Atlanta Cops Spy on Fight for $15 – Privatized Buses Lead to 62% More Accidents – Trumka Bucks Obama on DNC Chair – Louisville Cafeteria Workers Unionize

Fight for $15 Activists in Atlanta, who have accused the Atlanta Police Department of spying on them (ATL Rise Up).

By Mike Elk

It’s Payday, Folks!

Greetings from Conneautville, Pennsylvania where Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk is in Volkswagen-book-writing seclusion.

Buzzfeed CEO Fights UK Reporters Seeking Union

This week’s Lunch Pail goes out to the 80 writers at Buzzfeed UK, who have opted to join the National Union of Journalists. If they are successful in their efforts, the writers would be the first reporters at Buzzfeed to unionize and could create momentum to organize the several-hundred-person staff of Buzzfeed US. Buzzfeed, POLITICO, and Vox are the only major digital media outlets that are not yet unionized.

However, Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peritti intends to fight the union drive. Writing to his staff in an email published by Buzzfeed, Peritti said:

“I don’t think a union is in the best interests of BuzzFeed or our employees. Unions represent employees around a rigid skillset that doesn’t reflect the fluid and flexible way we work, they introduce an extra layer of bureaucracy and process, and they unnecessarily divide our teams, limiting the many benefits of everyone being part of a venture backed tech company.”

Buzzfeed Editor Vows to Cover Buzzfeed Union Drive

Despite Buzzfeed CEO clamping down on the union, Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, a former SEIU 1199 union researcher, says that he intends to cover any potential union drives at his outlet.

“My basic view is that if you’re a beat reporter and you have news, it would suck to get scooped,” Smith wrote Payday in an email.

Nearly 80 Arrested at Fight for $15 Protests Across the South

While the Fight for $15 movement has long been marked by civil disobedience in the North, now protesters are getting more aggressive in the South. This week, dozens of protesters were arrested while blocking traffic in Durham, Tampa, and Charleston, South Carolina.

“I went to jail with the Fight for 15 because the only thing that has ever changed this nation has been people of conscience joining together—black, white, and brown—across dividing lines and refusing to back down in the face of injustice,” Reverend William Barber, who was arrested along with 53 other workers in Durham, North Carolina, wrote in an oped for

“This movement has married righteous anger with committed courage to shine a light of hope in the darkness of injustice,” writes Barber. “Everything I know tells me that it’s better to go to jail with a movement like this one than to stand down in the face of injustice.”

Atlanta Cops Accused of Spying on Fight for $15 Meeting

On Tuesday, a group of Fight for $15 organizers discovered an Atlanta Police Detective spying on their planning meeting at Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta.

“The Atlanta Police Dept. sent a detective to surveil Fight for $15 organizers meeting today at our union hall,” wrote Teamsters Local 728 Organizing Director on Facebook. “Guy sat in his car in our parking lot watching fast food and airport workers prep for actions this afternoon and evening. Unreal.”

“He left right after we discovered him,” says Speight. “But he’d already broken the law.

The Atlanta Police Department did not immediately respond when asked to comment.

$65 Billion in Raises Won Since Fight for $15 Movement Began in 2012

A new study out by the National Employment Law Project has found “since the Fight for $15 launched in 2012, low-wage workers have won $61.5 billion in annual raises through a combination of state and local minimum wage increases.”

According to the study, more than 19 million workers will benefit from the minimum wage increases at the state and local level. The report also found that the “$61.5 billion raise delivered by the Fight for $15 to workers in just a handful of states is more than 10 times larger than the total raise received by workers in all 50 states under Congress’s last federal minimum wage increase, approved in 2007.”

Study: Privatized School Busses in Tenn. Result in 62% More Crashes

Following Payday’s investigative reporting into the Chattanooga School Bus Crash, the chairman of the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus, Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), told Payday that he wanted to call for hearings into the role of privatization in the deadly Chattanooga school bus crash that killed 6 school children last month. The news comes as Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam calls for a full examination of the way Tennessee provides school bus services.

An analysis done by The Tennessean showed that in the past year, privatized school bus got into 62 percent more crashes than districts that directly employed school bus drivers. According to The Tennessean, “for every 100 accidents at outsourced districts, 13 resulted in injuries, compared with eight at publicly run school services.”

Hamilton County School District Filed Six Complaints About Bus Driver

Last week, the Hamilton County school district released more than 30 pages of complaints and warnings that they had given about the Johnthony Walker, the school bus driver, whose crash caused the deaths of six elementary school children. The documents include several letters written by both students and parents complaining about the fast and unsafe driving by Walker.

However, the company contracted to provide bus transportation, Durham School Services, claims it did not receive the letters from students and parents and only received six formal complaints from the school district.

“We can only act on what we know and what’s before us,” Durham School Services CEO Duke told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. “We don’t know what didn’t work…We know what [complaints] we didn’t have.”

***** Bluegrass Break *****

On the most recent episode of the Folk Labor Desk, Payday Folk Labor Ombudsman JP sings an old song recorded back in 1958 that was written to memorialize the 27 children killed in a tragic bus crash in Floyd County, Kentucky.

To help Payday continue its groundbreaking report on the Chattanooga School Bus Crash, become a dues-paying contributor to Payday for only $3 a month. Last month, Payday picked up 5 new dues-paying reader bringing our total of 68 dues paying readers contributing $755 a month.

Find a little extra cash this Payday and donate to Payday today.


Louisville Teamsters Seek Injunctive Relief Against Unsafe UPS Plane Work

Last month, Payday Report covered how 1,200 aircraft mechanics, members of Teamsters Local 2727, are threatening to strike over unsafe working conditions at the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, Kentucky. The union has filed several OSHA complaints over the past year, but they say that conditions still have not improved.

Now, after a worker fell 19 feet after the collapse of a lift used to fix an airplane, the union is seeking legal relief in the US District Court of Western Kentucky in order to get UPS to fix its safety problems.

“The issues the maintenance technicians and related staff are raising are serious and potentially deadly. As UPS adds more planes to its fleets and more routes to accommodate the busy holiday season, these threats become even more serious,” said Tim Boyle, President of Local 2727, in a press release this week.

700 Louisville School Cafeteria Workers Opt to Unionize, but Face Hurdles

UPS mechanics aren’t the only ones in Louisville complaining about getting a raw deal. Back in October, over 690 out of the 850 food and nutrition workers employed by Jefferson County Public Schools signed cards saying that they wanted to be represented by AFSCME Local 4011.

However, workers complain that the Jefferson County School District is dragging its feet in verifying the cards in an effort to weaken enthusiasm for the union. Six weeks have passed since the workers first collected cards, and the school board has repeatedly claimed that it needs more time to check the cards to make sure that none are forged.

“To claim that we forged signatures or have cards that are fakes is insulting,” AFSCME Local 4011 Communications Director Ron Richmond told WDRB-TV. “It’s no wonder they want to relax hiring rules if this is how they treat the employees they have. I think this speaks volumes to recruiting and retaining talent.”

New York Times Op-ed Calls Out McConnell On Miner’s Relief Act

Earlier this year, Payday Report broke the story of how billionaire Super PAC donor Joe Craft, the CEO of non-union Alliance Resources Partners has been seen as blocking the bipartisan Miner’s Relief Act from coming to a vote. Last month, 23 coal state senators from both sides of the aisle warned that if the bill wasn’t passed that the pension and retirement benefits of 120,000 could be at risk.

Now, the New York Times editorial board has called out McConnell and asked him to bring the measure to vote in the lame duck session:

[McConnell] questions why the bill would protect only members of the United Mine Workers of America, which has an estimated 89,000 pensioned miners and family members and 22,000 workers vested for the future.

The senator’s concern for nonunion miners seems a classic example of a hackneyed legislative tactic — arguing for the perfect to block the good. He should drop it and help retirees who worked in a dangerous industry and deserve what was promised by contract in the halcyon days of Big Coal.

Payday plans to stay on this story. Donate today so we can keep covering a story that Payday Senior Labor Report Mike Elk has covered for nearly four years.  

Trumka Bucks Obama on Perez Leading DNC & Backs Ellison

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) has quickly scored the backing of a number of key congressional leaders and labor leaders. However, President Obama has continued to work against Ellison, pushing Secretary of Labor Tom Perez as his choice for DNC Chair.

However, despite, the good relationship between Perez and organized labor, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has decided to buck Obama and throw his weight behind Ellison. This week, Trumka asked the 67 members of the Executive Council to consider either endorsing Ellison, abstaining altogether or waiting to make an endorsement.  

“It was clear from the discussion that, to the extent endorsement decisions have been made, Congressman Keith Ellison is the leader,” Trumka wrote in an email to labor leaders obtained by POLITICO. “Furthermore, in a straw poll, a strong majority of the Political Committee indicated that the AFL-CIO should endorse Congressman Ellison at this time. For these reasons, only his name appears on the ballot.”

The move is not without controversy from some of the more conservative elements in the labor movement

“A single name on the ballot more resembles an attempt at a coronation in a totalitarian regime rather than an election within the House of Labor,” Mr. Schaitberger wrote in an email Wednesday to Trumka and other labor leaders obtained by the New York Times.

Instacart Workers File Class Action Suit Over Tip Changes

In October, Payday highlighted a novel, crowdsourced protest by grocery shoppers employed by Instacart after the service threatened to take away workers’ tips. Now, six Instacart workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the company accusing it of wage theft and misclassification.

Caroline O’Donovan at the non-union (for now) Buzzfeed has the story:

It alleges that people who worked for Instacart as independent contractors should have been classified as employees and are owed repayment for minimum wage, overtime, expenses and more. The class could include as many as 14,000 workers from all over the country, the suit alleges, and the amount owed “far exceeds $5,000,000 in the aggregate.”

“The shoppers’ and drivers’ services are fully integrated into Instacart’s business, and without them, Instacart’s business would not exist,” the suit reads. “Instacart voluntarily and knowingly misclassified Plaintiffs and other Instacart shoppers as independent contractors for the purpose of avoiding the significant responsibilities associated with the employer/employee relationship.”

Weekend Reads

The New York Times has a startling look at about how workers injured in workplace shootings struggle to pay their bills on worker’s compensation.

The Atlanta based publication The Bitter Southerner traveled to Plains, Georgia on the Sunday after election day to hear Jimmy Carter teach a Sunday School class on what the nation should do next:

This Sunday, visitors arrived before 6 a.m. at Maranatha Baptist Church to get a seat in the sanctuary for Carter’s 10 a.m. class. Many said they came to find some sort of sanity and faith after a bleak week. They shivered and took pictures in front of the simple brick church in a pecan orchard. Portable bathrooms and a small playground helped them pass time until they could go inside.

For more, check out the Bitter Southerner and throw them a few bucks.

The Writer’s Guild-represented Think Progress has an in-depth investigation at how prisoners suffer when health care is denied in prison:

She didn’t get a glimpse of her son until his August 15 court hearing. By then, she says, her son was barely recognizable. He couldn’t talk, walk, or even stand — the formerly powerful athlete was rolled into court on a wheelchair — and perhaps most disturbingly, he couldn’t register who she was.

“He wasn’t himself,” Tanyatta told ThinkProgress. “There wasn’t nothing normal about him… It looked like he had lost about maybe 60, 70 pounds… his mouth was crusted, his eyes were like dry, glazed over… He thought he was back to a child stage. He kept saying that his granddaddy was pushing him in a wheelchair and in a swing. But he wasn’t in a swing, he was in a wheelchair. And I kept on asking, did he know who I was, and he said ‘no.’ I said, ‘are you sure you don’t know who I am?’ And he said ‘no ma’am.’… There’s not a child that doesn’t know their mother’s voice.”

Tanyatta repeatedly asked the correctional officers at the hearing to take Deundrez to the hospital, but they didn’t heed her calls, instead blaming his behavior on preexisting mental health issues, she said. Over the next several days Deundrez’s conditions deteriorated, but medical staff never checked his temperature, blood pressure, and blood sugar, according to her suit (the defendants denied these claims). On August 19, they found Deundrez in his cell completely unresponsive and finally sent him to the Huntsville Hospital.

It was too late. The infection that started in Deundrez’s foot made its way through his body, and he was septic, dehydrated, and suffering multi-organ failure and acute renal failure.

Finally, America’s favorite labor historian Erik Loomis has a look at why the International Ladies Garment Workers Union sponsored the hit musical “Needles and Pins” and its impact on culture.

That’s all for today, folks. Be sure to donate to Payday Report so we can keep giving you a report each and every Payday.

Love & Solidarity,


Mike Elk is an award winning labor reporter and a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO, a workplace safety expert at MSNBC, and as an investigative reporter at In These Times Magazine before founding Payday Report.

Follow him on twitter @MikeElk or email him: [email protected]

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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