NC Legislature Tries to Bust Farm Workers Union – WaPo Union Pushes Back Against Bezos – Atlanta Public Workers Win $15 an Hour


Its Payday! Greetings from the farm in Goshen, Ky., where the baby turkeys seem to be adjusting to their new settings.

Atlanta Votes to Pay Its Workers $15 an Hour

This week’s Payday goes out to public workers in the city of Atlanta. Last week, the City Council of Atlanta voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage of all public employees to $15 an hour.

The wage increase is expected to affect more than 1,000 public employees in the city of Atlanta. Starting on July 1, workers will see their wages increase from $10.10 an hour to $13 an hour, then to $14 in 2019, and finally will achieve $15 in 2020.

“The fight for $15 came to Atlanta through our organization, supporting fast food workers fighting for a livable wage,” Shannan Reaze, the executive director of Atlanta Jobs With Justice, told Atlanta NPR Affiliate WABE. “The courage of those workers told us that Georgia workers everywhere were ready for $15.”

North Carolina Moves to Crack Down on Farm Workers Union

In May, Payday covered how the Farm Labor Organizing Committee helped a group of workers win a $60,000 settlement against an abusive employer.

Now, the North Carolina State House has passed an amendment attached to the Farm Act that would limit the ability of FLOC to operate.

The amendment would prohibit the farmworkers union from directly deducting dues from workers’ paychecks. It would also prohibit farms from settling wage and hour complaints by agreeing to union contracts.

The union, which represents over 10,000 dues-paying members in the state, says that the provision prohibiting dues checkoff would cripple their union.

“These grower-politicians have no shame. They don’t want their workers to organize so instead of raising wages and improving benefits, they are trying to make it illegal” FLOC Vice President Justin Flores told Payday. “This is both bad policy and an unethical move by grower-politicians aimed at keeping their own worker’s wages down”.

Supreme Court Ruling Helps Volkswagen Workers in Chattanooga

In December 2015, 160 skilled maintenance workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga voted to unionize with UAW Local 42 by a margin of 108-44.

However, for the last year and a half, Volkswagen has refused to bargain with the workers despite orders from the National Labor Relations Board to do so.

Volkswagen has instead sued the NLRB in the D.C. Court of Appeals, claiming that the Obama-era rules that allow workers to unionize sections of a workplace instead of the whole workplace are unlawful.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case involving Macy’s Department store, thus giving Volkswagen workers hope that ultimately the rule established by Obama will stand.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to not wade into this issue reinforces that these bargaining units are appropriate,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in a statement. “We renew our call for Volkswagen to drop its frivolous appeal and meet employees at the bargaining table in Chattanooga.”

Union Organizer Turned Tuscaloosa Mayor Flirting With Alabama Governor Race

Earlier this year, the governor of Alabama resigned amid a scandal involving the misuse of state funds for personal purposes. In the past two years, the governor, the speaker of the House, and the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court have all been forced to leave their positions under the cloud of scandal.

With several other top Republicans also embroiled in scandals, some Democrats in the state hope they can flip the Alabama Governor’s Mansion back to a Democrat for the first time since 2003.

Now, 44-year-old Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has started an exploratory committee about running for the governorship. Prior to being elected mayor of the 90,000-person city in 2005, Maddox served as the field director of the Alabama Education Association.

“While many have urged me to change parties for the sake of political convenience, that would be dishonest—dishonest with you, dishonest with myself,” Maddox said in announcing his exploratory committee. “We don’t need any more dishonesty.”

WaPo Union Pushed Back Against Bezos on Social Media Policy

Yesterday, hundreds of New York Times reporters engaged in a 15-minute-long walkout to show solidarity with copy editors threatened by layoffs.

Now, workers at the Washington Post are also up in arms about a restrictive social media policy that was unilaterally imposed by their owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

“All employees are told to refrain from using social media while at work unless authorized to use social media on the Post’s behalf,”  Washington Post Union Co-Chair Freddy Kunkle wrote on Facebook. “It forbids any employee from disparaging any Post advertiser, subscriber or vendor; and it’s vague about who will decide what’s offensive, obscene or out of line.”

“The Post also refused to negotiate over it, even though the policy is, in effect, a new condition of employment that affects everyone,” says Kunkle.  “A Post employee might have nothing to do with covering a political campaign or selling ads to a certain company, but that employee could face suspension or lose his or her job by posting something that was seen as politically biased or harmful to an advertiser.”

(Full Disclosure: Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk is a proud member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which also represents workers at the Post.)

Help Kickass Labor Folk Band Fundraise

Folks, our good friends in the Shelby Bottom Duo have just created an amazing new song about Nashville hot chicken, which has been dubbed the song of the annual Hot Chicken Festival on the 4th of July in East Park in East Nashville.

They are trying to raise a few bucks and we here at Payday would sure appreciate if you could help them out. Donate here.

Weekend Reads

Huffington Post has a breakdown of an epic FOIA win by Prison Legal News. Prison Legal News, a Florida-based magazine that reports on issues involving jails, prisons, and criminal justice, won a major 14-year Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, receiving more than 10,000 documents and $420,000 for its troubles.

Slate recalls the history of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Va., where statues to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were hallmarks of the city’s design and planning:

The statues of Jackson and Lee not only symbolize the violence of the ongoing displacements of gentrification; they also initiated and facilitated these changes when they were first put up. Strategically erecting these symbols of the Confederacy at the edges of or atop black and nonwhite immigrant communities provided Charlottesville’s white elite with a means of physically buttressing their ever-fragile hold of white supremacy. To understand this is to understand Charlottesville’s demographic population shifts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries and how the statues physically bisect those gentrifying spaces.

Lee’s statue was unveiled before thousands of attendees on May 21, 1924, during a two-day gathering of the Sons of the Confederacy at which the city also saw KKK agitation. With the University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman giving the statue’s dedication before several Confederate memorial groups, the ceremony represented a partnership between the state university and national organizations of the Confederacy in the monumentalization of the Lost Cause.

— Occasional Payday handyman Paul Blest, writing for The Outline, tells of the story of Jaqwan Terry and Maurice Harden, two brothers killed three years apart by the Raleigh, N.C., Police Department.

Harden and his friend, Trindell Thomas, 21, had been killed at approximately 3:06 that morning. A Raleigh police officer named Jonathan Crews, in pursuit of a speeding vehicle, clipped the scooter Harden was driving with Thomas on the back at 70 miles an hour, as they were turning into a friend’s driveway. They both died at the scene.

Harden’s death particularly affected his brother, Jaqwan Terry. They were close, and Terry told friends that he should have been there to “protect” his younger brother. “After [Maurice] passed, it really messed up his mind,” says Seneca Clark, the mother of Terry’s young daughter. “He talked about him pretty much every day.”

Three years later, Jaqwan would be dead, too, shot and killed by the Raleigh police.

Reveal looks at how the Trump Administration is putting shipbuilders and construction workers’ health at risk by lessening rules regarding beryllium, a widely used mineral that can cause lung disease.

Mike Elk is a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild and is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO and has written for the New York Times. He also writes the Guardian.

Follow him on Twitter @MikeElk or email him: [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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