Ricketts Drops $1 Million on #PA18 – Nissan Union Leader to Run for Office – Doug Jones Appoints Senate Democrats’ Only African American Chief of Staff

Billionaire Chicago Cubs owner has pumped $1 million into defeating Democrat Conor Lamb in the #PA18 Special Election

It’s Payday, folks! Greeting from the hills of the Southwestern Pennsylvania, where the dark money is flooding in to stop workers from flipping the #PA18 district.

#PA18 Shaping Up To Be Test of Trump’s Support in Rust Belt

If Dems lose the March 13th #PA18 special election, Republicans in Congress will likely write off Democratic victories in Virginia win to shifting demographics and the Democratic victory in Alabama’s Senate race to the pedophilia of  Roy Moore.

A win in #PA18, where 76,000 voters are union members, would be a validation that Trump’s base of blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt is standing firmly behind him.

A lose for Republican in the #Pa18 election would likely stall Trump’s agenda including attempts to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to offset the revenue cuts of Trump’s tax bill.

Corporate money forces intend to spend heavily in the district to prevent Trump’s agenda from stalling.

Joe Ricketts Pours $1 Million Into TV AD Buy for #PA18 Special Election

On Thursday, the Ending Spending Super Pac backed by billionaire Chicago Cubs owners Joe Ricketts, who fired 115 reporters at Gothamist and DNAInfo after they unionized in November, announced a $1 million ad buy in the #Pa18 Special Election.

The ads were designed to promote Rick Saccone, the anti-union Republican, who is running against Democrat Conor Lamb.

(Read Payday’s 7,000 word longform on  the growing sense of momentum among organized labor for taking back the seat). 

Paul Ryan’s Super PAC Opens Two Offices in #PA18 & Hires Paid Canvassers

The Super PACs aren’t just spending money on TV they also intend to spend money on paid canvassers.

On Thursday, Cox Media Reporter Dorey Scheimer, a native of the district herself, reported for local TV station WPXI that Speaker Paul Ryan’s Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), is investing heavily in Saccone’s ground game.

According to WPXI, CLF intends to open two campaign offices in the district and hire over 50 canvassers to go door-to-door to turn out the vote for the Republican Saccone. CLF intends to knock on over 250,000 doors in the district.

In a bellwether Georgia special election last year,  the CLF raised more than $7 million dollars to knock on over 300,000 doors.

Payday Raises $280 in 5 Days to Cover #PA18 Election

Meanwhile, Payday continues to raise money $20 at a time off from working folks in order to expose the dark money that is flooding into Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk’s native Westmoreland County.

More than that, we want to tell the story of how people I grew up with intend to fight back and change the national narrative about what’s possible in Appalachian Rust Belt. A win could set the framework for how organizers across the nation can win in similar bombed-out, deindustrialized districts.

We don’t have big corporate backers like Joe Ricketts or Paul Ryan, but we have regular folks on our side, who helped us raise $35,714 last year to cover a lot of important stories. (see a full list of the impact we had here).

Some of you gave us well over $500 through multiple contributions, and we are going to have to go to the well once again.

So far this week, we raised $280. If 12 people pitch in $25, we will double that amount today.

Please, donate today

Nissan Union Leader to Run for Mississippi State House

Last August, Payday Report interviewed Morris Mock, an African American Nissan union leader in Canton, Mississippi.

Now, Mock is running in a special election to fill a vacant Mississippi State House District 60 seat. The seat was previously held by a Republican.

However, in special elections in Mississippi, candidates do not run with party labels. With a strong network of Nissan union and community activists behind him, Mock may have the juice to pull off an upset in the district.

A win by Mock would almost certainly provide a boost of confidence to workers in their 14-year-long quest to organize Nissan following their defeat last August.

The election is set for February 22nd.

ICE to Increase Raids on Tennessee Job Sites

In a startling move, ICE has announced that they plan to increase raids on job sites in Tennessee in 2018. Beginning with the Clinton Administration in 2000 and continuing through the Bush and Obama Administration, job site raids had almost ceased as a result of protests from both industry and worker groups.  

However, the Trump Administration now plans to step up raids on job sites, thus presenting new dangers for undocumented workers.

The NewsGuild-represented Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story:

The federal government plans to increase job site immigration enforcement actions across Tennessee in 2018, said Robert Hammer, a high-ranking enforcement official.

Workplace immigration investigations will likely focus on “critical infrastructure,” such as airports, defense contractors, food distribution and other businesses that have an impact on the general safety and welfare of the community, he said.

Hammer is assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI.  HSI is a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Hammer oversees HSI operations in Tennessee and spoke with The Commercial Appeal in a recent interview.

He said federal immigration agents are increasing the focus on employment in Tennessee based on orders from Thomas D. Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Trump.

“He has tasked us to increase our focus on work site enforcement.”

Workers’ Right Ordinance Passes Nashville Metro Council

In May, Payday broke the story of how Sergio Gutierrez, a 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, was electrocuted to death while working on a construction site.

After Payday’s investigation of Gutierrez’s death spotlighted Nashville’s safety record for a national audience, the local corporate press in Nashville began writing stories highlighting workplace safety issues and the need for workplace safety.

Workers’ rights groups began to criticize the Mayor’s office for not doing more to ensure safety standards on construction sites in the city that were funded by public tax dollars.  Payday showed a national audience how the Mayor’s office refused to speak about the death.  

Now this week, despite opposition from the Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Metro City Council passed the final version of the “Do Better” bill, which would require a standardized report card judging a contractor’s workers’ rights record for Nashville Metro’s 40 city council members to use when voting on who should get a contract.

“Simply by asking questions on the front end of these projects, we can get companies thinking about community benefits and how we can do better for Nashville and our workforce,” said Nashville Metro Councilman Anthony Davis, the lead sponsor of the bill. “I think this is an important first step in making sure economic development incentives are transparent and their benefits are clear to the public.”

Coal Mines Death Double Under Trump

Under President Obama, coal mining deaths hit a record low of 8 in 2016.

However, in an ominous sign of things to come under Trump, coal mining deaths nearly doubled under President Trump, rising to 15 in 2017.

The increase in coal mining deaths comes as the Trump Administration is proposing to cut the budget of the Mine Health Safety Administration and is pushing to roll back Obama-era workplace safety regulations.

Doug Jones to Hire African American Chief of Staff

Last month, Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk reported in the Guardian that Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who hails from a Steelworkers union family,  intended to hire a full-time labor liaison to help organized labor in the state.

Now, Jones has announced that he will also hire an African-American Chief of Staff, Dana Gresham. Gresham previously served as legislative director for Northern Alabama Congressman Bud Cramer, who retired in 2010.

In addition to hiring Gresham, Jones will also hire Sonceria Ann Bishop-Berry to advise his transition, thus putting two key African American in top roles.

Gresham will be the only African American Chief of Staff serving a Democratic member of the Senate. Republicans Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jerry Moran of Kansas both have African American Chief of Staffs.

The moves comes after 17 organizations including the NAACP, National Urban League, and National Association of Latino Elected Officials urged Jones to appoint people of color to top positions on his Senate staff.

Trailblazing Economic Policy Institute Leader Larry Mishel Retires

Finally, Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel, a friend of Payday’s,  has retired after nearly 30 years at the trailblazing think tank in Washington, D.C. 

Dave Dayen at the Intercept has a fitting tribute to Brother Larry’s influence on policy debates:

“The liberal position was represented by the Brookings Institution,” Mishel told The Intercept, “which at the time was very free trade uber alles, hostile to industrial policy, not interested in workers and unions. The debate was between Brookings on the left, and [the American Enterprise Institute] and the Heritage Foundation on the right.”

And then there was the Economic Policy Institute, a new think tank designed to fill the ideological gap and shift America’s economic debate to the left. In 1987, Mishel joined EPI as a research director, later becoming vice president and eventually president in 2002. As his thirtieth year at EPI winds down, Mishel gets to see the Democratic Party finally move closer to the positions the think tank has always had. Now, he is stepping aside.

“The hallmark has been to center that an economy is only working if it’s working for the benefit of the vast majority,” Mishel said. “We hammered that every day.”

Mishel, who will stay on as a senior economist, hands off EPI this week to new leader Thea Lee, who came over from the labor union AFL-CIO. Both Lee and her new vice president, John Schmitt, got their start as economists at EPI, along with such stars of the progressive economic firmament as Dean Baker, Heather Boushey, and Jared Bernstein. The roster of alumni shows how Mishel and EPI built a home for the left to navigate Washington amid Blue Dogs, New Democrats, and Third Way centrists, ultimately outlasting them all.

EPI was a joint project of the labor movement and a half-dozen prominent liberal economists, including Jeff Faux, who became the organization’s first president and set its direction. Faux committed EPI to serious research — to this day the organization has more Ph.D. economists on staff than its counterparts on the center or left. But his ambition went beyond filling a shelf with white papers; he wanted EPI to wedge its way into the national conversation, to capture the attention of policymakers. “When I started as research director and suggested a project, Jeff would ask, ‘What is the headline?’” Mishel recalled.

Read the full story at the Intercept.

Weekend Reads

— Buzzfeed’s Sylvia O’Bell has a look at how black actors and actresses have been left out of the public debate over sexual assault:

As of today, by BuzzFeed News’ count, 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and/or harassment. Only two (Nyong’o and Lucia Evans) of the list are black, and only one of those black women is prominent enough in Hollywood for there to have been a Getty photo readily available to include with her story.

While this could be the case because no other black women were harassed by him or because he didn’t think most black women were “fuckable,” a quick lesson on the country’s deep history of racism and rape culture would point to how the stakes are higher for black actors to speak out, and because of that, many victims will choose to remain silent even when they see many other women speaking out. And if this sounds like on overzealous reach, consider that in the 88-year history of the Academy Awards — the industry’s highest honors — only 16 black actors have been awarded Oscars. In the culture of having to be twice as good, it does not take much effort to imagine that black actors are twice as likely to not be believed, are twice as expendable to most studios, and would have to work twice as hard to get back in the good graces of an industry that’s already twice as difficult for them to break into.

Read the full story here.

The Citadel, Clemson University, Furman and the University of South Carolina have all joined the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium, to examine the role of slavery in building their universities.

The Post and Courier have a look at what that process means for the universities and what that means as students push for equality on campus today.

Over at the Bitter Southerner, novelist David Joy has a long look at why the privileged so often fail to understand the lifestyles of the less fortunate:

The other day I was watching a BBC interview about poverty in Baltimore. One of the people being interviewed said something that really struck me. He looked into the camera deadpan and beaten and he said, “Desperation is a way of living.” When he said that, I couldn’t help but think, maybe it’s not just gentleness that’s a resource of the privileged. Maybe hope is a resource of the privileged, and maybe that’s what people don’t get about the kids I grew up with, about the characters I write about in my novels.

I get asked all the time why my characters aren’t hopeful. What I say again and again is this: It’s hard to be hopeful when you’re worried about your next meal, when the only thought to ever cross your mind is how you’re going to make it through the day. I grew up in a place where we drank red Kool-Aid out of old pickle jars and mayonnaise jars used for pitchers. When they took me inside their trailers and invited me to eat, we cherry-picked slices of white bread off the loaf to miss the slices mice had nibbled the corners off. The mice always ate the corners. Just the corners and wasted the rest. Even then it seemed so cruel to me, a world where that happened. I’ll never forget that. And the thing is, the kids I grew up with had it relatively easy compared to some.

I get the same kind of questions about addiction. People don’t understand what would push someone to drugs like methamphetamine or heroin. They don’t understand what would make a man drink like my grandfather. The reason they can’t understand it is because they’ve never been that low. When all you’ve got is a twenty-dollar bill, twenty dollars doesn’t ward off eviction notices. Twenty dollars doesn’t get you health insurance. Twenty dollars doesn’t make a car payment. Twenty dollars doesn’t even keep the lights on. But twenty dollars can take you right out of this world for just a little while. Just a minute. Just long enough to breathe. That’s what every single addict I’ve ever known really wanted: just a second to breathe.


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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