(Watch Payday Founder Mike Elk talk about the creation of our memorial Jewish Yinzer Fund for Immigrant and Racial Justice Labor Reporting created to honor the victims massacred in his community at Tree of Life Synagogue)
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In 2015, when I was fired at Politico for union organizing, I faced the blacklist. However, my readers’ had different ideas. Many encouraged me to build a labor publication to cover stories in news deserts in the South and in my native Appalachia.
In late 2016, we founded Payday Report while I was living in Chattanooga covering the uphill struggle to unionize the Volkswagen factory.
Since then, we have published more than 250 articles including our weekly newsletter, Payday Report.
We got a union staffer fired for sexual misconduct, forced the DNC to pay its intern, spent more time on the ground covering the Nissan union election than any other publication, and were the only national publication on the left that was on the ground for the teachers strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Carolina.
In our first year in business in 2017, we raised $35,000 online. In 2018, we raised $42,000. We continue to grow as a publication through the strength of the solidarity of readers and reporters dedicated to rebuilding the labor press one small donation at the time. We accept no advertising, corporate, or union money.
Unlike other start-up publications on the left, I, as the owner of Payday Report, insist on paying all my part-time editors $32 an hour even if that means I go a week or two eating just rice and beans. If you want professional quality work done, you have to pay be liked, unionized professionals.
As a result of our solidarity, major foundations, and other institutions are starting to consider giving us major grants so that we can bring on part-time staff. So donate and help us continue to grow.
For far too long, the labor press has been neglected, but we here at Payday Report have built the foundations of the new model of organizing that forces the labor movement to ask how they can stop complaining about the press and start rebuilding the decimated labor press.
A Sidney award winner, Mike Elk is the co-founder of Payday Report and also covers labor and immigration for the Guardian. A member of the Newspaper Guild, he was illegally fired for union organizing as Politico’s senior labor reporter in August of 2015 and used his $70,000 NLRB settlement to start Payday Report in Chattanooga, Tennessee while living there as a southern labor reporter.
Elk now resides back in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa, fifteen minutes from the UE union household where he grew up. He can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org