Biden Backs Chicago Teachers’ Union Ahead of Potential Strike – Payday on PBS Tonite – Lockouts Increase

AFT President Randi Weingarten and NEA President Becky Pringle visit 1st lady Dr. Jill Biden last week in the White House (AFT Union)

Greetings from the Burgh, where it’s been a very busy day here for Payday Report. 

PBS to Feature Payday Report in a Special on Anti-Racism Tonite

Tonight, PBS American Portrait will be airing a special titled “I Rise” that looks at how everyday Americans are taking on racism. As part of the special, PBS will feature Payday’s work covering how Black Lives Matter has inspired a non-traditional strike wave. 

Payday is proud to see our work featured in such a prominent PBS special. For a more in-depth look, read our longform: “How Black and Brown Workers Are Redefining the Strike in the Digital COVID Age.” 

It should show in most PBS locations at 9 PM EST tonight. Check listings for more info here. 

Donate to Support High-Impact Work and Help Us Reach Our End of the Month Fundraising Goals

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

We may be a small crowdfunded labor publication, but we have had a huge impact on the way that labor is covered in the US. 

The end-of-month is coming up and your donations are more important than ever. Please, if you can, donate today so we can continue our high impact labor reporting that has earned us national acclaim. 

Remember, the best way to support us is to sign up as one of our more than 550 recurring donors today.  We are only 8 short of our monthly goal of adding 25 new recurring donors. Sign up as one today. 

Bernie Pushes to Pass $15-an-Hour with Budget Reconciliation 

Under obscure Senate rules, measures that are part of budget reconciliation, and that can be scored as having an impact on the deficit, can be passed with only 51 votes.

Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders has repeatedly argued that increasing the minimum wage to $15-an-hour could be passed through the reconciliation process as studies show that increasing the minimum wage would decrease social spending on programs targeted toward the poor. 

“Elections have consequences,” Sanders told Politico today. “We’re in the majority, and we’ve got to act.”

For more, check out Politico. 

Biden Signals Support for Chicago Teachers’ Union as they Gear Up for Strike 

Teachers in Chicago have voted to refuse to return to in-person instruction until every teacher in the classroom can be given a vaccination. 

This move comes in defiance of the Chicago School Board order to return teachers to the classroom this Wednesday.

Over the weekend, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten briefed the White House on the situation and was happy to hear their support for the union. 

Weingarten told the Chicago Sun-Times that Biden “is siding with the science and trying to get this pandemic under control and trying to open schools safely. I think that is what he is siding with.”

Then, at a press conference on Monday, Biden signaled his support for the Chicago Teachers Union.

“The teachers, I know they want to work,” he said. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that.”

For more, check out the Chicago Sun-Times 

After Striking, St. Paul Marathon Workers Locked Out

Last week, Payday reported on how oil refinery workers employed by Marathon went on strike. Now, after the workers attempted to return this week, they were locked out of their jobs. 

With many under qualified non-union technicians and management running the plant, many workers fear that an accident could happen. 

Our friends at Workday Minnesota have the story: 

The St. Paul Park refinery utilizes hydrofloric [sic] acid, the same chemical which necessitated the evacuation of Superior WI after the explosion at the Husky refinery in 2018. According to the Union, they offered the unconditional return specifically to minimize the risk of accident with the toxic chemical.  

“Hydroflouric [sic] acid is deadly, plain and simple. Marathon is gambling with the lives of Minnesotans instead of ensuring this facility is as safe as possible. This has been about safety the whole time, and their actions tonight proves that isn’t a priority for Marathon,”says Teamsters Local 120 Business Agent Scott Kroona.  

Teamsters Local 120 President Tom Erickson put it more bluntly.

“I have been involved in Union negotiations for over 30 years. I have never seen a company do something as reckless as what Marathon did tonight. Their decision could have major consequences to people’s lives. For the sake of everyone I pray,they get lucky and it doesn’t.” says Erickson.

For more, check out Workday Minnesota. 

Lockouts Increasing Nationwide As Employers Try to Scare Workers

In 2020, there were more than 1,200 strikes over the last year according to Payday Report’s Strike Tracker. 

However, labor observers are already starting to see employers now taking more extreme measures to fight back against workers including the use of lockouts and permanently replacing workers with scabs. 

Michael Sainato at the Guardian has more: 

Roberto Juarez, who has worked for Valley Fruit and Produce for six years before getting locked out of his job, argued the company has attempted to “destroy the union in the workplace”, through negotiating in bad faith by pushing for reduction in benefits, wage freezes, hiring union avoidance attorneys, while receiving between $2m and $5m in paycheck protection program loans from the federal government.

“When the pandemic started and hit hard, we never stopped working and we were working a lot of hours. We were exposing ourselves, coming to work, exposing our families, and they didn’t really care,” said Juarez.

For more, go to the Guardian. 

Alright, folks that’s all day for today. I am getting sick so we might take a few days off. Please, if you can donate to Payday, we’d really appreciate it. Or, become one of our 550 recurring donors today.

Please, keep sending tips, story ideas, and suggestions to [email protected].

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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