142 Stories Written By Payday & 1,170 Strikes Tracked in 2020

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2020 was an unprecedented year for Payday Report. We raised close to $96,430 from our readers and added our first salaried staffer by bringing in editor Clarissa León. 

We wrote 142 stories and tracked over 1,170 strikes nationwide. 

We received wide acclaim this year with The New York Times citing our work six times. The New York Times’ Ben Smith even labeled me, Melk, an “abrasive gadfly” for my work exposing a sexual misconduct cover-up in my NewsGuild. 

Emmy Award winner W. Kamau Bell partnered with Payday Report to film a CNN documentary on white supremacy and environmental racism in Pittsburgh. 

Everyone from NPR’s All Things Considered to The Economist to film director Boots Riley has cited our work tracking the largest strike wave in the U.S. since 1946. 

It was a phenomenal year of growth, so here is a look back at 10 of our favorite pieces from the past year. 

  1. “1,000 Dance Down Pittsburgh’s East Carson to Celebrate Defeat of Trumpism”
    My favorite story of the past year was covering the dance party that erupted on East Carson Street when news broke that Biden had won Pennsylvania. As a labor reporter, it was one of the most joyous scenes I could capture in my career and it was one of my favorite stories to write.
  2. “Minneapolis Transit Shuts Down as Bus Drivers Refuse to Help Police”
    Shortly after the George Floyd protests, Payday Report was the first outlet to break the story that Minneapolis bus drivers went on strike rather than assist the police. This would be the beginning of a massive strike wave propelled by the Black Lives Matter movement. 
  1. “How Black & Brown Workers are Redefining the Strike in a Digital COVID Age”
    Payday Report’s Strike Tracker allowed us to track how strikes dramatically intensified in the month following George Floyd’s death when over 500 strikes occurred in June alone. Payday Report looked at the AFL-CIO, which has refused to expel police unions, and how the traditional labor movement was downplaying this strike wave.
  2. “IMPACT: SEIU-UHW Settles Major Sexual Misconduct Case Following Payday’s Expose”
    For more than two years, Payday Report investigated a series of cover-ups of sexual assault within the 1.9-million-member SEIU. Our work helped produce several witnesses and evidence that resulted in one of the largest settlements for sexual misconduct cases in the history of the labor movement.
  3. “Replaced by Prison Labor, NOLA Garbage Workers Form Union to Fightback”
    One of the most inspiring stories Payday covered over the last year was the story of Black garbage workers who walked off the job in New Orleans and continued to fight back after being fired and later formed their own union.
  4. “Breonna Taylor’s Union Refused to March on Her Behalf”
    Payday used the case study of Louisville’s labor’s inaction on the death of Teamsters union member Breonna Taylor to look at how unions were failing to capitalize on the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement and what it meant for the labor movement.
  5. “Minor League Players Win Victory at Supreme Court as Organizing Grows”
    In October, I took a long look at how the pandemic was helping the organizing efforts of over 2,500 minor league baseball players who are exempt from the federal minimum wage law. The piece is one of the most in-depth looks at the post-pandemic organizing dynamics in baseball.
  6. “When Henry Wallace Warned of ‘American Fascism”
    One of my favorites stories this year was reviewing Nation correspondent John Nichols’s bold new book “The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace’s Antifascist, Antiracist Politics.” The book explored how fascism rose in the U.S. because of the purging of FDR’s Vice President Henry Wallace from the ticket in 1944 and the Democratic Party’s abandonment of racial justice issues.
  7.  Beating of KDKA Reporter Raises Questions About Race & Media in Pittsburgh”
    When a local TV reporter was beaten by a Black Lives Matter protester, Payday Report tracked down how the beating occurred and how a Puerto Rican drag queen and aspiring journalist Alexa Chapman saved KDKA reporter Ian Smith’s life. The piece sought to look at the deeper issues of racial inequity in Pittsburgh and how the beating was caused.
  8. “Woody High & the Black Union Reps, Who Made Me an Autistic Fighter”

Finally, one of my favorite stories of 2020 was the long-form I wrote on the role of Black mentors in my life as a young autistic child attending the last high school in Pennsylvania still under federal integration order. The piece traces the hidden history of how Black veterans of the civil rights era trained and inspired the early pioneers of direct action by the disabled in the 1970s. 

Alright, folks, we’re ready to ring in the new year and say goodbye to 2020. Thank your continued support this year and the next! Keep the donations coming and support us in 2021 by signing up as a recurring donor today. 

Love & Solidarity,


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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