Doubts Cast on Gunman’s Story in Marielle Franco’s Death – Workers of Color Account for All Union Growth in 2023 Again – Politico Union Wins 1st Union Contract

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


Greetings from Joao Pessoa, the easternmost point in the Americas. 

Doubts Cast on Marielle Franco’s Gunman’s Story

Yesterday the lawyer for Ronnie Lessa, the gunman convicted of murdering Rio City Councilwoman Marielle Franco, confirmed the plea deal that his client cut with the Brazilian federal government. In the plea deal he implicated Rio City Councilman Domingos Brazáo, a major developer and political force with deep ties to paramilitary gangs in Rio. 

However, some have cast doubt on whether or not Lessa is telling the full truth. On the morning of the assassination Lessa had breakfast with former Brazilian President Bolsonaro, who many believe was also involved in the murders. 

Many of Marielle Franco’s closest allies, including her mentor Marcelo Freixo, the Brazilian minister of tourism, cautioned against drawing too many conclusions before the Brazilian federal police announce their results. 

“It’s the Federal Police who will have the final say on what occurred,” Freixo wrote on Instagram. “Anything other than that could damage the outcome of the results on this final stretch of the investigations and it is not what we want.” 

For more on the history of false hopes for a conclusion to the case of who killed Marielle Franco, check out The Intercept Brasil. 

Help Finish Our Documentary Vive Marielle 

As many of you know I studied with Marielle Franco when we were both scholarship students at PUC-RIO in the mid-2000s. While her story has inspired countless activists in Brazil, it is not widely known in the United States.

Since August I’ve been working on a documentary about how Marielle continues to inspire people in Brasil. The documentary focuses heavily on a Landless Workers Movement land occupation called “Marielle Vive,” founded three weeks after Marielle was assassinated in 2018. 

We have already filmed over 20 hours of footage and several major film producers are interested in helping us distribute it when it comes out. 

We initially thought we would be done in February, but now the story is expanding with the federal government likely to announce the results of the investigation into her death. We are going to need to film more and stay till at least the end of March. 

Donate to help us stay on the ground and continue to tell this story. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 753 recurring donors today. 

Workers of Color Account for All Union Growth in 2023 Again 

This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report that showed that unions gained 191,000 members in 2023. Once again, nearly all of the growth of the labor movement comes from workers of color. 

“The entire increase in the level of unionization in 2023 occurred among workers of color. In particular, workers of color saw an increase of 309,000, while white workers saw a decrease of 119,000” wrote the Economic Policy Institute in their analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

For more, check out the Economic Policy Institute’s analysis of union membership numbers. 

Dissent Over Settlement that Ended 30,000 Cal State Faculty Strike 

On Monday over 30,000 faculty members went on strike. However, after less than a day on strike, the union leadership announced they reached a tentative agreement that included a 5% raise. 

Faculty union members say that they previously rejected a deal with 5%. Many teachers were upset that the union leadership would agree to a deal that they previously rejected.

“A handful of leaders demonstrated a lack of faith in our ability to organize, and this is actually what really hurt a lot of us,” said Brad Erickson, SF State’s union chapter president at a “Vote No” Rally yesterday. “They say that this is the best deal we could have gotten, but we’ll never know because we didn’t have the option to follow through.”

For more, check out KQED. 

Director’s Guild Get Studios to Match 

In a rare move, the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) got the Hollywood studio association (AMPTP) to reopen their contract that was settled last summer. 

Now the contract includes a new provision that matches the bonuses that Writers Guild members won during their strike last year. It also includes a .5% increase in contributions to the pension and health funds as well as wage increases across the board.

“For almost nine decades, the DGA has fought to protect and extend the creative and economic rights of directors and members of the directorial team,” a DGA spokesperson said in a statement to Deadline. “Understanding the urgent needs of our members after a difficult year, we’re proud to have achieved these gains and protected the Guild’s Pension and Health Plans. We will never stop fighting on behalf of our members.”

For more, check out Deadline. 

Politico Reaches 1st Union Contract 

Finally, after nearly 20 months of bargaining, workers at Politico have reached a first union contract with management. The contract sets a minimum pay rate of $70,000, a 5% cap on health insurance increases, a just cause provision, and 24 weeks of paid parental leave among other provisions. 

“We formed this union because our colleagues were overworked, underpaid, and lacked basic protections,” said Unit Chair Tanya Snyder, a transportation reporter for POLITICO Pro. “This contract will benefit our journalists and lead to a healthier, stronger newsroom.” 

As someone who talked union when I worked at Politico 7 years ago, I want to congratulate everyone in Politico’s union, who fought for this contract. Yinz have inspired me tremendously. 

Alright yinz, that’s all for today. Keep sending tips, story ideas, comments, and complaints to [email protected]

Donate to help us finish our documentary Marielle Vive. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 773 recurring donors today. 

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]