It angered me like listening to The Dead Kennedys or Crass angered me. It got my blood boiling and for some reason that’s a real motivator for me.
This was my introduction to the Industrial Workers of the World. Shorter hours? Workplace democracy? The abolition of the entire goddamn wage system?? Yes! It seemed to me that if the employing class and the capitalist system were the problem, the Wobblies were the solution. For years I felt hopeless. I could never identify with any political party, they’re all the same. Why would I vote Democrat when the entire system is fucked? When I read about the Wobblies, I felt like it was an organization that I could full-heartedly identify with. But for all my appreciation, I didn’t know what the IWW was up to in modern times and once I started my career in non-profit fundraising, I didn’t see how a union would be necessary in my own workplace, at least until a few years later when we unionized, but that’s a different story.
When Fellow Worker Paul approached me about putting out a compilation album to benefit the Greater Chicago IWW’s strike fund through Don’t Panic, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. I had been wanting to put out another compilation for a while and had been working on a comp of local hardcore bands the summer before but my motivation derailed. I was excited to revive the project for a cause I’m passionate for. I already had tracks from La Armada, The Breathing Light and a handful of others and they were all generous enough to let me keep the songs for a Wobbly comp. So many more bands contributed new music to us. Most of the songs on here are either unreleased or put out in 2018 or 2019. Hell, even Evil Empire gave us a brand new track. They haven’t put out anything in over ten years. How cool is that??
The We Don’t Work May 1st compilation unites 25 punk bands from across the city of Chicago and around the labor movement. West side bands, south side bands, north side bands and suburban bands got on board. There are punks from all walks of life involved in this project. Queer punks, black punks, brown punks, white punks, old punks and young punks. There are bands of nearly every style of punk on here. Ska bands, hardcore bands, pop bands, folk bands and crust bands. This truly is what unity and solidarity looks like.
The songs you hear on this comp range from serious to silly. Songs about dogsitting, dating (or the lack thereof), and friendship are juxtaposed with songs about bosses, labor and wealth disparity. This is to remind us there is an urgent need to fight for what we believe in but it’s also important to take time to laugh, dance, and sing. That’s the great thing about punk: it’s political in nature and stands for challenging the status quo but at the same time it’s really about having fun.
I want to give thanks to Paul for giving me the opportunity to put this comp together and for working on it with me, to Tara for doing the artwork and to Dave for mastering all the tracks. I want to thank all the bands that contributed a song to this and to those who have reached out to express interest in working on the next one. I’d like to thank everyone that has bought a CD or paid for a download and even those that have just given it a listen. Lastly I’d like to thank everyone that has shared it, including a ton of different branches of the IWW. I really appreciate all the support.
Although not every single member of every single band on this compilation is a Wobbly, we are all fellow workers. We clean schools. We prepare food. We serve drinks. We run record labels. We make music. We work.