Left Press Sexual Misconduct Investigations Spread – JP Gets Final Word in Obit of CSX CEO – Disney Workers Fight Back

Christmas tree workers in the mountains of North Carolina face exploitation, but are fighting back with the help of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Chris Keane, Reuters)

Merry Christmas from the cliffs above the Monongahela River and the historic Battle of Homestead site. This is a special Sunday Payday weekend reader.

As Payday expands its operation, we will sometimes publish the regular Payday Report newsletter on Sunday and stock it full of must-read long-form articles that so many readers love.

Payday Meets Fundraising Goal of $1,200 One Week Early

First, thanks to everyone for helping us to have a really great Christmas. We hit our fundraising goal of $1,200 8 days early and were able to relax a little during the holidays instead of doing frenetic Twitter pledge drive fundraising.

Also, we picked up 18 new monthly recurring donors this month, which helps us tremendously by giving us more time to focus on reporting instead of fundraising.

You can make one-time donation here or sign up to be a monthly or recurring donor here.

Thank you all so much. You have kept us in business.

In 2018, I look forward to working with Payday General Counsel Oliver Bateman to set up a Readers’ Advisory Board to turn Payday into a consumer news co-op, where readers have input and a major role in the organizing and expanding Payday as we approach sustainability for our two-person shop.

93 % of Unionized Disney Workers Reject Disney Wage Proposal

This holiday, many families will watch Disney movies, but down in Orlando at Disney World, workers aren’t so happy with the company.

This week, members of Service Trades Council Union, a coalition of over 10,000 Disney workers spread across 6 unions, decided to vote down a contract proposal from Disneyland by a margin of 9,117 to 643.

Union members chose to vote down a contract that would give Disney workers a mere 50 cents per hour raise. The proposed contract by Disney would do little to address the plight of most employees in Disney World.

From the non-union Orlando Sentinel:

We deserve more than 50 cents,” said Krystle Karnofsky, who is paid $10 hour to work at Animal Kingdom’s Flight of Passage ride and struggles with a company she loves but that can’t support her financially. “We’re not going to settle.”

She has worked at the some of the most popular rides at Disney World, which means she gets to bring people joy, she said. But she often asks her grandparents for help paying rent for the apartment she shares with two roommates.

“My grandparents are my backbone,” said Karnofsky, 28, a college graduate with a degree in music industry management.

Go to Orlando Sentinel to read the full story.

Anger Builds Over New York Times Decision to Keep Glenn Thrush

Earlier this week, the New York Times caused a controversy when they decided to give Glenn Thrush a two month suspension and reassignment him to a different non-White House beat as a punishment for his history of sexual misconduct.

In addition to being accused of groping Vox Editor Laura McGann, Thrush followed a drunk 23-year-old intern on foot nearly a mile over the Key Bridge, across the river into D.C. while she frantically texted a friend asking for help. Then, he made her cry after she resisted his advances.

(For more details, see the take of Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk, who cooperated with New York Times General Counsel office and presented evidence of sexual harassment committed at Politico during the time when they were assigned to work together).

The decision has been criticized by people who believe the Thrush case provides an example of how powerful journalists can smear their accusers in order to limit the appearance of the severity of claims.

Thrush Allies Smeared McGann

“Times reporters slimed a victim of harassment in print,” said Atlantic economic writer Annie Lowrey in series of tweets Thursday.

Thrush flatly denied groping McGann, claiming instead that she had attempted to make a move on him.

Several of Thrush’s allies at the New York Times then anonymously questioned the accuracy of McGann’s reporting in media outlets everywhere from the Washington Post to Vanity Fair.

“They sought to discredit someone who had reported out her own experience of harassment, including by implying that she might have been retaliating after interviewing for a job at the Times,” said Lowrey. “Against all reason and despite the Times producing multiple prize-winning stories that have done the same thing, [Thrush’s defenders] implied that combining a third- and first-person account was bankrupt”.

Vox Founding Editor Ezra Klein expressed concern over the oppo shopped about his Editorial Director Laura McGann.

“I don’t know what the Times should’ve done with Thrush. But I watched the efforts to plant oppo and smear {Laura McGann] in the aftermath of her reporting. Anyone who thinks coming forward with these experiences is easy, even now, is wrong. I am beyond proud to be her colleague,” Klein said  in a tweet Thursday

Women at New York Times Upset By Thrush Decision

The decision to keep Thrush has outraged many women currently working at the New York Times.

Emily Peck and Maxwell Strachan at the Writer’s Guild-represented HuffPost have the story:

The Times is well aware of its problems with newsroom diversity. Sixty-one percent of bylines in the front section of the paper are still male, according to the Women’s Media Center. Last December, Liz Spayd, then public editor at the Times, wrote that interviews with staffers across the newsroom left her with the impression that there was “a level of frustration bordering on anger [regarding the newsroom’s lack of diversity] that would be institutionally reckless not to address.”

Over the past year, at least seven women of color have left the paper, including LaSharah Bunting, who went to the Knight Foundation; Rachel Swarns, who went to New York University; book critic Michiko Kakutani, who retired; and Catherine Saint Louis. Last year, masthead editor Lydia Polgreen left the paper to become the editor-in-chief of HuffPost. At a recent all-hands meeting, [executive editor Dean] Baquet addressed the issue frankly, one source at the Times said.

For more go to HuffPost.

Left Press Sexual Misconduct Investigations in the Works

Within the world of left-press publications that routinely pay freelancers as little as $100 a story, some reporters have begun to speak out.

Earlier this week, the excellent labor reporter Cora Lewis at nonunion Buzzfeed published a story about 5 former female reporters at AlterNet who had accused Don Hazen of sexual misconduct. The expose forced the board to indefinitely suspend Hazen from his duties pending an investigation.

The New York Times published a major expose on sexual misconduct at Vice.  Reporter Emily Steel uncovered four settlements related to sexual harassment charges against Vice employees, including current president Andrew Creighton, as well as dozens of stories from current and former female employees who claim they were harassed. Creighton paid a $135,000 settlement to an employee who claimed she was fired because she refused to have a romantic relationship with him.  

However, some of those interviewed were upset with how their experiences were discussed in the story. Former Vice employee Helen Donahue commented extensively about Emily Steel’s story on her Twitter:

“The New York Times used a sound bite. I talked for 2 hours. I named 6 dudes who made my work and personal life a living hell. Enough for a book, I guess, just way too much to squeeze into an article. The vast level of human especially woman-to-woman betrayal astounded & broke me. I was paranoid, cynical, & angry. Unfortunately I knew about an ongoing ordeal with a woman named in the article about a possible settlement. This news reached her. She told me to stop meddling and asked why I would ever believe such a thing. She also coerced me into quitting under false pretenses. It worked! This woman convinced me to quit after I’d had a sexual encounter w/ YET ANOTHER of my bosses. She told me my coworkers didn’t like me & they’d fire me themselves if I didn’t leave. I quit that day.”

Help Payday Blow the Whistle on Sexual Misconduct in the Left Press

If you were sexually assaulted by someone working in the left press and would like to tell your story, please contact us confidentially at [email protected] or call (412) 613-8423. There is no place in the left press or the labor movement for sexual assault or harassment.

JP Gets the Last Word in CSX CEO’s Obituary

This week, CSX CEO Hunter Harrison died suddenly of a heart attack and was quickly praised by many as an innovative business leader.

However, the Jacksonville Daily Record, where CSX is based, let Railroad Workers United national organizer and former CSX locomotive engineer JP Wright have the last word in Harrison’s obituary:

“The guy was a tyrant,” JP Wright told the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Fired University of North Carolina Civil Rights Center Open Their Own Group

Back in September, Payday covered the story of how the Republican-controlled UNC Board of Trustees planned to eliminate the pro bono legal work done by The Center for Civil Rights.

Attorneys Mark Dorosin and Elizabeth Haddix joined the  Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights.

“We had 14 open matters we were working on when the [system] Board of Governors’ decision came down,” Dorosin told the Herald Sun. “Once we were notified we would be terminated, we consulted with the clients and asked them what they wanted to do. Certainly, UNC wouldn’t be able to represent them anymore, but Elizabeth and I offered to represent them in our original capacity. All of them were enthusiastic, and so that’s what we’re doing.”

The group plan to explore fundraising options and setting up a new center at the Chambers Center to do the work that the UNC Civil Rights Center used to do.

ICYMI: North Carolina Christmas Tree Workers Fight Back as They Face Exploitation and Union Busting

Writing for the Guardian, Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk filed a report on the conditions facing Christmas tree workers this season:

In the mountains of North Carolina, workers at Hart-T-Tree farm in Grassy Creek say they had their wages stolen, were exposed to hazardous chemicals, and lived in constant fear of injury on the job. They also say they faced intimidating bosses pushing them to work harder in order to meet the holiday demands.

So they decided to organize to fight for their rights as members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee – and won a $350,000 wage theft settlement against their employer.

The company acknowledged that mistakes were made and said they were being addressed. “We want to make it clear that we care about our workers and their safety has always been important to us,” a spokesman said.

The workers’ story is an inspiring one that is likely to encourage others in the industry. However, scared by their organizing efforts of more than 10,000 unionized farm workers in North Carolina, Republicans in the North Carolina general assembly are attempting to making it more difficult for farm workers to unionize; putting the gains of workers in the mountains of North Carolina at risk.

Read the full dispatch on the exploitation faced by the workers picking your Christmas trees.

Weekend Reads

— Slate has a look at how Pittsburgh mountain isolation gives a unique accent:

Settlement in western Pennsylvania began to pick up around the time of the American Revolution, and those who set down roots in the area—predominantly Scotch-Irish families, followed by immigrants from Poland and other parts of Europe—tended to stay put as a result of the Allegheny Mountains, which bisect the state diagonally from northeast to southwest. “The Pittsburgh area was sort of isolated,” says Johnstone. “It was very hard to get back and forth across the mountains. There’s always been a sense that Pittsburgh was kind of a place unto itself—not really southern, not really Midwestern, not really part of Pennsylvania. People just didn’t move very much.

The result was a scenario in which—with some exceptions, such as the transfer of the word hoagie from Philly to Pittsburgh—the two dialects could develop and grow independently. Fast-forward 250 years or so, and people from Pittsburgh are talking about “gettin’ off the caach and gone dahntawn on the trawly to see the fahrworks for the Fourth a July hawliday n’at,” while Philadelphia folks provide linguistic gems like the one Monahan offered up as the most Philly sentence possible: “Yo Antny, when you’re done your glass of wooder, wanna get a hoagie on Thirdyfish Street awn da way over to Moik’s for de Iggles game?”

— A New Zora Neale Hurston novel is expected to be released in Spring of 2018

From Essence:

The book is based on the Their Eyes Were Watching God author’s many interviews with Cudjo, a survivor of the slave trade who was able to speak to her about his “capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.” She spent months at time in Cudjo’s hometown of Plateau, Alabama interviewing him in the late ’20s and early ’30s.

“During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilde, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War,” the Harper Collins website says.

Finally, Pittsburgh City Paper has a great look at why speculators have been holding on to hundreds of empty homes in Pittsburgh’s Uptown and what that means for the neighborhood’s future.


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. 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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