Minneapolis Transit Shuts Down as Bus Drivers Refuse to Help Police – Prison Labor Replaces Meatpackers in Louisiana – DC Giant Stores Remove Social Distancing

People face off with police near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Getty Images))

Greetings from the Burgh, where we are in the midst of our end-of-the-month fundraising appeal. 

Only $1,125 Short of Hitting Our Monthly Goal

As Payday expands and attempts to bring on a more regular editor, we are hoping to raise $6,000-a-month to cover costs. 

This month, we are only $1,125 short of raising $6,000

Donate today to help us keep covering labor’s fightback against COVID. 

230 Strikes on the Map

With fast-food workers out on strike in Oakland over being asked to wear dog diapers as maskes and coffee baristas striking in Philly, our Strike Tracker Map has now risen to 230 strikes since March 1st. 

For more, check out the map here. 

Some Minneapolis Bus Drivers Refuse to Help Cops

With protests erupting all over Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, cops are attempting to arrest protesters in mass. 

However, some bus drivers in Minneapolis are refusing to use their buses to transport protestors to jail. 

“As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Minneapolis bus driver Adam Burch told Payday. “An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.” 

While it would be illegal for Burch’s union to call for a wildcat strike, his local union ATU Local 1005 did issue a statement of solidarity with the protestors. 

“In ATU, we have a saying “NOT ONE MORE” when it comes to driver assaults, which in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job,” said the union in a statement. “We say “NOT ONE MORE” execution of a black life by the hands of police. NOT ONE MORE. JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD!” 

Minneapolis Transit Service Cancels Bus Service

Today, the Minneapolis’s Metro Transit canceled service out of concerns for their bus drivers and vehicles. 

“I was able to have good convos with the drivers at my garage before they sent us home. Many [are] unwilling to do anything for the police and put themselves in harm’s way for the police that created this mess to begin with,” said Buruch. 

The workers have launched a group and a petition entitled “Union Members for #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd”. 

Louisiana Using Prison Labor to Replace Meatpackers

Last month, prison labor was used to replace striking garbage workers in New Orleans. Now the state appears to be using prison labor to replace meatpackers at plants with high rates of absenteeism. 

From The Appeal

Despite the fact that prison visitation and most visits for jails have been halted statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ouachita is one of several Louisiana parishes that has not shut down its work-release program. 

“He’s there for eight hours a day cutting up chickens,” Jones told The Appeal. “These people are forced to work—if he complains, they might send him back to regular jail. He might lose his good-time credit.”

In an email statement to The Appeal, Glenn Springfield, a Ouachita Parish sheriff’s office spokesperson, said the Transitional Work Program sends an “average of 40 to 44” people per day to various jobs. Springfield confirmed that two Transitional Work Program prisoners are working at DG Foods. To limit the virus’s spread, he said, workers sent to DG Foods are housed in the same dormitory, where they are given hand sanitizer before meals and after work shifts, and transported in buses that are “sanitized” daily. Springfield also said masks are provided to workers. 

But Jones said the sheriff’s office isn’t doing enough to keep her brother safe.

“Some days they get masks, some days they don’t,” she said. “I work in healthcare—I had some friends who worked at hospitals help get him his own masks just so he could work.” 

For more, go to the Appeal, where they have obtained videos of working conditions inside the plant. 

Rural Meatpacking Communities Have 5x COVID Rate of Other Rural Communities. 

The use of prison labor in meatpacking plants could intensify massive outbreaks of COVID in rural communities with heavy meatpacking.

A new study from the Daily Yonder and the Food and Environment Reporting Network shows that rural communities with meatpacking plants have a COVID rate that is 5x that of rural communities without meatpacking plants. 

From the Daily Yonder

Rural counties with Covid-19 cases linked to meatpacking plants have an average infection rate of nearly 1,100 per 100,000, according to the analysis of data on Covid-19 cases and deaths. The data used in the analysis was from USA Facts. In rural counties without meatpacking plant-linked outbreaks, the average infection rate is only 209 cases per 100,000.

In small-metropolitan counties with meatpacking plants where Covid-19 cases were reported, the average infection rate is three times greater than similar counties without outbreaks at meatpacking plants.

The analysis used data collected by FERN on outbreaks of Covid-19 among workers at meatpacking plants to identify rural and small-metropolitan counties where those workers are employed. FERN and the Daily Yonder then compared infection rates in those counties to infection rates in rural and small-metropolitan counties that don’t have outbreaks at meatpacking plants.

Ten of the 14 rural counties with the highest infection rates contain meatpacking plants with outbreaks. Of those 10 counties, four of the outbreaks are located at Tyson Foods plants, two at National Beef plants, and one each at a Smithfield, Cargill, Seaboard Foods, and JBS plant. These companies are some of the biggest meat producers in the county. According to an analysis by FERN, Tyson Foods alone accounts for a third of all Covid-19 cases among meatpacking workers nationally.

For more, go to the Daily Yonder. 

Giants to Cut Hazard Pay & Protective Barriers in DC 

Despite Washington, D.C. having the highest-per-capita increase in new cases of COVID-19 in the nation, DC-area Giant Stores plan to cut a 10% hazard pay increase and remove social distancing measures. 

“Our members have heroically served on the frontlines throughout this crisis, and with no vaccine in sight, they will have to continue to do so for quite some time,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici in a statement. “Whether you call it ‘recognition pay’ or ‘hero pay’ or ‘thank you pay,’ the bottom line is this: so long as these workers continue to face danger every day, they should be compensated for taking that risk.”

In addition, Giant has announced that they will double the number of people allowed into stores; putting workers at risk. 

“No matter how much we wish it were so, nothing is getting back to normal,” said Jason Chorpenning, President of UFCW Local 27 in a statement. “Now is not the time to loosen safety measures intended to save lives.”

For more, go to UFCW Local 400 site. 

40th Anniversary of Gwangju Uprising Commemorated This Week

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the crushing of the Gwangju Uprising in Korea, where a suspected 300 pro-democracy protestors against the dictatorship were killed by government forces. 

Over at the Nation, investigative reporters In-jeong Kim of MBC-Gwangju and Tim Shorrock have published a 5-year collaboration entitled “2 Days in May that Shattered Korean Democracy”.  looking at how the US helped use US military forces in Korea to crackdown on the protestors: 

On May 18, South Koreans paused to mark the 40th anniversary of the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, one of the most traumatic days in their history. The 10-day revolt was triggered when students and citizens protesting a military coup by a renegade general were attacked by airborne special forces with a viciousness and cruelty that Koreans had not experienced since the darkest days of the Korean War.

The armed resistance by Gwangju’s Citizen Militia liberated the city from the marauding troops. The townspeople, freed from decades of military rule, kept their city running, buried their dead, and transformed themselves into a self-organized system of mutual aid they now call the Gwangju Commune.

Those who died in Gwangju “believed that the survivors would manage to open up a better world” and “were convinced that the defeat of that day would become the victory of tomorrow,” President Moon Jae-in declared on May 18 in the city square where protesters were killed in 1980.

But their dream of a just society was snuffed out on May 27 by Korean Army troops, who were released from their usual duties on the border with North Korea to reoccupy Gwangju. The official death toll from the uprising stands at 165, but residents believe that more than 300 people were killed, with dozens still unaccounted for.

For more, go to the Nation. 

That’s all for today folks, check back in tomorrow. Keep donating so we can cover labor’s fightback against COVID.

If you have tips of stories that we should feature in our afternoon newsletter, email [email protected].

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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