On Movement Music: Notes from the July Meeting

Fellow Workers,

Having come out of the KY GMB’s July meeting a week ago, there are a number of good things to report.

FW Mick and Kate at the Adjunct Teach-In, Feb. 2015.

FW Mick and Kate at the Adjunct Teach-In, Feb. 2015.

First and foremost, we want to congratulate FWs Kate Lafferty and Mick Parsons, who were elected to the position of delegate (Kate will also be taking the reigns as Branch Treasurer). Both have been integral to growing the branch in recent months and constantly work to tweak ever-so-small details and make the day-to-day operation as smooth as possible. Their election will continue to grease the wheels of the movement machine, stabilizing the meeting schedule and distributing the day-to-day of our organizing and planning. Best of luck to these Fellow Workers!

Second, there are a few upcoming events to look out for, some of which are detailed here. This Saturday, the 8th, the KY GMB will host an open house at our meeting space in the Mammoth. The shindig kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Hope to see everyone there!

We’ve also been given word that Indiana Wobbly Walter Beck–a great poet and performer–will be joining us in October, surrounding the digital organizing drive and the Louisville stop of the Joe Hill Tour in October. I personally only know Walter through social media, and knowing that social media presence means I’m looking forward to it. You can check out some of his writing at Omnibus Journal.

A final thing to look out for is the possibility of our own FW Mick busking in downtown Louisville! We’re not quite sure where or when, but hopefully in the next few weeks he’ll make his way near his former employer–where he was unjustly “removed” not too long ago–and make a stand with music, poetry, and general theatrics. (He promises to do so should his Facebook artist page get 200 “likes.” Let’s make that happen.)

Now for some thoughts:

These things–music, poetry, art and performance–continue to stand out as distinct features in the Kentucky branch. We’re home to poets, craftworkers, and musicians of all types. Where we meet, at the Mammoth, we’re surrounded by artists constantly.

At the close of our July meeting, our branch delegate J.P. Wright channeled a former job and gave us all a drum lesson, which translated into a short discussion of organizing tactics and the Highlander Folk School (now the Highlander Research and Education Center). The Highlander School made its mark most prominently in highlander-folk-schoolthe Civil Rights movement, having trained everyone from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King to Louisville’s own Anne Braden. The School emphasized non-violent protest tactics and community engagement, but also birthed and rewrote some of the great protest music of the twentieth century. Little known fact, hidden in the name: the Folk school started out resisting the capitalist class during the Depression, and the music born at Highlander was largely a transformation of the folk songs of that earlier movement.

So why does this matter?

It’s important that music and art remain as much at the center of the workers’ movement–and all movements–today as it historically has been. This doesn’t necessarily mean singing old folk songs in tandem (though those songs are great and, absolutely, moving). But it does mean that we recognize that the cultural component(s) of the workers’ rights movement are our original–and now our contemporary–shared material. These things that communicate shared sentiment, communal consciousness–a cartoon, a popular song, a specific sound–can be grown to communicate deeper and more profound messages between movement members.

Cultural historian T.V. Reed recognizes the complex roles that music and other forms of art can play among, and beyond, the members of a movement. Importantly, sharing in an artistic experience can be a way to pass the time, to make the boredom that comes with incremental organizing a bit more palatable. In The Art of Protest, Reed writes of music in the Civil Rights movement,

Movement work was often unimaginably arduous. In such a context, but in any movement context really, there needs to be a time fore pleasure and relaxation. And there too music was often the key. In addition to songs drawn into the movement for specific practical uses, there was music around just for fun. SNCC activist and later U.S. congressional representative John Lewis recalls that in addition to the freedom songs, and sometimes as a respite from them, he spent many a long drive down country roads listening to the latest pop songs on local radio stations, especially with the emergence of “soul” music in the 1960s.

Anyone knowledgeable of the cultural components of this particular moment recognizes the importance of “soul” in this anecdote. But more importantly, Reed illustrates how music and art become shared experience between movement members, even in moments of simple relaxation. As articulated in an earlier post, shared experience and communal struggle does not end even when we’re just hanging out, listening to whatever.

Old shot of Pete Seeger.

Old shot of Pete Seeger.

Art within and of a movement holds these multiple purposes. It brings us together, allows us to communicate to one another (Reed illustrates this deftly with the single line “We shall not be moved”), provides a moment of respite and, in the same breath, can communicate to those unsure of whether they are or are not a “part” of the movement. Art and performance can bring new ears and eyes to a movement and a cause. It can create, grow, and strengthen a movement community. To paraphrase Reed, the major point is that music, historically at the center of the Workers’ Movement culture, can function as an overarching site to build and move in new directions. It is not only a unifying force, but a baseline context for members to overcome division and recognize solidarity.

So as the KY IWW moves forward, we hope to bring members of the movement, new and old, out to listen to music, read some poetry, and embrace our community. We look forward to the opportunity to build and strengthen community around these very experiences.

FW Patrick

Press Secretary


KY IWW: Now Accepting Dues On-line

After much tinkering, the KY IWW GMB has developed a way to collect dues on-line. We feel this is an easy way for those members who are from far-off, or simply unable to attend certain meeting days, to remain part of the One Big Union.

You can follow the link through our “Dues and Membership” page to pay dues now or in the future. The link there will direct you to an external page where you can select your dues range and remain a member in good standing.

We’re also hopeful that we’ll have more options through the page in the future, including ways to join the KY IWW on-line, donate to the branch, purchase branch stamps, and so on.

One (or two) final thing(s): notes from the July meeting–including a long think piece on movement music–are forthcoming. Stayed tuned for that. And finally, be sure to join us for the KY IWW GMB open house THIS SATURDAY, 8:00 p.m., at our space in The Mammoth. Hope to see you all there!

FW Patrick – Press Secretary


Salting the Bernie Rally, Upcoming Events

Last weekend the KY IWW took the opportunity to spread the message of the One Big Union at a local rally for Bernie Sanders. Since salting that event, where we tuned folks in to our branch through discussions of unionizing, workers’ rights 11225416_430640467120196_2236984732030283791_oand solidarity, it was brought to my attention that something needs to be made clear: the IWW endorses no candidate and distances itself from electoral politics of any kind. We are not a political group, but a workers’ union. We organize for workers, not for politicians.

But it strikes me that wherever people gather to discuss the needs and rights of working people, Wobblies would be wise to present themselves as the One Big Union fighting for those needs and rights on all fronts.

Or better yet, in the words of FW Mick Parsons, Secretary Treasurer of the KY IWW:

Wobs wade in strange waters wherever we go. Even amongst ourselves, the cross currents can catch any one of us and toss us around. As a member of the IWW, though, you are never alone. That’s solidarity. And that’s the point.

Whether it’s in your workplace, your local bar, the gym, or a political rally, to be a Wob means not keeping it under wraps. It doesn’t always mean being obnoxious, either. But if, in the process of discussing recent world and political happenings, you happen to introduce someone to the OBU, then there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are a musician, poet, or other artist, and your Wobbliness comes out in your 11411853_430640420453534_2987332113084143606_oart – so be it. Be aware and be a good messenger. In order to build a new world out of the ashes of the old – we need everyone. That’s solidarity. 

To “salt” an event doesn’t mean to endorse an event. It means to recognize an opportunity–an opportunity where working people are ready to band together–to most effectively spread the message and cause of the IWW. And, in my mind, the Sanders candidacy speaks to a political consciousness that is learning to value unionization and worker solidarity in a way it has not been for quite some time. I, for one, will not pass up a chance to soap box to a primed audience.

Now in the spirit of opportunity and growth it’s time to look forward.

At the end of the month (July 30th @ 6 p.m.) we’ll be meeting at our new space in the Mammoth (on 13th and Broadway) and discussing new opportunities for adjunct activism, the Joe Hill Tour, digital media organizing and activism, and tabling the next Flea Off. For full descriptions of these and other events and projects, click here.

Among these events and projects two salient themes stand out. First, all three speak loudly about the IWW’s commitment to organizing and building solidarity among freelance and precarious workers. Where trade unions fall short among supporting workers (the freelance musicians, writers and artists, the short-term teachers) the One Big Union stands for you. Second, there’s an increasingly apparent digital and social media presence in the movement. What some in past years have called “Twitter activism” or “Slacktivism” is exposing–as we expected–a vast network of outlets, transmitters and receivers that tie nodes of the movement together, and provide us avenues to bring leftists and progressives within range of our message. The opportunity this fall to continue learning about, and participating, in that work with the KY IWW is, for me, one of the most exciting opportunities for the workers’ movement today.

So to steal from FW Mick once more (and to paraphrase), at festivals, in meetings, during idle talk, and, increasingly, in these digital spaces, be a Wob wherever you go.


FW Patrick

Press Officer & Literature Committee Chair

Kentucky IWW GMB

A last minute update–

Fellow Workers,

The press committee has finally gotten the site squared away–for the most part–and just in time for our flyering the Bernie Sanders rally in Louisville tomorrow! While the IWW does not formally endorse any political candidate, several of our 11665504_920104014723215_6111237889110752469_nmembers find common ground with the policies and principles of Senator Sanders. Our delegate, FW J.P. Wright, will be in attendance and playing old Labor songs. Get full info on the Bernie Sanders rally here, and be on the look-out for Wobs if you swing by.

I also want to plug a few other things very quickly.

Our next meeting will be on the 30th at 6:00 p.m. For those who don’t know, our new (and permanent) meeting space is at The Mammoth on 13th and Broadway. After every meeting our new procedure is to break into a social hour, complete with live music, poetry, and stories. These events are strictly BYOB.

At the upcoming meeting, we’ll be discussing several events on the horizon (which you can find under our “Current Campaigns/Causes” page) such as the labor day action for adjunct laborers, the organizing conference for digital media workers, and the Joe Hill Tour’s stop in Louisville. Old members are encouraged to take a leading role in these events and sharpen those organizing chops. New members are encouraged to stop by and see what it’s all about.

Hope to see you all there!

In solidarity,

Patrick Danner

Press Officer & Literature Committee Chair

Kentucky IWW GMB


Welcome to the new Woblog!

Fellow Workers,

This is the new blog and website for the Kentucky IWW General Membership Board. Bear with us while it remains under construction.

In the meantime, peruse the top menu, where you’ll find information on the Industrial Workers of the World, current projects and issues of concern, and other local organizations working alongside ours in solidarity. You’ll also find links to our other social platforms, links out to blogs maintained by our fellow workers J.P. Wright and Mick Parsons, and a link to the Kentucky College Faculty Association.

We’ve also set up a new general contact point: kentuckyiww@gmail.com. You can access any of our officers and members through that address.



Press Officer