Kentucky Tobacco Workers Win Strike – Tampa Students Strike for Teacher Pay Raises – Fired Gothamist Reporters Launch Site

It’s Payday folks! Greeting from the hills overlooking banks of Monongahela River in Greenfield.

Fired Gothamist Reporter Launch Their Own Site

This week’s Payday Report goes out to the 115 reporters of Gothamist and DNAinfo, who were illegally fired for union organizing earlier this. Instead of giving up the reporters, have decided to do their launch this own site.

“This is peasants storming the Bastille. This is workers seizing the assembly line.This is Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show in the barn”  former Gothamist reporters wrote announcing “This is high school kids getting together to stop the town bully from burning down the community center.”

Good luck to the barnstorming union folks of Gothamist In Exile. Let us know if y’all are every in the hills of Appalachia and maybe we can play a ball game together.

Dominion Energy is Big Loser of Democratic Sweep in Virginia

This week, voters in Virginia shocked the country when they swept all three statewide races and reduced a Republican majority in the Virginia State Assembly from 66 to 33 to 50-50 in the coming session.

The move was a huge boost for Democrats, but it was also a major defeat for Dominion Energy, the monopoly utility company that has long been a power broker in the state. More than 13 of those elected to state house offices refused to take money from Dominion Energy.

“Basically this [pledge] is the ushering in of a new type of politics wherein Democratic circles, in the long term, it will no longer be okay for the party to be unduly influenced by campaign contributions from Dominion,” Danica Roem told the Energy and Policy Institute in an interview in September. “That’s really important for the Democratic party to get back to being the party of working people, not of the elites but of everyday Virginians.”

Coal Jobs Unlikely to Rebound

As Dominion loses their grip on political power in Virginia, a new report shows that coal jobs in Kentucky are unlikely to rebound

In 2011, 13,679 workers were employed in the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. Now that number is down to 3,896 employed currently in the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky.

The cheap cost of natural gas means that it’s unlikely that these jobs will ever return. Even coal industry officials concede that these jobs are unlikely to return.

“I don’t see the cancellation of the Clean Power Plan leading to a boom” Kentucky Coal Association President Tyler White told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Kentucky Tobacco Workers Win Two-Week Strike

While union density is dying in the coalfields, immigrants workers are building union strength elsewhere in the bluegrass state.

Three weeks ago, Payday reported on how a group seven tobacco workers that came to the United States on H-2A visas are on strike over unfair labor conditions. Employed at Wayne Day’s farm, which sells tobacco to Universal Leaf, the workers initiated the strike with the support of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), after discovering they were cheated out of thousands of dollars in wages over a three-year period.

Under federal law, the H-2A farmworkers minimum wage in Kentucky is $10.92 an hour. However, these workers were paid $7 an hour in 2015, $8 an hour in 2016, and $8 an hour again in 2017. Occasionally, the workers were paid only by a piece rate, earning as little as $3 an hour.

Last week, the owner of the farm finally agreed to settle the strike and pay the workers approximately $20,000 in back pay as well as lawyer’s fees.

“We didn’t know we were launching the first tobacco strike in recent Kentucky history but we got the grower’s attention by doing so, and we are glad that with the help of FLOC, he was pressured to pay us much of the wages we lost over the three seasons of underpayment.” said Cristian Santillan, one of the striking workers.

For more, listen to the Ohio Valley Resource’s local NPR segment on the strike.

Students at 8 Tampa High Schools Walk Out for Teachers Raises

Back down in Tampa, students are going on strike at school districts throughout Tampa in a show of solidarity with the local teachers union.

As part of a new contract of agreement, some teachers were promised bonuses as much as $4,000. However, now the school district is reneging on those promises and students at 8 different high schools in Tampa have gone on strike to show their solidarity with their teachers.

“It’s technically skipping, but at the same time it’s kind of worth it because these teachers are losing money,” said Amber Hatton, a 15-year-old sophomore told the Tampa Bay Times. “We’re giving up our time for them so they can have support. They give us so much. They educate us.”

(H/T @BlogWood – keep on keeping man).

Corporate Democrats Gina Cerilli Dealt Blow in Bid for Western PA Special Election

Back in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, corporate democrat Westmoreland County Commissioner, Gina Cerilli, a former Miss Pennsylvania, was dealt a severe blow in her bid to be the Democrat’s representative in the Western PA special election.

As part of the selection process, more than 800 local Democratic committeemen will meet next Sunday November 19th to pick a candidate to run in the special election. (see our special newsletter running down the election).

In a bid to influence the vote, Cerrilli tired to fill more than 80 vacancies on the committee, but a judge disqualified the applications. Chris Potter at the Post Gazette has the story:

Ms. Cerilli submitted the applications on Oct. 23rd: Later that day, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a writ of election declaring March 13 as the date of the special election. By the party’s rules, committee people can no longer be added once the writ was issued — a measure intended to preclude last-minute packing of the committee to tilt the playing. Ms. Petrosky said the party checked voting records and consulted with local ward chairs before adding names, and approved nine applications before the governor’s writ was issued. “We didn’t stop for lunch,” she said

.Mr. Millstein argued before Judge McCormick that the party’s anti-stacking rule made it impossible for Ms. Petrosky to do more than that now. She “does not have any power more to make appointments to the committee,” he said. “It is done. … I don’t think the court has any power here to do anything either.”

“There is a process that must occur” before a committeeperson is approved, he said, arguing Ms. Cerilli waited too long to initiate it.

Go to the Post-Gazette online to read the whole story and follow Chris Potter on Twitter @CpotterPGH

Help Payday Cover Congressional Special Election

So far Payday $336 towards our monthly goal of $1,600

The upcoming swing district Congressional special election, in the foothills of Southwestern Pennsylvania along the West Virginia border, will provide Payday a unique opportunity. After several years in the South, the upcoming election will give us the opportunity to connect labor struggles in the increasingly conservative Northern Appalachian and the increasingly progressive Southern Appalachia.

This special election gives a great opportunity to show how we connect struggles.

Donate today to help us cover it.

Payday Mourns the Death of Roy Halladay

This week, Payday mourns the death of pitcher Roy Halladay, who died at age 40 in a plane crash in Florida.

Jayson Stark republished his 2010 piece looking at Halladay’s no hitter in the playoffs against the Reds:

He asked the only team he’d ever pitched for, the Toronto Blue Jays, to trade him last winter. Asked specifically to be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, for a chance to live out this day.

Left millions of dollars on the table to make it happen. Ground his way through 250 2/3 grueling innings, launched 3,568 max-effort pitches, all for this.

He did it all, just for a chance to walk to the pitcher’s mound on an electrifying afternoon in October and push himself to rise to meet a moment that, for the first 12 seasons of his remarkable career, had seemed to be a part of the life of every pitcher in baseball except his.

So think about what happened on this day one more time. How could anyone write this script?

“That,” said Phillies closer Brad Lidge, after Halladay’s instant no-hit October classic had lifted the Phillies to a 4-0 Game 1 NLDS win over the Reds, “was pretty amazing.

“For him to want this opportunity so bad,” Lidge went on, “for him to let us know, ‘Hey, I want to be with your team,’ … and then to bring him over here and do what he did in the regular season, and then doing this in his first[postseason] game, it just seems like this guy is in complete control of his destiny.”

Go to ESPN To Read the Full Piece

Weekend Reads

— This summer, in a stunning upset, 33 year old Democratic Socialist Chokwe Antar Lumumba defeated an incumbent corporate Democrat to become the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackson Free Press has a long look at his first 120 days in office:

Hundreds of Jacksonians sat in mostly silence as Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba delivered his “State of the City” address on a late Monday afternoon in Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson. They cheered when the young mayor discussed the ambitious budget passed last month and fending off a state takeover of Jackson Public Schools.

Go the Jackson Free Press to read the whole story.

— The super awesome Laura Smith at Timeline has a look at KKK violence against Vietnamese shrimp fishermen in Galveston Bay, Texas lead to a new era of militia violence:

A shift was happening in white American extremism, and much of it had to do with veterans. In isolated Texan backwaters, members of the Klan — some who came out of the military with a feverish hatred of Vietnamese communists — were becoming highly militarized, using the methods they had learned in Vietnam to wage war at home. The Vietnamese in Galveston were refugees brought to the U.S. as a part of a resettlement plan, but to the Klan, they only saw their communist enemies. “I promise them a lot better fight here than they got from the Viet Cong,” said Louis Beam, the Grand Dragon of the Texas Knights of KKK, who would go on to become one of the most prominent white supremacists in America.

Sometime in the late 1970s, Beam had begun training white supremacists to use grenades and assault rifles at secret camps near Houston, teaching “commando-style killing” to children as young as eight. “We do not mean to train anyone to promote racial warfare,” Beam said in 1980, adding however, “It is realistic to assume it could happen.” By that point, Beam had already been implicated in two bombings, and in 1979, he had tried to physically assault Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping at a Texas hotel.

In February of 1981, Beam led a Klan rally in the Galveston Bay area, playing on a now-familiar cocktail of resentments: a diminished sense of manhood, the anger of a neglected working class, and the immigrant threat to the job security of “real Americans.” He vowed to the crowd of roughly 250 that if the Vietnamese fishermen didn’t leave by May 15, the Klan would “take matters into its own hands.” Klan guards, who had ditched white robes in favor of more militant-looking black caps and shirts, stood on the perimeter, carrying semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

Two days after Beam started offering trainings on “the right way to burn a shrimp boat,” two Vietnamese shrimp boats went up in flames. The arsonists were never caught. One citizen even put an impaled coconut carved to resemble a human head and a Confederate flag on his lawn.

In April, a white fisherman pulled his boat up beside two Vietnamese fishermen, pointed his pistol at them for a very tense few seconds, and then just left. When crosses were set ablaze in Vietnamese yards, some families put their houses up for sale. Others offered to sell their boats, but found no buyers.

Go to Timeline to read the whole story.

—  Bubba meets Bubbie as Atlanta brings southern flair to down home Jewish cuisine. Atlanta once a food desert for those longing for even the simplest of comfort foods like matzah ball soup or the humble knish now is the on cutting edge of Jewish cuisine.

Tablet Magazine’s Hallie Lieberman serves up a mouth watering dish on the new southern Jewish food scene:

When Liz Mennen, a Manhattan transplant, arrived in Atlanta at age 22, she searched everywhere for a staple of her youth: the knish. But the dough-encrusted, potato-filled Jewish pastry was nowhere to be found, except in the frozen-food aisle of Kroger supermarkets. In April of this year—seven years after she arrived in Atlanta— she decided she’d had enough of a knish-less existence, and she served her first knish through her newly incorporated business, Oy Veg Kitchen.

Mennen’s knishes epitomize the Jewish-food scene in Atlanta—steeped in tradition but constantly innovating. She makes two varieties: the Old School, which usually features caramelized onions and potatoes (sometimes she replaces the potatoes with seasonal veggies like kohlrabi), and the Sweet and Sassy, a Southern-inspired sweet-potato-filled version stuffed with a layer of ricotta cheese and seasoned with cayenne pepper.

“I didn’t intend for them to taste like a knish from 1930s Poland or a knish in New York,” said Mennen, “because I start with ingredients from the farmers market.”

Mennen was scheduled to serve up her knishes at Atlanta’s first Sukkot Farm-to-Table Festival on Oct. 8, one of the events that has marked the emergence of Atlanta as the Jewish foodie capital of the South.

Be a mensch and read more here. Promise you won’t go home hungry.

Finally, the Forward has an awesome look at a Jewish ski trooper in World War Two:

In 1945, four months before the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the 10th was activated and shipped off to Italy, where they drove the Germans out from several strongholds. In doing so they faced gunfire as well as grenades stuffed with white phosphorus they called “Willie Pete.” The 10th suffered the most casualties of any division in the United States military: Nine hundred and seventy-five were killed in action and over 4,000 were wounded. Back in Italy, my uncle participated in the (once famous) Battle of Riva Ridge the night of February 18, 1945 — surprising German defenders and defeating them. The next night, February 19, his unit captured Mount Belvedere, thereby breaking the German line in the Apennine Mountains. He saw many of his friends killed.

Two weeks later he was almost blown to bits during the Italian campaign, and was found badly mangled and facedown in the dirt. After he was revived on a cot in the field, he was brought to a U.S. Army hospital in Italy, then shipped across the Atlantic by a military hospital ship to Charleston, South Carolina, and finally by Red Cross train to New York. On Long Island they would treat his lingering post-traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating condition that was then called “battle fatigue” or “combat stress reaction.” Uncle Sam was hospitalized for over two years before he was released back into American society. For many years he did not speak about his internal struggle. After joining veteran groups, he slowly changed his mind and believed in remembering the past as a way to heal.

In the late 1990s, at my mother’s urging, I accompanied him to the Tarrytown Hilton for a 10th Mountain WWII luncheon, where he was honored as a regional Man of the Year; he told everyone that I’d write his story shortly. For years, I’d been promising him I would write something soon. Twenty years later, he no longer believed me.


Go to the Forward and read this story.

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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