Americans for Prosperity Staffer Attacks Payday for Brazil Coverage

Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco was assassinated in 2018 (Brazilian Government)

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On this May Day, celebrating international worker solidarity, I thought of a recent attack by an American for Prosperity political operative against Payday Report for our coverage in Brazil. 

Criticizing recent attempts to crack down on disinformation on social media in Brazil, an American for Prosperity staffer based in the wealthy suburb of Aspinwall, tweeted, “Guess this is why @MikeElk spends so much time there these days! Putting out propaganda after propaganda piece for @PaydayReport  and the Lula administration!!! While asking Americans to fund his trip!!!”

Many people wonder why a labor reporter from Pittsburgh would be in Brazil. The answer is simple: we live in an international labor movement, and we are stronger when we learn from each other.

More than that, I owe it to the Brazilian people to use my platform to help teach Americans about inspiring models of organizing in Brazil, such as the Landless Workers Movement, which has helped more than 400,000 families occupy and own their rights to their land since the 1990s

Nearly twenty years ago, in 2006, I received a scholarship to study at PUC-Rio, the first term of Lula’s administration.

At the time, we had Bush as President, whereas Brazil had Lula, an autoworkers union leader. He led a series of dramatic strikes against US automakers in Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s that brought down the dictatorship. I learned a tremendous amount. 

The lessons I learned in my year and a half of studying in college in Brazil have stayed with me and helped me during my entire career that followed as an American labor reporter:

I also studied at PUC-Rio with Marielle Franco, a Rio City Councilwoman who was assassinated in 2018 by right-wing paramilitary forces in Brazil.

Thanks to foundation support and reader donations, I’ve been working on a documentary about Marielle for the past year. Nearly all American publications had ignored her story, but our comrades found it encouraging that a small labor publication would stick with the story. 

While we were out filming this past March, the Brazilian federal police arrested the former chief of the Rio police and two politically powerful brothers for her assassination.

Our story on the arrests of her killers garnered more than 300,000 views and was the most popular story Payday published in the past year. 

Now, Payday is continuing to work on our feature-length documentary about Marielle Franco and the movement that her death inspired. 

When Marielle Franco was assassinated, she was the only Black woman on the Rio City Council, and now several Black women are running for office in Brazil at record rates. 

Marielle remains a symbol for the left in Brazil and is inspiring people to fight in bold new ways. 

Many Brazilian activists have taken inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement. As American activists, we have done very little to study their movements; we, as Brazilians, have yet to do much to study their movements. If we knew the story of Marielle Franco and the movement that her death inspired, it would inspire us even more. 

Our movement is stronger when we understand movements from other parts of the world. 

We have filmed nearly 30 hours of footage in Brazil and now need to pay people to help us edit the film. We need your help to pay for those costs. 

Please, this May Day, give a few dollars for international labor solidarity and help us edit this film. 

Donate to help us edit our documentary, Marielle Vive. 

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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]