Nashville Mayor in Trouble – WV Teachers Begin Rolling Strike – NPR Calls Out Lamb Campaign in #PA18

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has stayed silent on a spike in Latino construction deaths as her city bids for Amazon.

It’s Payday, folks! Greetings from da Burgh where Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk has been laid up in bed making calls to Payday General Counsel Oliver Bateman.

While Elk may have been down for the count in bed for many days, he was nonetheless keeping score on his smartphone and laptop despite the fever-induced delirium.

Ignoring Latino Workplace Safety Crisis, Nashville Mayor Traveled to Greece with Lover on Taxpayer Dime

Throughout the past year, Payday Report has raised questions about Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s refusal to comment on the spike of Latino construction worker deaths in Nashville.

Now, Barry is facing accusations that she used taxpayer dollars to carry on an affair with her security chief. Barry spent more than $14,000 traveling alone on these taxpayer-funded trips.

Documents obtained by Nashville NewsChannel 4 show that while Mayor Megan Barry was refusing to comment on the spike in Latino workplace fatalities, she was taking a taxpayer-funded trip to a luxury hotel in Greece with her lover:

When Barry traveled to Greece in 2017, she stayed in avant-garde style at the Pallas Athena hotel in Athens, and she wasn’t alone. Forrest stayed at the Pallas Athena during the same time, according to travel logs.

The mayor’s schedule shows she flew to Greece to attend the Athens Democracy Forum. Her calendar shows she attended related events until Sept. 15.

But after that date, documents show she and Forrest stayed in Athens for three nights with nothing on her Metro schedule.

Even the agenda for the forum appeared thin, featuring a “film session” for the weekend.

“If you’ve already found this, then I say we better all start asking questions,” said Metro Councilman Steve Glover.

While Barry was on her taxpayer-funded trip to Greece, Payday tried to reach her office for comment regarding the three Latino construction workers who were killed last summer in Nashville.

During this time, Latino worker advocates tried to meet repeatedly with the Mayor to address the crisis publicly and appoint a commission to look into Nashville. (See Payday Report’s As Nashville Bids for Amazon, Mayor Stays Silent On Spike in Latino Construction Deaths”)

According to a report released in May by the Partnership for Working Families, Workers Defense Project, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Nik Theodore, titled “Build a Better South: Construction Working Conditions in the U.S. South,” Nashville is currently the most dangerous city in the South for construction workers.

Barry Apologizes & Pledges to Do Better For Nashville:

In response to calls to rebuild trust among Nashville residents, Barry has pledged to redouble her efforts and do better for Nashville.

“I also must apologize to the people of Nashville who elected me to serve as your mayor. I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway. I must hold myself to the highest standard of which the voters deserve to expect.  Please know that I’m disappointed in myself but also understand that I’m a human and that I made a mistake,” Barry said in a statement.

“In 2015, I was elected to serve as Mayor of Nashville on a platform that included building more affordable housing, improving public education, and promoting better transportation options. We have made progress on these fronts – but there is more to be done. While I regret any distractions that will be caused by my actions, I remain firmly committed to working hard to serve the people of Nashville now and into the future.”

Payday raises $830 for Paid Sick Day Funds – Medical Bills Still Mounting

It’s Payday and it’s great to get back to work and look forward to serving y’all a good weekly dish of labor news.

However, this Payday for freelance labor reporter Mike Elk is rather light after two weeks of severe illness.  Elk has been sick for nearly fourteen days, unexpectedly missing major freelance assignments and finding himself almost flat broke. Now he has learned there are more medical expenses on the way (thanks, Obamacare!).

If you can spare a few bucks, donate it here.

Controversial Pittsburgh Pirates Owner Top Bidder for Charleston Gazette-Mail

On Monday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail announced that it was declaring bankruptcy. In accordance with federal law, they gave federal WARN layoff notices to their employees warning that they may close their operation within 50 days.

The Chilton family, which owned the newspaper for 110 years, says that they intend to auction off the newspaper. (Long-time editor James Haught has a look at the paper’s track record).

The move comes as Wheeling Newspapers, a chain of 40 newspapers owned by billionaire casino magnate and Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting, appears set to become the highest bidder.

If Nutting’s tenure as Pirates owner is any indication  — his club recently made the controversial call to trade away long-time club superstar Andrew McCutchen — it could be a sign of rough times to come for the Gazette-Mail journalists.

Nutting Slashed Previous Paper By Nearly Half After Takeover

Nutting was recently exonerated by Major League Baseball after the Major League Baseball Players Association had demanded an investigation into the team’s use of $39 million in revenue-sharing funds after it traded away Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, saving $22 million in the process and entering the 2018 season with a projected $75 million payroll.

Although exonerated, Nutting’s team ranks 24th out of 30 teams in payroll and the owner has a history of cost-cutting moves in his businesses. Last year, Wheeling Newspapers acquired the Uniontown Herald-Standard in Fayette County, PA and then laid off 30 of the paper’s 70 employees.

Mingo & Logan County West Virginia Teachers Vote to Strike

Last week, Payday covered reports that teachers in West Virginia are threatening to call a statewide strike to protest low pay throughout the state.

The bankrupt Charleston Gazette-Mail is still firing its guns as it sinks and has this story:

Leah Clay Stone, a Logan High teacher and vice president of Logan County’s arm of the WVEA, said a large majority of professional and service employees voted by paper ballot Friday for a one-day walkout. She said central office employees, principals and vice principals weren’t asked to take part.

“The term ‘walkout’ is a misleading term, I believe,” she said. “We don’t want people to think we’re going to report to work and just get up and walk out. We’re just not going to report to work that day.”

“We’re notoriously underpaid, our benefits are just ebbing away, and we’re paying more and more for those benefits,” she said.

She noted health insurance issues affect not just school employees, but other state workers, too.

Mingo and Logan may not be the only counties participating. Wolford said Wyoming County employees have already voted to walk out, and he said at least 10 counties have votes this week.

For more, go to the Charleston Gazette-Mail

Joe Kennedy III visits Conor Lamb Campaign in #PA18, But Media Not Invited

Yesterday, Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III visited the 18th Congressional District. Kennedy’s appearance came two days after he delivered the Democrat’s response to the State of the Union. His appearance underscores the national importance of the #PA18 race, The visit comes as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to invest in the race.

“Our road to take back the House starts in #PA18. Proud to support my friend @ConorLambPA in Allegheny County today” tweeted Kennedy.

Kennedy Visit Closed to the Press – Lamb Campaign Should Be More Accessible

Payday can report nothing further about this significant event, as it was strangely closed to the press. Other reporters remarked on this curious decision, including NPR’s Scott Detrow.

“Interestingly the Lamb campaign told me they had no events on the schedule today” tweeted NPR’s Detrow.Why bring in a big name, but then not only not tell press beforehand but be evasive when directly asked about whether there are any events?”

Payday shares NPR’s frustration and asks that the Lamb Campaign be more transparent about its daily schedule, allowing press greater access as Republican Super PACs flood the air waves — an ominous development Payday covered last week.

Louisville Prepares for Dark Money Charter School Fight

Until 2017, when Republicans took control over the Kentucky State Legislature, teachers’ unions had used their influence to block any charter schools from coming into the state.

In one of his first acts, GOP Governor Matt Bevin with his newly seated Republican legislature passed “right-to-work” legislation and legislation aimed at charter schools and his political enemies in the teachers’ unions. 

Now, Insider Louisville has obtained documents showing that a prominent group of corporate players are already plotting on how to take advantage of the GOP’s momentum and turn the Louisville-area Jefferson County Public School system into a charter-friendly district:

The group of about 70 members — modeled after a similar organization in Nashville — has been operating largely under the radar until recently when multiple sources alerted Insider Louisville to its existence. In interviews with dozens of people over several weeks, Insider has learned more about the members, agenda and structure of this influential group.

Its very existence sheds light on how a determined coalition of private citizens can hone in on key issues hoping to expedite outcomes beyond the sphere of government, elected boards or traditional business groups.

In interviews with Insider, founders and members of the group — called the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) — described it as an effective way for “thought leaders” to come together to tackle some of the city’s major problems.

For more go to Insider Louisville.

bell hooks to Be Inducted Into Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame

Rural Hopkinsville, Kentucky native bell hooks is slated to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame This Year.

“It’s always fascinated me that in all the years that I lived away from Kentucky nobody ever talked about me as a Kentucky writer,” hooks told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“Because I was a hard-hitting intellectual thinker, I think they just dismissed location, because they didn’t really connect any of that to being born and raised in Kentucky,” she said. “That’s why I’m excited about the award, because that is the image of Kentucky that we have to be about changing.”

Go to the Lexington Herald-Leader to read more about hook’s induction.

Byline Strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ends After 4 Days

The byline strike at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ended after 4 days.

“The byline strike was but one mobilization effort in our arsenal. We are prepared to use others. We hope we don’t have to do so,” said Michael A. Fuoco, president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh and a Post-Gazette enterprise reporter in a statement. “We will not—we cannot—approve another concessionary contract offered by a highly profitable parent company.”

Fuoco added that while the Guild may not engage in a byline strike, some individual reporters may continue to do so on their own.

Crusading Muckraker Robert Parry Dies

This week, 68-year-old investigative reporter Robert Parry died of pancreatic cancer.

Parry won a Polk award in 1984 for his reporting at the Associated Press on the Iran-Contra scandal. Eventually, forced out of mainstream reporting, Parry founded his own project Consortium News with the help of his sons.

His son Nat Parry offered a moving remembrance of his father:

One of my earliest memories in fact was of my dad about to leave on assignment in the early 1980s to the war zones of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the heartfelt good-bye that he wished to me and my siblings. He warned us that he was going to a very dangerous place and that there was a possibility that he might not come back.

I remember asking him why he had to go, why he couldn’t just stay at home with us. He replied that it was important to go to these places and tell the truth about what was happening there. He mentioned that children my age were being killed in these wars and that somebody had to tell their stories. I remember asking, “Kids like me?” He replied, “Yes, kids just like you.”

Go to Consortium News to read the whole story.

Weekend Reads

Houston Public Media has a remembrance of Etta Moten Barnett, the first African American singer to perform at the White House, at the invitation of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1957.

The historical publication Timeline has a look at the segregation that affected the widows of soldiers killed in World War One as they traveled to visit their sons’ graves in France:

Strawther was to be among the first group of nearly 7,000 women making the Gold Star pilgrimages over the course of three years. But shortly after she arrived in New York, she declined to take the next step of the journey — the War Department required black mothers and widows to travel on freight ships instead of the luxury liners the white travelers were boarding, and their accommodations in Paris would also be segregated. In New York, white women were already staying in expensive hotels while black women slept in Harlem’s YWCA.

“I am not going to France,” Strawther wrote to a prominent member of the NAACP, adding, “I do not want to be a disgrace to my son and the race.”

In some ways, the segregation was not a surprise given the segregated army structure and the fact that the American Gold Star Mothers did not grant membership to black women, but it was no less insulting.

By late May, 55 black women had signed a letter drafted by NAACP officials in which they pledged to refuse the trip rather than submit to segregation. “Twelve years after the Armistice, the high principles of 1918 seem to have been forgotten,” it read. “We who gave and who are colored are insulted by the implication that we are not fit persons to travel with other bereaved ones.”

Go to Timeline to read the whole story.

The Columbia Journalism Review has a breathtaking 7,000 word oral history of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the newsroom.

— The Washington Post has a moving look at the New Zealand war reporter Kate Webb, the first reporter on the scene at the Viet Cong invasion of the Embassy and a pioneering female war reporter during the Vietnam War:

After her death, a Straits Times reporter who had met Webb in 1970 recalled a speech she had given years later, looking back on her life.

“People always think I must be so tough to survive all this,” he recalled her saying. “But I’m a real softy. Maybe that’s what it takes — you have to be soft to survive. Hard people shatter.”

For more, go to the Washington Post.

— Finally, the Atlantic has a brilliant piece looking at the role that local libraries can play in reviving community journalism.


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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