By Mike Elk
It’s payday folks! Greetings from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
This edition of the Payday Lunch Pail goes out to the workers at the Center for Popular Democracy, who successfully opted this week to join the 1,500 member strong Washington-Baltimore News Guild (WBNG). WBNG has been growing in numbers in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area by organizing not just media workers but all intellectual workers and non-profit workers. The local is the largest Newspaper Guild local in the country headed by an African American, the noted labor lawyer Cetewayo Parks.
Washington Baltimore NewsGuild Organizing Consultant Bruce Jett told Payday Report that approximately 40 workers at the Center for Public Democracy voted to join WBNG. The Center for Public Democracy “works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions” according to their website.
This is the second union election the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild has won in the last month. In June, editorial employees at Foreign Policy magazine voted 16-1 to join WBNG. What shop could organize with WBNG next?
(Full disclosure: Payday’s Senior Labor Reporter is a proud member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.)
Did DC Consultants Become Millionaires off of the Sanders Campaign?
In part, the inspiration for Payday Report being a reader-funded reporting cooperative comes from the success of the Bernie Sanders campaign to crowdfund at an average of $27 per donation. If the left wants to win, we must ask ourselves: why did we get so close, but not win with Bernie?
An exposé in Slate by the Nation Institute fellows Joshua Holland (@JoshuaHol) and Eli Clifton (@EliClifton) raises troubling questions about inside-the-beltway consultants capitalizing on those Feeling the Bern:
A great deal of that money bought a blast of commercials preceding caucuses and primaries across the country, one effect of which was to enrich a small group of Democratic consultants whose compensation is tied to media spending. Disclosure forms examined by Slate suggest the campaign contracted with a front company—possibly created to obscure who made what off the Sanders movement—and in one cozy arrangement, effectively shared a third-party vendor with a pro-Bernie dark money group.
This approach had material, if largely unseen, effects on Sanders’ candidacy: Every dollar that went into broadcast ads, digital strategizing, or Democratic consultants’ pockets was one less for local campaign staff or get-out-the-vote efforts. Bill Fletcher Jr., a veteran civil rights activist who said he consulted with the Sanders campaign early on but was not directly involved afterward, told Slate that while “the Sanders campaign is a tremendous movement,” it was plagued from the beginning by a “top campaign brass that was very insular” and didn’t take strategic advice from long-time progressive organizers, including some with extensive experience within the communities of color in which Sanders struggled to gain traction. Fletcher doesn’t believe Sanders got into the race to win and thinks that running a campaign focused on shifting the center of gravity within the Democratic Party led to serious strategic errors along the way. Key among them was a failure to come up with creative ways to convert millions of supporters’ revolutionary zeal into an integrated campaign operation.
In a phone conversation with Payday Report in January before the South Carolina primary former AFL-CIO education director Bill Fletcher, Jr. criticized the largely white, early leadership of the Sanders campaign for failing to adapt their message on race and losing the African-American vote to Clinton:
“He is taking race and gender as a separate category and saying, ‘Oh by the way race and sex are important.’ U.S. history shows time and time again that race is the mortar that holds capitalism together,” Fletcher said. “What Sanders is doing is emphasizing the fight for economic justice, but he is falling prey to the notion that a rising tide rises all the boat.”
In an email to Lunch Pail, Steve Early, long-time CWA activist and Bernie for Labor advisor, replied, “”Bill Fletcher’s post-Sanders campaign critique may have some substantive merit, but, in my view, it also reflects apparent personal disappointment and resentment over not getting the senior campaign advisor/strategist position he sought when the Bernie campaign was launched. After that didn’t materialize, he contributed little or nothing to labor outreach or any other actual forms of volunteering, which is how tens of thousands of us contributed to the campaign and helped shape it, from the bottom up. Bill definitely did not lift a finger to build Labor for Bernie—particularly within his own former union, AFGE, where we could have used his help averting its misguided early embrace of Hillary Clinton. My advice to Bill is, if you want to influence a political campaign, just pitch in and make it better—like Adolph Reed, Cornel West, Larry Cohen, and many other organizers did—without any formal title or high -ranking position.”
Top Bernie Labor Advisor Larry Cohen Says Public Sector Unions Killed DNC Anti-TPP Plank
Northeast Philly native Larry Cohen, currently the immediate past president of the Communication Workers of America, served as Bernie Sanders’ top labor advisor and traveled the country organizing rank-and-file union members to disobey their internationals and vote their conscience. Writing in In These Times, Cohen has accused public-sector unions of not just selling out manufacturing unions for not supporting a DNC platform plank against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but also their own rank-and-file members:
“As it turned out, the Clinton campaign honored the demands of the White House and vigorously pressured its platform committee appointees to support the president and avoid outright opposition to the TPP. Public employee union leaders led that effort despite universal labor opposition to the TPP including that of their own unions.”
Cohen is referring to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and AFSCME President Lee Saunders’ executive assistant Paul Booth in particular. Booth was the only labor representative on the DNC platform committee, after the DNC blocked Senator Sanders’ choice of National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.
Booth has long been considered a close personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and has been criticized for not doing enough to stop NAFTA in the 1990s when he served as executive assistant to then-AFSCME-President Gerry McEnree. AFSCME was a major financial benefactor of the Clinton campaign. Many in organized labor have accused AFSCME of doing the bidding of its close political allies instead of its members.
AFSCME, which is holding its convention this week in Las Vegas, did not reply for request for comment by publication time. We will update as soon as possible. Check your inbox!
Also on the TPP
Sam Knight (@Samknight1) of the District Sentinel remains dogged on the tails of how the State Department is failing to meet promises given as part of TPP passage to push Malaysia on its human trafficking progress. The small news co-op had been the little engine that could on why DC lawmakers are looking the other way on the deaths of Malaysian workers:
“[Senator Ben] Cardin [(D-Md.)] and a colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), both noted on Tuesday that Malaysian officials have been accused of complicity in the deaths of the laborers discovered, but that none have thus far have been convicted with any crimes, or even charged with homicide. They also expressed concerns about Malaysia being a hotspot for human trafficking.”
Philly Airport Workers May Cause Trouble for DNC Delegates:
Philadelphia airport workers, organizing with SEIU 32BJ, voted overwhelmingly to strike during the DNC convention. “The purpose of the DNC is to lift workers out of poverty,” Gabe Morgan, an SEIU vice president, told the Philly Daily News (also a WBNG union shop). “What these workers are fighting for is what the DNC and the convention is supposed to be about.”
Perez VP Speculation Continues to Heat Up as He Wins Labor Backers
This week, Payday reported that sources within organized labor are increasingly pressuring Hillary Clinton to pick Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez as her vice presidential candidate. Perez would become the first Latino elected to the White House and is expected to get strong support from Latinos, Black Lives Matters activists, disabled workers, and organized labor.
One top labor official privy to discussions within the AFL-CIO told Payday Report: “With Joe Biden, we had a messenger boy. With someone like Tom Perez, we would finally have a vice president, who would know how to get stuff done for labor within the White House.”
Former RNC Chair Says Perez Well-Liked By Political Opponents
Michael Steele, who has known Perez for over a decade, praised Perez in a story for the Washington Post (also, a WBNG shop):
“He is not a showboater, not flash, an everyday guy,” said Michael Steele, the former head of the Republican National Committee. Steele, who was lieutenant governor of Maryland when Perez was on the council, said Perez could help smooth Clinton’s “strained relationship” with many Republicans.
“He is not an I-am-right, you-are-wrong guy,” Steele said.
(For more on the RNC, see Belt Magazine’s coverage here. Payday Report Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk has long been a proud member of Belt Magazine, which only costs $40 a year and comes with a free book. Mike suggests that you too should support independent media by becoming a member.)
Sponsored by RailroadMusic.org
July 14 was Woody Guthrie’s birthday, and to celebrate we bring you part one of the Alan Lomax Recordings made in 1940 that are catalogued in the Library of Congress. In the historic recordings, Mr. Lomax explores some of what Woody had found rambling the country looking for stories about the living and working conditions of his day. These were the first recordings of Woody and were not made for release.
In a similar vein, one of the best interviews about the folk labor reporting trade is that with Pete Seeger, by Utah Phillips.
Around the South this Week
In North Carolina, farmworker organization Coalition of Immokalee Workers noted that dozens of supporters joined them across the state as they pressured the Southern grocery store chain Publix to issue a response to a Department of Labor investigation that found one of its suppliers to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the H-2A temporary agricultural program:
We were joined by over 50 University of North Carolina students, members of community organizations including the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, Black Lives Matter and the NewSouth Network, and local families to protest at Asheville’s only Publix, demanding that the supermarket answer for the recent Department of Labor investigation of Publix’s supplier, Red Diamond. The protesters — many of whom were brand new to the campaign — proved their resolve to fight for Fair Food when the sky opened up just as a delegation left to speak with a Publix manager. Even in the torrential downpour, everyone kept marching and chanting, driven by the same dogged persistence that has been essential to the Fair Food movement since Day One — and that has brought 14 corporations to the table thus far.
In Louisville, Kentucky, teachers with the Jefferson County Teachers Association protested outside a closed meeting of the school board where contract negotiation strategies were being discussed. Brent McKim, president of the union, told the Courier-Journal, “The way the district is approaching negotiations and the fact they’re not honoring step increases certainly seems to fly in the face of the superintendent’s evaluation feedback from the school board that indicated she really needed to improve morale and build trust and collaboration with employees.” Earlier in the month, the school board decided to withhold wage raises and step increases while negotiations were underway.
North Carolina native Spencer Woodman has a blockbuster over at the Nation this week. The Florida Attorney General hasn’t taken a single wage theft case since 2011:
In most states, the attorney general would not be the first place a desperate worker might turn, but in Florida, the office is both the first and last line of defense for exploited workers. After Jeb Bush dismantled Florida’s Department of Labor in the early 2000s—he justified it as a cost-saving measure—the Republicans in the state named the attorney general’s office as the main government agency responsible for enforcing the state’s minimum wage. But what the worker did not know is that Pam Bondi is a politician who has voiced fierce opposition to strong minimum-wage laws and has close ties to organizations that have aggressively lobbied against laws to protect workers from theft.
In Atlanta, a federal court ruled against part of Georgia’s “right to work” (or, as some like to call it, “right to freeload”) law. Because it allowed employees to rescind union membership and stop paying dues at any time, the Georgia law was in conflict with federal law, which “permits unions to impose irrevocable authorizations up to one year.”
Louisville NPR station 89.3 WFPL interviewed local Black Lives Matter co-founder Chanelle Helm following the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The interview took place before a vigil that was attended by more than 400 people and held at the Carl Braden Memorial Center. The memorial was jointly organized by several local organizations, and was followed by a march.
If you have time this weekend, you must sit down with Race Forward’s article “Best Practices For Journalists Reporting on Police Killings of Black and Brown People”:
For generations, people of color have been the victims of unfair, biased and criminalizing coverage in the news media. From the consistent use of imagery and language based in historical stereotypes, to copy-editing standards and photo choices that misrepresent diverse communities, the media has at times gone against one of journalism’s core values which is to “minimize harm to the communities and people they cover.”
Basic journalism education provides writers, producers and editors with the tools to ethically answer the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of any issue or event. However, accurately and thoughtfully reporting on issues of race and culture requires that journalists go beyond those basic skills. Reporters should make intentional efforts to craft stories that uplift the voices of the most impacted without criminalizing them or adding to existing narratives. This is always important, but must become a priority in times of crisis and unrest. Communities of color are in pain after the tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The death of the officers in Dallas has added to the anguish and unrest breaking out across this nation.
Weekend Long Reads
The Durham, North Carolina-based Scalawag has a moving obit of Russell County, Virginia coal mine union activists and former Virginia state representative Jackie Stump.
FivethirtyEight.com has a moving profile on how economic anxiety has lead to higher suicide rates among middle age men in Wyoming:
Nationally, nearly two-thirds of all deaths by firearm are due to suicide, and Wyoming has had the highest rate of suicide by firearm of any state over the last 15 years. Studies have linked higher rates of gun ownership with increased risk of suicide death, but in Wyoming, which also has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country, this is an unpopular topic. As Tom Morton of the Casper Star-Tribune put it in a series of articles about Wyoming’s suicide epidemic, guns and suicide are the “third rail of Wyoming culture.”
The high suicide rate isn’t news in Wyoming. “It’s certainly not going down this year. There’s a ton of concern, and nobody has any good answers,” said Mark Russler, the executive director of Yellowstone Behavioral Health Center, a community mental health program in Cody. Russler is responsible for much of the community mental health work in northwestern Wyoming. Despite more than a decade of concerted efforts to reduce the suicide rate, it continues to rise in the Mountain West. But that’s true all over the country — in every region, among every age group under 75, and among nearly every racial and ethnic group.
Read the full piece here. Mental health awareness among men is so vital.
Though Ani DiFranco’s music has evolved since the acoustic sparseness of her eponymous debut album over 26 years ago, she’s always remained a folk singer at heart — never compromising, always political, and forever for herself and the people.
Over 20 albums later, DiFranco continues to be an outspoken champion of political and social movements, from reproductive rights and LGBTQ visibility, to anti-racism efforts and global peace.
And despite recent tragedies and political divisiveness in America, DiFranco remains optimistic.
“We look at these dire circumstances that we’re in. This insane amount of gun violence and death. Endemic racism that’s still so incredibly brutal in our society…We think we feel hopeless and we feel powerless. But we’re not,” she says in a conversation with Takeaway Host John Hockenberry.
Finally, for all you health care bargaining nerds out there, UE President Peter Knowlton has a practical, easy-to-read guide on health care bargaining tactics at Labor Notes:
In the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE), the union I’m president of, we’re trying to change that dynamic. We are working to develop tools and strategies to go on the offensive.
A big part of that is changing the conversation at contract time about what we propose and what’s fair. By doing this we’re not only getting better immediate results, but also developing in our membership a new common sense about health care and how it’s financed.
We know that the universal health care everyone deserves won’t be won in a single shop—but we’re laying the groundwork to set our sights higher in future fights that can bring workers together across a whole chain or geographic area.
(Full Disclosure: Payday Report Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk is the son of UE Director of Organizing Gene Elk.)
The Folk Labor Ombudsman on What’s Next for Payday Report
Sisters and Brothers,
If you feel the Bern, don’t worry, we have a Yuuuge plan for Payday Report. When Mike and JP started this idea, they were just two friends, inspired by a common want to tell a story. That want turned into a need. So, we took direct action. We brainstormed a plan … we got some help. Then, Kris Warner came on board with his organizational expertise! We didn’t mourn, we organized an EPIC alternative to the corporate controlled media that Col. Sanders (Sen.) was preaching against.
We have come to collect on a Brass Check!!!
Our collective vision is growing! We gained several supporters this week, but we still need your help. We can’t do this alone. Your support allows us to independently report on issues that are not talked about in the murky, overflowing mainstream. Your support allows us the socially acceptable labor time to provide you with the goods. Aka, quality news and reporting.
Look for the Folk Labor Desk report to be released this Sunday and articles to be released soon for Payday about Honeywell, The Sanders Democrats and municipal broadband.
Have a great weekend and don’t forget to clock out!
— JP Wright, Payday Report Folk Labor Ombudsman.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and Let’s GO Buccos