‘We Do the Work’ radio program signing off


(April 20, 2021) — We took a stand, and it lasted eight years.

We had no idea what we were getting into or how much work it would entail, but “We Do the Work,” a weekly radio program that was eventually aired by more than 20 community radio stations across the country, turned out to be worth every effort. It was a labor of love.

The brainchild of Janet McKinney, a retired Operating Engineer, and Rich Austin, a lifelong member and long-time officer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, We Do the Work originated in the studios of KSVR, Mount Vernon Community College’s radio station.

Janet and Rich believed that a radio presence would amplify labor’s voice, too long muted across the country, even here in Washington state where labor retains a strong presence.

The show began small, as a segment in another locally produced program but soon took off on its own. As radio neophytes, we felt our way, speaking into that scary microphone to people we couldn’t see, adjusting the program’s mix until it took what became its predictable shape.

We Do the Work featured interviews with workers, union and social justice activists, writers and editors, all engaged in labor’s continuing struggle. Many to whom We Do the Work gave voice were local workers at oil refineries, hospitals, farms, and chicken and fish processing plants engaged in renegotiating contracts or unionizing for the first time. We also heard from activists and labor professionals in California, Montana, Boston, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, who spoke on subjects that ranged from Medicare for all, Social Security, international labor rights, wage theft, and fair elections. At times, musicians livened the program with their talents, but no matter where it ranged, the show’s focus remained on the economic and social justice workers everywhere deserve but have never achieved without a fight.

We Do the Work took on that fight as its own.

Over the years, we interviewed 465 people and aired 420 individual shows. Mike Dumovich hosted Conor Casey, Labor Archivist for the Labor Archives of Washington, 28 times on his “Learn Yourself” series documenting labor history.

Mike, who doubles as a blues player and singer, along with Gary Kanter, songwriter, singer and humorist, recorded 30 music shows featuring their own music, and interviews with and music from Anne Feeney, the Seattle Labor Chorus, the IAM’s Unionation Band, Jim Page, and many others.

Janet McKinney summed up the program this way: “We worked hard to make local issues a microcosm of what other communities face. When we talked about local MEDIC 1 levies, we knew similar levies are voted on all over the country, for the same reasons, so we presented them as just one instance of the larger American picture.”

(From left) Mike Dumovich, Ken Winkes, Janet McKinney, Lori Province, and Gary Kanter.

Janet also mentioned the show’s personal rewards.

“It was interesting, fun, and satisfying,” she said. “The best part was the people I worked with and all the people we met through the interviews. I was amazed at what people are capable of and the depth of their compassion. If there is any hope for our nation, our democracy, our workers, our planet, it will come from people who care and are trying now to change the world to be a better place.”

No one of us could have said it better.

But now, after eight wonderful years, it’s time to say goodbye. It’s not a decision we’ve made lightly.

From its beginnings, WDTW promoted and celebrated workers because we truly believe workers — and the way they are treated and the way they treat one another — are the unquestioned foundation of a civil, democratic society. We haven’t changed our minds. We’re just passing the torch to others to promote workers’ rights, free and fair elections, universal healthcare, to those who will fight tooth and nail the racism, the corruption, and the outsized influence of money in our politics that tears workers apart, weakens them and renders them slaves.

We close our eight years of We Do the Work with this, a sincere thank you to:

— Our originating station, KSVR and the many other stations across the country who have helped us spread the word.

— All the wonderful people, the hundreds of labor leaders, writers, artists, and workers themselves who have talked with us, told us their stories, shared their ideas and sang their songs. They improved our lives along the way.

— A hearty “thank you” to WDTW’s voices, to Gary Kanter and Mike Dumovich, to Lori Province, who added her strong voice to the show, to Rich Austin, one of the founders, Mark Lowry, and especially to Janet McKinney who really did do all the work.

— And to all of you who listened and cheered us on.

Ken Winkes is a retired teacher and high school principal. Janet McKinney is a retired member of Operating Engineer Local 302.


Exit mobile version