GM Wiggles Out of Temps Promise – Black Socialist PA State Takes on Building Trades – Pittsburgh Air Worse on East Coast

UAW members picket in Rochester, New York last fall (Zach D. Roberts)

Folks, Its Payday! 

Greeting from the Burgh, where the air quality in Pittsburgh is once again deemed unhealthy for asthmatics like me by EPA standards, and I am coughing my lungs. 

Donate to help us cover the asthma medicine

Pittsburgh Only City on East Coast with F Rating from American Lung Association

As a result of the Clairton Coke Works, represented by the Steelworkers, who have actively worked with US Steel to cover-up violations of the Clean Air Act, Pittsburgh, a city of only 300,000 is the only city outside of California with an “F rating” from the American Lung Association. 

Yesterday, PM2.5 spiked to 165, according to the Allegheny County Health Department, making the air quality in Pittsburgh worse than many cities in China. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto Taking on Conservative Pgh. Unions Over Fossil Fuel Developments

Recently, Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto came out against further fossil fuel development in Western PA saying that air quality was the number one deterrent to the cities’ growing creative and tech sectors, which added over 20,000 jobs in the last decade; resulting in a massive arts boom and urban revival in the city. 

Peduto’s calls were met with opposition from many of the more conservative union leaders in Western Pennsylvania.

“Calling to banish an entire industry is an insult to a lot of hard-working men and women in organized labor and their entire way of life,” said Pittsburgh-area labor council President Darrin Kelley. 

Black Socialist State Rep Summer Lee Facing Challenge from Building Trades

Last year, my old Woodland Hills high school track teammate Summer Lee, a socialist, became the first African-American woman elected to the State House from Western Pa. 

Lee has taken on traditional backers of the Democratic Party, including police unions and the heavily white male-dominated construction unions. (See Payday’s story “Steelworkers Heckle Black Pa. State Rep at Air Quality Crisis Hearing in Pittsburgh”). 

Last spring, Lee’s Unite PAC took on and beat several fossil fuel-friendly labor-backed Dems, including former PA Steelworkers President John DeFazio as Allegheny County Council President John DeFazio.

(Full disclosure: My father UE Director of Organization Gene Elk’s was the only union that backed Lee in her primary challenge to incumbent state Rep Paul Costa)

Fracking Money to Take on Lee in Braddock

Now, to hold down Summer Lee’s prolific organizing capability, the region’s building trades and fracking special interests are funding a challenge from white 35-year-old North Braddock city councilman Chris Roland to Lee, who has opposed fracking in Braddock. 

In a sign of Roland’s political backing, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the highest-ranking elected official in Western PA, appeared at Roland’s kick-off event in a move that many saw as a sign of support. 

The 32-year-old Lee vowed to take on her opponents, saying on Twitter that her recent organizing victories “SHOOK W. PA” and sparked a movement dedicated to racial justice and environmental concerns like natural-gas drilling. “Of course they won’t go into the sunset quietly,” she said of those who opposed her. “My opponent will be WELL funded by folks who want to frack in my town.”

GM Backtracks on Promise of Temporary Workers

As criticism continues to grow of a weak contract narrowly passed by the UAW, General Motors announced this week that they were getting ready to lay off temporary work in Marion, Indiana, who were going to be made permanent next month. 

The UAW contract contained provisions that made temporary employees permanent if they had two years of employment without more than a 30-day interruption. However, auto work is cyclical, with many autoworkers facing layoffs or temporary shutdowns during winter months. 

GM to Partially Re-Open Lordstown Area at Lower Wages in Joint Venture

This week, GM announced that it would open a $2.3 billion joint venture with the South Korean chemical company LG Chem. The plant is expected to employ up to 1,300 workers in Lordstown. 

According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, GM Ceo Mary Barra has so far refused to commit to reopening under the UAW contract. 

The news comes less than a month after GM announced that it sold its Lordstown plant to the start-up Lordstown Assembly, which is suspected of having backing from GM-tied financers. 

The UAW has long worried that GM would close the Lordstown Assembly, only to reopen them under different wage structures to get out from under the union contract. 

UAW Swears in New President as Calls for Special Convention Increase

This week, the UAW executive board moved to appoint UAW Ford Department Chair Rory Gamble to serve as President of the UAW until 2022. 

The move comes as several UAW locals have already passed resolutions calling for a Special Convention, where they hope to rule a change allowing the rank-and-file to elect the top leadership of the UAW. 

With the possibility of federal oversight of the UAW, increasingly likely, many members are hoping that their organizing efforts would push the feds to mandate that members have a direct vote in the election of the UAW President rather than just the elected delegates.

Pass the Hat – Donate Tonite

Alright, folks, my shoulder is starting to kill me, and I gotta go. As always, I am a broke labor reporter, so pass the hat and donate today. 

Love and 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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