IMPACT: New Election Ordered in NewsGuild – Miners Train Blockade Enters Week 2 – Carnegie Library Unionizes

61 year old NewsGuild Incumbent Bernie Lunzer (left) faces the threat of federal investigation by his challenger Jon Schleuss (right)

Greetings from the Burgh, where I’ve been off from reporting to focus on my forthcoming book tentatively titled “The Labor Reporter’s Panic.” 

Payday has raised $165 to $400 Goal to Celebrate 4th Anniversary

Folks, to mark the 4th anniversary of my firing from Politico for union organizing, Payday is hoping to raise $400. 

So far, we’ve raised $165. Help us keep the momentum going – donate today. 

My Work on Immigration Raid Cited in NYT Op-ed Against Immigration Raids This Week

Since the death of construction worker Sergio Guitterez in Nashville in May of 2017, Payday has been focused heavily on the increase in undocumented worker deaths during the Trump era. 

This week, the New York Times op-ed “Anti-Immigrant, Pro-Exploitation” cited my work on the link between ICE workplace raids and increased immigrant workplace deaths. The work we do here at Payday has been a ripple effect that could lead to much larger conversations elsewhere. 

Thank you for your support once again. 

IMPACT: Re-run of NewsGuild Election Ordered to Run New Election

One area that our reporting has had an enormous effect is within the union democracy movement within CWA. 

In March, Payday broke the story of how the NewsGuild, which represents over 17,000 journalists in North America, barred over 2,000 new members from voting in a recent presidential election. 

Incumbent 61-year-old President Bernie Lunzer won that election by only 261 votes against 31-year-old reformer Jon Schleuss of the LA Times. However, Schleuss own approximately 500 member bargaining unit at the LA Times couldn’t vote because members without new first contracts aren’t required to pay dues.

Additionally, several other Tribune units in which Schleuss was involved in organizing within such as the Chicago Tribune, the Morning Call, the Capital Gazette, and the Jacksonville Times-Union also weren’t allowed to vote. 

Now, the union is ordering a new election will be ordered starting in late October. With new members being allowed to vote, many suspect that Jon Schleuss has a serious chance of winning. 

NewsGuild Leader Won’t Say How New Members Can Vote

Under the NewsGuild constitution, new members, who are dues-paying members, are allowed to vote. However, NewsGuild members, who do not have first contracts, are not required to pay dues but can choose to pay dues voluntarily. 

However, so far, the NewsGuild has yet to release information on how much in dues, new members will be required to pay in order to vote. 

“It was shameful that Lunzer disenfranchised thousands of members in the last election. We need clear answers on how members can become eligible to vote today. And we need a leader who is accountable to those members,” said Jon Schleuss in a statement. 

Harlan County Coal Train Blockade Enters Week Two

Last week, Payday Report on how coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky won partial back pay after blocking a coal train from leaving Blackjewel’s Cloverlick mine. However, the workers were only given a portion of what they are owed and owed an additional $2 million in backpay

Instead of ending their blockade, miners have chosen to continue their blockade of the coal train, which contains more than $2 million worth of coal. 

“The Blackjewel miners blocking the coal train in Harlan County are engaging in effective civil disobedience, the likes of which have not been seen in many decades. It is working. The coal being embargoed, worth over $2 million, has been classified as ‘hot goods’ by the U.S. Department of Labor, and DOL has asked the bankruptcy court to prohibit the sale of this coal in interstate commerce until the miners are paid their back wages,” the miners’ attorney Joe Chiders told Lexington’s Spectrum News. 

Shell Cracker Plant Forced Workers to Attend Trump Rally or Not Receiving Pay

On Wednesday, Donald Trump visited a natural gas ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. 

However, now union members are saying that workers, who did not attend the Trump rally, were not paid for the day when the facility was closed to facilitate President’s Trump visit. 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the story:

 “Your attendance is not mandatory,” read the rules that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those that showed up at 7 a.m., scanned their cards, and prepared to stand for hours — through lunch but without lunch — would be paid.

“NO SCAN, NO PAY,” the rules said.

Those that decided to sit out the event would have an excused absence, the company said, and would not qualify for overtime pay on Friday. The company has a 56-hour workweek with 16 hours of overtime. That means those workers who attended Mr. Trump’s speech and showed up for work on Friday meeting the overtime threshold are being paid at a rate of time and a half, while those that didn’t go to hear the president are being paid the regular rate, despite the fact that both groups did not do work on the site on Tuesday. 

For more, go to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

Carnegie Library Workers Vote to Unionize 

When workers began to unionize at US Steel in the late 1800s, one of Andrew Carnegie built the Carnegie Library system throughout the Pittsburgh region to persuade workers that he cared about their communities. 

Now, after more than 120 years of existence, Carnegie Library workers have voted to unionize. Amanda Waltz at the Pittsburgh City Paper has the story: 

On Wed., Aug. 14, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh workers voted overwhelmingly to join the United Steelworkers (USW) union, with over 60 percent of combined staff – including librarians and library assistants, clerks, and IT professionals – casting favorable ballots. The results came just months after the CLP system launched their organizing campaign in June.

“We are honored to welcome these vital community builders into our growing union,” said USW international president Thomas M. Conway in a press release. “This is a big step toward making the library more fair and equitable for the workers that keep it thriving.”

The United Library Workers of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh are working toward a collective bargaining agreement that would cover 321 eligible staff members across 19 branches and the library support center.

For more, go to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

New York Times Big Expose into Bankroller of Anti-Immigrant Movement

In December, Payday’s reporting forced the anti-immigrant Colcom Foundation, the largest funder of anti-immigrant hate groups in the country, to be removed as the sponsor of the Downtown Holiday Market. 

The New York Times, this week has a long expose looking at the life of the bankroller of the anti-immigrant movement Mellon banking heiress Corelia Scaife May:

She was an heiress without a cause — an indifferent student, an unhappy young bride, a miscast socialite. Her most enduring passion was for birds.

But Cordelia Scaife May eventually found her life’s purpose: curbing what she perceived as the lethal threat of overpopulation by trying to shut America’s doors to immigrants.

She believed that the United States was “being invaded on all fronts” by foreigners, who “breed like hamsters” and exhaust natural resources. She thought that the border with Mexico should be sealed and that abortions on demand would contain the swelling masses in developing countries.

An heiress to the Mellon banking and industrial fortune with a half-billion dollars at her disposal, Mrs. May helped create what would become the modern anti-immigration movement. She bankrolled the founding and operation of the nation’s three largest restrictionist groups — the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies — as well as dozens of smaller ones, including some that have promulgated white nationalist views.

For more go to the New York Times. 

That’s all for this week, folks. Its the weekend and I am a broke labor reporter so donate 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]

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