Labor & DNC – #BlackLivesMatter – SEIU Marching on Confederate Monuments – Louisville Teachers

Teachers in Minneapolis were arrested in civil disobedience over Philando Castile's death. Photo: Samantha Winslow

By Mike Elk

It’s Payday Folks! Greetings from Chattanooga, Tennessee!

This week’s Lunch Pail goes out to Eduardo Soto. Thanks for signing up as a supporter of Payday Report. If you like our coverage about workers who are trying to improve their conditions, you can join Eduardo and become a supporter here.

Support the #Law360Union Digital Media Union Drive

Earlier this week, we reported on the editorial staff of Law360, the growing LexisNexis-owned trade publication powerhouse, filing a petition for a union representation election. But since the company is refusing to voluntarily recognize the union, reporters have taken to Twitter, using the hashtag #Law360Union, to ask @law360 and @LexisNexis to #RecognizetheUnion. Let’s show some solidarity and do the same.

Top VP Candidate Fought Public-Sector Unionization as Virginia Governor

With Hillary Clinton set to announce her choice for a running mate, many in organized labor say they would be disappointed if it were Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. As the Governor of Virginia, Kaine refused efforts by organized labor to grant public-sector employees in that state the right to collectively bargain.

Moreover, in recent days, Tim Kaine has signaled his support for the TPP.  Just this week, Kaine signed onto two letters to financial regulators asking for them to weaken regulations on banks. At the same time, he was one of 13 Senate Democrats who did not sign a letter in support of strengthening regulations on payday lenders.

Clinton is expected to announce her vice presidential pick by text message this evening.

Labor Fights Brewing at DNC in Philly

Before delegates even arrive at the national convention, it already looks like the Democratic Party may face a fight of its owns at the Philadelphia airport. Last week, workers organizing with SEIU announced their intention to strike for better scheduling and higher wages, particularly since there is a $30 million expansion project underway at the airport.

“We are Philadelphia. Born and raised in Philadelphia. We raise kids in Philadelphia. We want them to have a good education. We will not be left behind,” SEIU 32BJ Mid-Atlantic Director Daisy Cruz told the Philly Voice. “We are going to do as much disruption as possible.”

Organized Labor and #BlackLivesMatter

As the American Federation of Teachers held its convention in Minneapolis, Samantha Winslow of Labor Notes reported that twenty-one teachers were arrested while protesting police violence. Philando Castile, a St. Paul public school employee and Teamsters Local 320 member, was killed by police earlier this month. Labor Notes then had a follow-up piece by Alexandra Bradbury, on how protests are forcing public-employee unions in Minnesota to finally talk about police violence. Unions there say they are struggling to figure out how to get public-sector unions more involved on the issue of police brutality.

#BlackLivesMatter and Police Unions

As some union members protest police violence, others are the subject of the protests. This week, under the #FreedomNow banner, activists staged actions at police unions in New York City; Oakland, CA; Washington, DC; Detroit; Chicago; St. Louis; Chattanooga, TN; Long Beach, CA; and Cleveland. Colorlines was at the scene of the protest in DC:

In Washington, D.C. this morning (July 20), members of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and Black Lives Matter-DC (BLM-DC) have assembled outside the legislative office of the national Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Activists are demanding that officers who are interested in justice stop paying dues to the FOP; they are in hour three of the action.

“By protecting the worst among them and ardently opposing legislation that promotes police transparency and accountability, the FOP has affirmed that they are more interested in maintaining a corrupt culture of policing than ensuring public safety,” April Goggans of BLM-DC said in a press release sent to Colorlines. “This is why we are calling for all police officers to disavow their ties to the FOP by refusing to continue to fund this nefarious organization. Who do police officers call after they maim or murder civilians? The FOP. It’s their support that keeps justice from being served.”

Fight for $15 to Protest at Confederate Monuments in Richmond

The Fight for $15 movement plans to hold its inaugural convention in Richmond, Virginia the weekend of August 11th – 12th, where workers will march on monuments to the Confederacy. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry told the Washington Post that low wage jobs “are the remnants of slavery.”  The convention plans to focus heavily on linking the #BlackLivesMatter movement with the Fight for $15 (and a union).

Drowning in a Trench on a Construction Site

Workplace safety activists say that more media attention is needed on the cause of workplace deaths. The NewsGuild-represented Dayton Daily News has a gut wrenching account this week of one such death:

The last text message James Rogers sent before he died in a Washington Twp. trench collapse said, “It’s getting deep.”

Accompanying the June 15 text sent at 11:24 a.m. that day was a photo showing that trench, according to an attorney representing his family.

Rogers’ girlfriend responded two minutes later with a text that said: “OMG babe be smart!!! And safe.” Police reports indicate that 911 was called at 1:44 p.m. and Rogers, 33, of Winchester, died from asphyxiation and “mechanical chest compression,” according to Rogers’ certificate of death.

It took more than seven hours to recover Rogers’ body out of a trench that was about 12 feet deep, according to law enforcement officials. Rogers had posted about a similarly deep trench on Facebook a few weeks before his death when he wrote, “”Never again ant (sic) worth it.”

Bluegrass Break

Have you ever wondered about the origins of bluegrass? Bill Monroe, the great Kentuckian and founder of bluegrass music, credits Arnold Shultz, an African American blues musician, as being one of his greatest influences.

A couple of weeks ago, songwriters got the blues in another way when they learned that Department of Justice recommendations could curb the creative process and complicate the royalty payouts by ASCAP and BMI. This article came across the Folk Labor Desk by way of a dear friend of mine, Shannon Lawson. He is a songwriter based in Nashville, with deep roots in Kentucky. You can find his work here.

-Folk Labor Ombudsman JP Wright


Around the South

In a small town in Georgia, police first gave warnings and then court summonses to Teamsters organizers doing the common (and legal) work of leafleting. From Dave Jamieson at The Huffington Post:

The video shows Speight asking where the union members could legally pass out leaflets, and an officer’s response suggests the encounter was about more than traffic flow.

“It ain’t like it was back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, with all those wildcat strikes and the [unintelligible] and everything,” the officer says. (It’s unclear exactly what labor unrest the officer was talking about. He may have been referencing the national wildcat strike by postal workers in 1970.)

“You smell that?” he then asks rhetorically. “You smell that?”

“The paper mill?” Speight responds, clearly confused.

“No. Fresh air,” the officer says. “We want to make sure everybody can continue to breathe fresh air.”

The Teamsters took that as a suggestion that their union organizing was fouling the air and wasn’t welcome in the 7,600-person city of Port Wentworth. They are now weighing a lawsuit against the city, considering what happened next.

Meanwhile, 250 miles away in Atlanta, workers for a Bureau of Labor Statistics contractor voted to unionize with the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers in October 2015, but have yet to secure a first contract. IAM is calling out the contractor, Office Resources, Inc., for not bargaining in good faith:

[The workers] overcame a nasty anti-union drive to join the IAM, and now the BLS contractor is refusing to bargain in good faith. Instead of meeting during work hours, a nearly universal practice, ORI is demanding to only meet at night or on weekends, when many bargaining committee members have family obligations. The IAM would pay for the employee’s lost time.

When ORI does meet with their employees, they engage in what’s called “surface bargaining.”

“They offer a tiny raise, but then demand the workers give up vacation time to pay for it,” said Billy Barnwell, District 131 Directing Business Representative.

In neighboring Florida, reporters, photographers, copy editors and other employees at Lakeland local newspaper The Ledger filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. According to The NewsGuild, the union helping these workers to organize, The Ledger “would become the only paper in Florida, and the first in modern memory, to have a unionized newsroom.” Layoffs and a lack of raises are at the top of the workers’ concerns. Gary White, one of the reporters driving the campaign, said, “We haven’t had raises in eight years. We’d like to see the layoffs end. We’re at the point now where it’s a challenge to get by with the minimum coverage our community expects.” The Columbia Journalism Review goes into more detail on Gatehouse Media, the company who recently bought the paper, and its parent company, New Media Investment Group.

In Virginia, LIUNA landscape workers at the Arlington National Cemetery went on strike on Monday, seeking increased wages and improved benefits. Soon thereafter, the contractors who employ them agreed to return to the bargaining table.

In Baltimore, the union of the city’s metro workers has raised concerns about the system’s safety. From the the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild-represented Baltimore Sun:

David McClure, president of Baltimore Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, said the Maryland Transit Administration has neglected the main problems his workers have raised, despite this week’s announcement of a 23-day partial shutdown while the agency performs $16 million in critical maintenance.

“This is not only about the union, it’s about the riding public as well,” McClure said. “We have one objective here, and that’s to provide a safe and efficient service to the riding public, which at this point, I can’t say that we’re actually doing that.”

Finally, in Louisville, KY the Courier-Journal reports that the Jefferson County Teachers Association is suing the school district for breach of contract. The union is preparing for the possibility of a strike later this year and the school district is saying that no step raises will be given for teachers until the contract is settled.

Weekend Reads

Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, labor reporter Josh Eidelson and photographer Jonno Rattman have a photo-essay look at the vendors selling political swag at the RNC convention in Cleveland:

For some, the Republican National Convention is an audition for higher office, a venue for cultivating influence, or a four-day reunion. For others, it’s an unparalleled business opportunity. “Shirts cost $1.77 blank, then the printer only charges $1.60,” says Kevin McCray, a 42-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, who’s hawking Trump gear outside the entrance to the Quicken Loans Arena. “I sell that shirt for 20 bucks.”

McCray quit his job at a quality assurance company to become a full-time swag seller in June, after he made $2,500 in two days selling Bernie Sanders paraphernalia at California rallies. He estimates he’s making about $1,200 for each 14-hour day of work in Cleveland. His customers include an Arizonan who bought three buttons (two “Trump For President” and one “Bomb the Hell out of ISIS”) and a Kansan planning to deck her grandkids out in Trump T-shirts. McCray, who’s undecided between the candidates, says: “I’m about money coming to me, vs. me going to get the money.”

An in-depth investigation by USA Today of dozens of lawsuits from around the US has found that Trump has engaged in apparently widespread wage theft:

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according toU.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.

NewsGuild activist and The New Yorker editorial staff member E. Tammy Kim has a longform at Dissent Magazine this week looking at digital media unionization:

Journalists love to cover other journalists, and media reporters vastly outnumber those on the labor beat. The articles they wrote—about Gawker, Salon, and the rest—had a heavy refrain: that these shops were “historic,” their staffs laboring pioneers of the digital realm and its millennial workforce, a.k.a. “Generation 1099.” Would Facebook or Google be next? Outlets stated again and again that Gawker was the first digital-only publication to organize, though this wasn’t the case. In 2009, the progressive website Truthout had formed a union of about a dozen writers and editors. And the Daily Beast has also had one, owing in part to the print inheritance of its corporate sibling, Newsweek.

The coverage and self-presentation of digital workers obscured a longer history of media organizing, too. Today’s newsroom inhabitants—conceived as content creators, tweeters, posters, and impresarios of their own “personal brand”—are described in Silicon Valley dialect. We are aggregating entrepreneurs, at odds with one another and alienated from our predecessors in print. To unionize is to lay claim to a powerful, if deeply flawed, lineage. Yet we’ve detached ourselves from an instructive century of mobilization.

The implosion of local, regional, and even national newspapers (along with magazines, glossy and matte) has made the print world an object of fear. Millennials may have a vague memory of newspaper strikes—as recently as the mid-1990s, the very picture of white- meets blue-collar muscle—but feel no confidence in them as a tool. I’ve heard many journalists blame newspaper unions for hastening the death of the industry by their stubborn adherence to work rules and aging technology. This is why, some digital staffers tell me, they decided to sign cards with the (screen) Writers Guild instead of the NewsGuild, which once represented nearly 50 percent of American editorial workers.

In the first of two articles, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Florida-based farmworker organization, discusses the role of enforcement in the model of worker rights they have helped to develop:

Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) — the emerging paradigm for the protection of fundamental human rights in corporate supply chains born of the uniquely successful experience of the Fair Food Program — is founded on two distinct and equally important philosophical pillars: worker participation and an intense focus on enforcement. The former gives WSR its name and its ability to identify and uncover the abuses most urgently felt by workers themselves.  The latter gives WSR its unrivaled power to eliminate those abuses.

This is the first in a two-part series about the lesser-known of those two pillars, the enforcement focus — indeed mandate — of the WSR model.  The first part will outline the essential mechanisms that make enforcement possible.  The second will lay out recommendations for retail corporations that are serious about their responsibility to respect human rights in their suppliers’ operations as set forth in the “Protect, Respect, Remedy” framework of the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

What’s Next

  • Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk is working on a longform about the Sanders Democrat movement in the South
  • An independent investigation at how Chattanooga’s municipal broadband is pushing back against austerity politics in the South
  • Reporting on the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Chattanooga


Peace Out!


Since last Friday, when the lunch pail was packed and delivered to your worksite, Mike, Kris, and I have been working on several key moving parts of this worker-owned media cooperative. Together, we have made several lists, checked off details, refigured and re-organized. We tightened up our business plan, firmed up our working culture, and tweaked our website.

All this labor time was creative energy spent for you! If you have not already, you can join the growing ranks of our supporters by adding to the collection plate.

We here at Payday Report are building an Ark of the Press that won’t stop until we get enough. We want bread, but we want roses too. So, grab a friend and get on board!

Thanks folks. Watch out for a Folk Labor Desk report to drop at the beginning of next week. I am getting out of town and heading to the lake. Y’all have a good weekend and don’t forget to clock out…See you next Friday.

JP Wright, Payday Report Folk Labor Ombudsman


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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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