Attica Scott May Run for Kentucky Gov. – NEA To Cut $50 Million from Budget – N.J. Passes Landmark Local Media Bill

Attica Scott, the sole black woman in the Kentucky State House, may run for Governor of Kentucky (LEOWeekly)

Too Broke to See Pirates Take on Phillies This Weekend

Folks, greetings from the Hill District, where its payday and Payday senior labor reporter Mike Elk is flat broke and hoping to see the Buccos take on the Phillies this weekend.

We’ve raised $2207 to dig out of a $2,500 unexpected revenue shortfall. Help us be able to afford to go the Buccos game this weekend. Donate here

The Only Black Woman in Kentucky State House May Run for Governor

Yesterday, the Louisville Courier-Journal broke the big news that State Representative Attica Scott is seriously considering running against Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin in 2019.

Currently, Scott is the only black woman serving in the Kentucky State House and previously served as executive director of Kentucky’s Jobs with Justice. (See Mike Elk’s profile fo Attica Scott in the Guardian from May)

“I’ve definitely had a lot of people from across Kentucky, whether rural, urban or suburban and Appalachia, asking me to run and I’m seriously considering it,” Scott told the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Phillip Bailey in an exclusive interview.

While some may write off the chances of a black woman like Scott running in a state like Kentucky, the former union organizer says she feels confident she could motivate unlikely voters, who feel left out of the system, to turn out for her.

“For someone like me who comes from a community organizing and activist base, it’s definitely not leaning on these so-called political consultants who time and time again have gotten things wrong in these elections,” Scott told the Courier-Journal. “This would not be a protest run because people who I know can’t afford for me to run just to lift up issues.”

Black Public Defender To Take on Democratic Machine in Pittsburgh-Area DA Race

A progressive coalition of civil rights, labor, and Democratic socialists have found a great deal of success in Pittsburgh. In the last year, these groups have combined to defeat Democratic state representatives and a Democratic magistrate.

Now a similar coalition is coalescing around the campaign of African-American Turahn Jenkins, a former public defender, who is challenging Stephen Zappala, a 20-year incumbent.  

Many activists say Zappala has failed to hold police accountable for misconduct while over prosecuting minorities. Jenkins says that he wants to change things.

“People are hurting. People want answers. They feel like the system is not addressing the needs of the people,” said Jenkins in announcing his bid.

Jenkins has already won the support of Summer Lee and Sara Innamarato, two DSA members who recently defeated machine Democrats to become state representatives.

NEA Votes to Cut Budget by $50 Million and Votes Down “Community Ally Membership”

This week, over 8,000 teachers union activists meet in Minneapolis to steer the direction of Janus.

The union says that it expects to lose 370,000 dues paying members as a result of the Janus decision. As a result of the cuts, the union plans to cut its budget by $50 million over a two year period.

However, the union voted down a proposal that would allow community ally memberships in the National Education Association. Rachel Cohen of The Intercept was there to get the story.

Under the proposal, so-called “community ally” members would pay minimal union dues but would be ineligible to vote on union matters or hold governance positions. The biggest opportunity this membership category would create, supporters explained, would be to make it possible for community allies to contribute to the NEA’s political action committee; only NEA members can legally contribute to the PAC, and given the expected decline in membership, this change would have given the PAC an additional stream of funds. The proposal also would have enabled the union to contact supportive members of the public directly. “We’re organizers in our bones,” Eskelsen García told The Intercept. “Why not organize them?”

The proposal triggered heated debate on Tuesday afternoon. Some members voiced concerns about opening up the union to outside political influence. “Selling stockholder shares in our union is a dangerous one,” warned a delegate from Michigan. “When you purchase stock, you expect a return on your investment.” Marshall Thompson, a delegate from Minnesota, called the idea half-baked. “Does my union card mean something or not?” he asked. “Bill Gates should not be able to buy one.”

NEA leadership defended the proposal, explaining that four other major unions, including AFCSME, have a similar membership category for the public, and all but 14 of the NEA’s state affiliates do too. For example, the Pennsylvania NEA affiliate has a “Partners for Public Education” membership category. Plus, NEA leaders added, community allies would have the same $5,000 political contribution limits to the PAC as do regular members. Tripp Jeffers, a delegate from North Carolina, spoke in favor of the amendment, saying a version of it already works well in his state. “We get by with a little help from our friends,” he quipped. Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, also defended the amendment, reminding the audience that the parents and community members who walked alongside educators during Arizona’s six-day teacher strike were instrumental in helping the union rebut the political narrative that their action was solely about teacher wages.

That was not enough to convince the 8,000 delegates, though. The measure was narrowly defeated on Wednesday, with just over 60 percent of delegates voting in favor. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority to pass.

For more go to The Intercept.

Amputations Happen Twice a Week in Poultry Plants

Last week, Payday senior labor reporter Mike Elk writing for The Guardian covered why the dangerous conditions of meat and poultry plants are about to get worse as the Trump Administration targets them for immigration raids.

Now, a new analysis of federal OSHA data compiled by The Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, shows that amputations are happening at least twice a week in the nation’s poultry plants:

Records compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveal that, on average, there are at least 17 “severe” incidents a month in US meat plants. These injuries are classified as those involving “hospitalisations, amputations or loss of an eye”.

Amputations happen on average twice a week, according to the data. There were 270 incidents in a 31-month period spanning 2015 to 2017, according to the OSHA figures. Most of the incidents involved the amputation of fingers or fingertips, but there were recordings of lost hands, arms or toes. During the period there were a total of 550 serious injuries which cover 22 of the 50 states so the true total for the USA would be substantially higher.

The new study comes as the Trump Administration is currently proposing to remove caps on the speed at which poultry plants can process hogs.  The move has been protested by many in labor, who say it would lead to more injuries.

For more, go to The Guardian.

National Immigration Law Center & NELP Launch

The National Immigration Law Center and the Employment Law Project launched

The site is designed not just to give workers information on how to protect themselves in the event of a workplace raid, but it also educates employers on how to resist a workplace raid.

For more check out,

New Jersey Dedicates $5 Million to Improving Local News Coverage

On Sunday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a new bill that would allocate $5 million to create a new non-profit Civic Information Center. A combined project of The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University, the Civic Information Center, would be designed to help invest in non-profit news organizations to cover news in underserved communities in New Jersey.

The first-of-its-kind bill in the nation, the bill signing was quickly praised by media activists.

“Today marks a historic victory for all people across New Jersey. Over the last 18 months, residents around the state spoke out in support of the Civic Info Bill. Thousands signed petitions, called their lawmakers, attended community forums and participated in lobby days at the statehouse. Their stories about how communities have suffered from years of media consolidation were the driving force to securing millions of dollars that will strengthen local news and information in towns and cities across New Jersey,” said New Jersey State Director for Free Press Action Fund Mike Rispoli.

“Never before has a state taken the lead to address the growing crisis in local news,” said Rispoli.  “Trustworthy local journalism is the lifeblood of democracy; it allows people to participate meaningfully in decisions regarding local elections, public schools and policy decisions.”

For more on the Civic Info Bill and how other states can replicate them, check out Free Press’ website here.  

WaPo Union Settles Contract With “Little to Celebrate”

Last fall, Payday was the only media outlet to cover workers that were picketing the Washington Post for a fair contract. However, after 14 months of negotiations at the Post owner Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of Amazon, the union has reached a tentative deal on a contract.

The contract includes only a raise of $15 a week for employees and only a 1 percent employer matching contribution for 401(K)s.

However, the contract takes away key security language that will force employees to sign away their legal right to sue in order to collect severance. In addition, the contract allows Post management to exempt 30 percent of the workforce from seniority rules in the event of layoffs.

“There is little to celebrate,” the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild said in a statement put out to its members. “The Post, perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, approached bargaining with an aggressive posture, and unwillingness to compromise on every single topic.”

“The best we can say is that the Guild fought off several proposals that would have made your life much worse,” said the union in a statement to its members urging ratification.

Weekend Reads

The New Yorker has a look at the poetry of 17-year-old Antwon Rose, who was shot in the back and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer:

The reason Antwon ran from Rosfeld is perhaps best explained by the first line of his poem: “I am confused and afraid.” In the line that follows, Antwon acknowledges the limitations of his fate and that of many young black men in America. “I wonder what path I will take. I hear there’s only two ways out,” he wrote. Those “two ways” are the well-known expectations that many Americans have for young black men: death or incarceration. There was an audible gasp from the crowd when the activist recited the final lines of the first stanza: “I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain / I am confused and afraid.” Several days after the memorial, Antwon’s mother, Michelle Kenney, buried her son.

“i am not what you think!” was also recited during Antwon’s funeral, a few days after the memorial, during which he was celebrated as a “bright light” within his community. The poem has since become a rallying cry in the movement against police brutality. But, though Antwon’s words eerily predicted his future, the power of his poem isn’t limited to its prescience. Like many black writers throughout American history, Antwon chose poetry as a means to express the feelings of fear and death─and hope and survival─that are unique to the black experience. Black writers have relied on poetry for creative self-expression for centuries, challenging the structural and grammatical constraints of traditional prose. For black writers, poetry has offered a sense of freedom seldom found in black life.

For more go to The New Yorker.

— The East Bay Express has a super long read on Boots Riley and his new film “Sorry to Bother You”:

The years-long effort to make Sorry to Bother You is a story of Riley, in a mid- to late-career reinvention with little precedent, risking self-sabotage in his refusal to cede creative control. It is a deeply anti-capitalist film portraying labor organizing tactics including work stoppages, walkouts, and strikes. It is set and shot in Oakland. It has an ensemble cast. And it’s backed by esteemed movie house Annapurna Pictures. It is also a comedy, inspired by magical realism, with jokes centered on horse dicks and a mansion full of white techies screaming the n-word after goading a Black man to reluctantly rap.

Sorry to Bother You explores the central tension of Riley’s career, his perennial concern about artists’ role in racial justice and building working-class power. “You have to have something that you’re more passionate about than your art,” he told San Francisco State University students at a May screening. “There’s no reason to do art for art’s sake.” Hence his eagerness to ascribe a point to the film: “There’s a way to look at how fucked up things are through the lens of ‘how can we leverage our economic power for change?'” He added, “That’s what Detroit deals with — is just exposing the problem enough?”

Detroit (Tessa Thompson) is a sign-twirler and an artist who moonlights with something called Left Eye while creating an exhibition about the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources. Her boyfriend, Cassius Greene (Lakeith Stanfield), doubts its efficacy; she in turn questions his ascent on the call-center corporate ladder, imploring him not to use his new “white voice” at home. Also skeptical of Detroit’s art and its political export is Squeeze (Steven Yeun), a traveling labor organizer with visions of a broader rebellion.

“The conflict between Detroit and Cassius and Squeeze is very much like the conflict within myself,” Riley said. “Whether my art is effective or if it even changes things.”

For more, go to the East Bay Express.

Over at the Investigative Fund, Moshe Marvit has a deep dive into the history of the National Right-to-Work Committee:

In December 1953, a group of anti-labor business leaders gathered in Washington, DC, for the first in a series of secret meetings. The meetings were organized by a Southern paper-box manufacturer named Edwin S. Dillard, who was heir to the Old Dominion Box Company and had spent years fighting to keep his workforce from joining a union. The goal of the meetings: to find a way to crush the American labor movement,

Dillard enlisted the help of a prominent corporate public-relations firm, Selvage & Lee, to find others who might be committed to the cause. According to a trove of legal documents shared with The Nation by the UAW, their efforts brought together retired congressman Fred Hartley, who was notorious for spearheading what labor referred to as the “slave-labor bill”; Whiteford Blakeney, the nation’s premiere anti-union attorney (in later years, he would go on to help lead what one federal judge called a “full-scale war against unionization” at the J.P. Stevens textile plant against Crystal Lee Sutton, the real-life Norma Rae, and her coworkers); and representatives from GE, the Santa Fe Railway, and a host of Southern tobacco, manufacturing, and textile firms.

At one of these meetings, Dillard told the group that “it was time for the businessmen to realize that [the union shop] was an awful threat to our country, to their operations, to business in general all over the United States.” The group resolved to form “some kind of organization” to deal with labor.

By the third meeting, on December 15, 1954, the group (by then a collection of about a dozen true believers) had settled on a plan, at once simple and radical: Rather than continue to fight labor head-on, from the position of management, they would break labor from within. The key to this effort was an idea that had begun circulating on the segregationist Southern right for years and had recently been codified in a controversial provision of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 (crafted by the group’s own Fred Hartley). This provision, known as Section 14(b), allows states to pass “right-to-work” laws. Such laws permit workers to not pay any dues to a union that represents them in the workplace, and they are some of the most effective ways to defund and defang American labor from within.

In honor of that aspiration, the group dubbed itself the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC).

Go to the Investigative Fund to read the full story.

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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