10 Workers’ Rights Songs to Listen to While You’re Not in Section

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Photo by Vicente Villasenor

Arts & Entertainment

Andy Knox

A strike is upon us! Starting this week, and lasting indefinitely, graduate students all across the UC system will be striking for better pay, working conditions, and more. Some UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students might take this as an opportunity to skip sections and go to the beach, while others might use it as extra study time for their harder classes. Impassioned undergraduates interested in aiding our toiling graduate students in their movement can do so by joining them in the picket line and educating themselves. As music has long been one of the most effective tools for inspiring both empathy and the urge to enact change, here are 10 songs to listen to while you’re not in section. 

Johnny Paycheck — “Take This Job and Shove It”

Being the iconic working-class hero he is, Johnny Paycheck is totally unapologetic in this indignant song directed at his greedy employer. The title refrain would be a perfect chant for angry picketing graduate students who have announced that they are fed up with their jobs as they stand. 

Pink Floyd — “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”

From an album many would say is as underrated as our graduate students are underpaid, this psychedelic anti-capitalist anthem perfectly matches the vibe of an angry but chill surfer that a protesting Santa Barbara resident ought to give off. 

BTS — “Silver Spoon” 

This track gives a voice to millennials who have been told by older generations that they’re just not working hard enough. While few UCSB students will understand most of this track’s Korean lyrics, one could view that as analogous to the failure of the UC administration to understand the plight of our beloved graduate students. If you don’t speak Korean, you can just look up the English translation of the lyrics; if the UC administration doesn’t get why graduate students are striking, they could just come to the negotiating table in good faith. 

Photo by Hally Zhou

Rage Against the Machine (RATM) — “Know Your Enemy”

RATM has always been a workers’ rights-oriented band, and any of their songs have the potential to inspire even the most chill surfer-stoner to rise up in arms against their oppressors. This education themed banger with the repeated phrase “I’ve got no patience now / so sick of complacence now” fits nicely with a movement of students who have just had enough. 

Aesop Rock — “None Shall Pass”

If most of the graduate students tried to explain their research to the people refusing them adequate pay, they would be lost. The same is true of Aesop Rock when he spits esoteric bars telling workers to keep their heads up. The line “[t]o my people who keep an impressive wingspan / Even when the cubicle shrink / You got to pull up the intruder by the root of the weed” is something to think about while you’re not busy thinking about your papers that won’t get graded.

Bent Knee — “Belly Side Up” 

While not inherently about workers’ rights, this uplifting tune about refusing to submit and baring one’s teeth in the face of a challenging situation could be easily reinterpreted to be about not backing down when you’re in the picket line. 

Future ft. Drake — “Life is Good” 

Drake’s proletariat-like grind set, as detailed in the opening line of this song (“[w]orkin’ on the weekend like usual”) puts into perspective how hard graduate students have it. Even despite Drake’s claims that he is too busy to even do his taxes, it is hard to imagine “Drizzy” grinding harder than the average Gaucho grad. 

Rihanna — “Work” 

While anyone can turn up to “Work,” this particular anthem is dedicated to spouses and partners of the overworked, underpaid graduate students. Hopefully, for them, the strike will last long enough that they will stop relating to this song for a while. 

Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) — “Gold Digger”

While it might be the morally best decision to pirate instead of stream this song given Ye’s recent hateful statements, “Gold Digger” makes for a powerful workers’ rights banger with just a bit of reworking. The graduate students must feel as exploited and gold-dug by the university as the characters in Ye’s “Gold Digger” do by those financially exploiting them. 

The Offspring — “Why Don’t You Get a Job?”

To mix it up, this final song is for those who are opposed to the strike and think the TAs should return to the classrooms or get a “real” job.”

However, whether you’re a TA or an undergrad here, the strike affects you. If you are not actively educating yourself by joining the picket line, posting #FairUCNow on social media, emailing the UC president and provost, or listening to these dope workers’ rights tunes, you may find yourself as part of the problem. 

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