Inaugural Lunch Pail – DNC Takes Money from Union Busters – Chinese Firecracker Workers – 1,000 Trump Workers Strike

Clay Avenue, Jeanette

By Mike Elk

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Payday Lunch Pail. Each Friday around lunch time, maybe that sometimes means lunch time on the West Coast or lunch time in Chicago, we will strive to give our readers something to enjoy on a Payday.

Payday Report is going to highlight some of the best labor reporting on the web in this newsletter, a collective effort of our team. For folks busy working, this report will catch you up on what you need to know, while trying to highlight alternatives to the corporate media. If you like the Payday Lunch Pail, consider becoming a monthly supporter of our work.

This one goes out to the shitkicking Southern New Jersey labor lawyer John J  Mulholland JR., a monthly consumer member of Payday, and The Boycott Yuengling movement for getting Payday’s back. Thanks so much for all the support!

Democratic National Convention Taking Money from Union Busters (@UsUncut) began a few years ago as a direct action group designed to combat the Tea Party and draw attention to companies engaged in tax avoidance. This primary season, the group has ventured into providing news.

As both parties gear to hold their political conventions this month, Tom Cahill analyzes an apparent leak of DNC data from the hacker Guccifer 2.0. The documents show that the DNC is actively asking for five-figure donations from unions such as SEIU, UFCW, and CWA, while also seeking donations from the very groups fighting those organizations—such notorious anti-union outfits as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, the National Restaurant Association, Verizon, Comcast, and others.

Over a Thousand Trump Taj Mahal Workers Go on Strike in Atlantic City

It’s not just the DNC’s name in the labor news. Over in Atlantic City, a thousand workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino (now owned by billionaire Carl Icahn) have been on strike since July 1. Workers on average make just $12 an hour. Huffington Post reporter Dave Jamieson, one of the leaders of the successful 2015 Writers Guild union drive at the Huffington Post, traveled out to the picket lines in Atlantic City to see what the casino workers had to say:

“My back and my shoulders [hurt],” said [Rajeshra] Patel, a 13-year veteran of the Taj and a native of India. “There are so many double beds. There’s not much time to eat. … It’s too much.”

Patel was walking a picket line with her Taj colleagues outside the casino’s boardwalk doors Tuesday, where they urged gamblers and diners to find somewhere else to spend their money. Roughly a thousand housekeepers, doormen, busboys and other service workers have been on strike for more than four days — including the entirety of the Fourth of July weekend — after failing to ink a new contract with the casino. There were no signs of an imminent deal to end the strike as of Tuesday.

The workers lost many of their benefits during bankruptcy proceedings in 2014, including company-sponsored health coverage, pension contributions and paid lunch breaks, according to the workers’ union, Unite Here Local 54. Many senior workers say their hourly wages have barely risen, if at all, during the Taj’s turbulent last decade. And the housekeepers like Patel say their workload has increased despite having the same wages and fewer benefits as before.

Check out Jamo’s full report from the picket line in Atlantic City here and give good old Jamo a follow on twitter. While you’re at it, follow his wife, Jenny Rogers, a rank-and-file Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild leader and an Outlook editor at the Washington Post—where she has been responsible for many of the big gains in membership among young reporters in the open shop Post. And show your support for the striking workers here.

Also, check out Jenny Rogers’s piece in the Washington Post today entitled “One year out,” looking at the lives of 46 non violent drug offenders in the year following the commutation of their sentences.

Chinese Firecracker Factory Worker Deaths

Many people love taking to social media to share images of fireworks on the holiday. However, a story getting less attention is the Chinese workers making 90 percent of America’s fireworks and what their working conditions look like.

Slate teamed up with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute and ChinaFile to deliver this chilling expose by Kathleen McLaughlin (@kemc) and Noy Thrupkaew. The piece looks at the September 2014 explosion that killed 15 workers:

At Nanyang, the conditions were perfectly set for disaster. Safe fireworks production takes up a lot of room; workshops are supposed to be set widely apart, with exact spacing determined by the amount of explosive material in each building. Chinese law also limits the number of workers in each room that contains combustibles. However, buildings were crowded with too many people and too much flammable material in Nanyang. Police and safety investigators faulted chaotic management and the flouting of safety rules—specifically those limiting the amount of combustibles and number of workers in each space—for causing the catastrophe. They also cited overproduction, the most basic indicator of dangerous conditions, a sign that factories cut corners to get more products out faster.

“I saw people lying on the road and screaming because of the pain,” Huang’s husband, Deng Lei, says. “I attempted to rush in from the gate but the fire was as high as 6 meters.”


Atlanta, GA – Brooklyn, NY – Toronto, Canada – global workforce, global world. #MediaWorkersUnite

On June 3, 2016, a year to the day that Gawker first unionized with the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), 89% of Vice Canada’s 200 members joined a union. It is the largest digital media shop in North America to be unionized wall-to-wall. Hell yeah Tannara Yelland (@tyelland, aka the Sex Marxist) and Karen Wirsig (@karenatcmg) of the Canadian Media Guild.

In a rare instance of Americans making it easier for Canadians to unionize, Vice’s Canadian union drive was aided by 80 Vice employees, who went first in Brooklyn, NY, in August of 2015, also with WGAE. Vice workers have always been ahead of the curve, and in April, finalized their first contract, which sets the minimum salary at $45,000.

This week, the unionized writers at Vice Munchies once again brought forth a compelling story that gets to the false hype of start-up, personality-driven culture. Turns out T.I’s workers in Hotlanta are suing him over wage theft. Alex Swerdloff (@AlexSwerdloff) has the story:

The rapper, whose real name is Clifford Harris, is being sued along with his business partner, Charles Hughes, and his restaurant managing group. The complaint states that Hughes in particular engaged in all kinds of improprieties. For example, the plaintiffs allege that Hughes “deposit[ed] money from Scales 925 [T.I.’s restaurant] into his personal account causing payroll checks to bounce.” He also failed to pay busboys, they say.

Swerdloff also had a very moving profile of a Bangladeshi pizza worker who was killed in a terrorist attack on Wednesday. H/T For POLITICO’s Morning Shift and Marianne Levine (@marriane_levine) for pointing out Swerdloff’s great work—give them both a follow.

Interestingly, Georgia has become a big hotbed of union activity, as the economy rises and rental prices in Atlanta have disproportionately pushed people of color out of their communities. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Georgia had the second-fastest growing union membership of any state in 2013. From 2014 to 2015, the number of workers represented by unions increased from 193,000 to 206,000.

Bluegrass Break
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Bill Monroe Bluegrass Baseball Story

Check out the most recent Folk Labor Desk where JP sings a news report about three railroad workers who were killed when two trains collided near Amarillo, TX.

JP will be performing with Sue Massek, July 17th at the Carl Braden Memorial Center. Sue is a banjo player, teacher, and labor historian. JP and Sue will play an old-style house concert of labor music that focuses on the working conditions of the 1930s National Mine Union, the pre-AFL-CIO era in southeast Kentucky. JP will perform his music and poetry from his experiences as a locomotive engineer and labor organizer in Kentucky and Tennessee. Sue Massek and JP have just finished a masters program for the Kentucky Arts Council. Massek’s work is being documented here.

After massive IBT layoffs, Sirota Still Swimming & Sweating While Halting Aetna & Cigna Merger.

Last week, International Business Times laid off 30 reporters. The newsroom has drastically reduced in size, from approximately 90 one year ago to about 30 today. However, New York Times best-selling author of Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now, David Sirota, still soldiers on despite losing several of his staff.

Trudy Lieberman at Columbia Journalism Review (@CJR) has a look at how Sirota is putting the brakes on a major health insurance merger in Connecticut while fighting for his own job.

Breaking: @BlogWood Tweets @ErikLoomis This Day in Labor History Blog Post

Yep, like many in the labor reporting, we read Norwood Orrick’s @BlogWood Twitter feed every day. It’s the labor wire of Twitter, maintained by a rank-and-file Verizon worker in Tampa. Payday Report buddy and environmental and labor historian Erik Loomis has a fascinating post on The Philippines Scouts labor strike in 1924. This is the 188th post in his series at Lawyers, Guns & Money. He is a big union guy from Oregon, so I am sure he would be delighted if people could buy his books from the worker-friendly Powell’s in Portland.

Unionized Wonks Do the Math

A new study by EPI (whose staff is unionized with IFPTE Local 70) shows that interns do worse in the job market.

Turning to another shop represented by IFPTE Local 70, Talk Poverty at the Center for American Progress has quickly become a must read for poverty activists. The site features a healthy dose of reporting actually done by poor people, who, when out of work, get paid well to do reporting.This week, Talk Poverty published a highly recommended read by James Abro (@32BP) entitled “Dear San Francisco Journalists: If You Want to Help Homeless People, Just Ask Us.” The Talk Poverty blog is run by Greg Kaufmann (@GregKaufmann), the Crash Davis of Poverty Reporting. Someone who doesn’t care about getting the big hits or playing in front of a big audience, but just playing for small markets in small poverty.

Too Broke to Make it to Common Bound: A New Economy Coalition Meeting This Weekend in Buffalo?

Good news: you can stream the conference online with a sliding scale “pay what you can” donation.

Solidarity Research Cooperative (@workersinquiry) members Yvonne Yen Liu (@Yvonnegraphy) & Parang Rajendra Khandar are unveiling the initial convening of the Asian American American Solidarity Economics Network. According to the invite, the event aims to convene “an inaugural cohort of Asian American solidarity economy practitioners. We believe that the Asian American experience is historically and culturally particular, making the framework and practice of cooperation in the workplace, household, and community distinct.”

Weekend Long Reads

Talk about a just local Pittsburgh guy doing well. Local Pittsburgh labor lawyer Moshe Marvit, with financial support from the Century Foundation, does a data visualization journalism project making the case for labor law to do something to block lockouts.

Utah-born labor economist Mark Andrew Price declared earlier this week that “Smug American Liberalism” was the story everyone should read. Now, go to Vox and read it.

The notion that material loss and abandonment have driven America’s white working class into a fit of resentment is boilerplate for even the Democratic Party’s tepid left these days. But in the president’s formulation and in the formulation of smug stylists who have embraced some material account of uncool attitudes, the downturn, the jobs lost and the opportunities narrowed, are a force of nature — something that has “been happening” in the passive voice.


Make no mistake: I am not suggesting that liberals adopt a fuzzy, gentler version of their politics. I am not suggesting they compromise their issues for the sake of playing nice. What I am suggesting is that the battles waged by liberalism have drifted far away from their old egalitarian intentions.

Finally We Mourn for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living
Each week, Payday Report Labor Folk Ombudsman JP Wright will give a talk on issues of concern to our readers. This one focuses on the mourning of Teamsters 320 member Teamsters Philando Castile. Write to the Folk Labor Ombudsman at [email protected]. He is the independent Inspector General of Payday Report.

Brothers and Sisters,

It would be hard for Payday Report to mention all the people who have died working out there in this crazy old world. We have a few folks that we feel need to be mentioned. If you have someone who needs to be honored here, please send us an email with the info we need to know and Payday will say a little bit about them.

Listen to JP sing sister Anne Feeney’s “It’s A War On The Workers.”

There is a lot pulling on our minds out there in the wild world. This labor reporting co-op doesn’t sail on the rough waters of competition and we need you to help us build this worker owned, shared and operated vision. Please consider sharing Payday Report articles and fundraisers. It’s all about location, location, location. Help us spread the word!

This week, we here at Payday Report have nailed down some more of our foundation, bought some roofing materials and are standing around the bed of our Ford F-150, looking at what we have built. Building this CO-OP is a challenge and we need all the help we can get. Thank you for joining us on this newsletter, thank you for sharing our material, and finally, thank you for your support! Why wait for the revolution, a new world is possible, let’s build it now.

That’s all, folks!  Hitch up that mule and start pullin’.

— Folk Labor Ombudsman John Paul Wright (@Bletjp)

What’s Next for Payday Report?

On Monday, Payday will publish, in conjunction with Talk Poverty, an exposé on prison labor strikes and the IWW rolling out and opening up a new frontier to organize.

Thanks to all who have donated their hard-earned cash! Have a good weekend. Let’s GO Buccos!

— Melk

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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