Tenn. Activists Wins Release of 35 Immigrants – 13 Cities in South Deny Utilities to Undocumented – Rent Strikes on the Rise

Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition activists (TIRRC)

Greetings from the historic Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where Payday senior labor reporter Mike Elk just moved into a mixed-income affordable housing community.

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Some Tennessee Immigrants Win Right to Stay Temporarily After Legal Fight

In April, the Trump administration raided a meatpacking plant in Morristown, Tenn. detaining 97 immigrant workers.

Now with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Vanderbilt University Law Clinic, the National Immigration Law Center, and Catholic Charities, activists have been able to successfully fight for the release of many of the immigrant families while they await trial.

When workers are released from immigration detention centers and able to attend full legal services, they often stand a better chance of receiving the proper legal counsel needed to fight their detention.

“Already, 35 of the 54 people who were shipped out of state and held in an immigration detention facility have been released on bond and are back home with their families. This is incredible and is a testament to the power of legal services rooted in community organizing,” said the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRCC).

However, TIRCC says that the high cost of bonds is keeping many immigrants in prison. They are asking for people to donate here.

Also, be sure to check out The New York Times long read multi-media feature “ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.”

13 Cities in the South Deny Basic Utilities to Immigrants Because of Documentation

A new analysis performed by Project South shows that 13 cities in six southern states deny basic utilities to residents. The group claims that by having utility companies demand Social Security numbers, they are scaring many undocumented workers away from seeking such services.

“It’s really hard to tell [how many people have been affected],” Project South’s legal and advocacy director Azadeh Shahshahani told ThinkProgress. “It could be thousands, it could be more than that. But, by definition, we’re talking about vulnerable communities, people without social security numbers.”

Read Project South’s complaint sent to 13 cities in the South this week.

University of Tennessee Outsourcing Push Renewed

Down the road from Morristown, Tenn., campus workers at the University of Tennessee Knoxville are preparing for a fight to outsource their jobs to a private contractor.

Last fall, the United Campus Workers union defeated the proposed outsourcing when University of Tennessee Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport declined to opt into outsourcing. However, Davenport was fired in early May, leading many to fear that a new attempt to crack down on the union would come.

Now, JLL, the firm leading the outsourcing effort, is leading a renewed effort to get university campuses to opt into the proposed outsourcing scheme.

“The first time around, JLL did not prepare customized presentations for 13 community colleges. What they are doing now is presenting customized proposals for each campus,” Tennessee Board of Regents spokesperson Rick Locker told the Nashville Post in a statement.

The United Campus Workers union said they took the measure as a sign that they will have to dig in for another fight.

“Despite wide scale rejection of the Governor’s outsourcing scheme — by the General Assembly, by the entire UT system, and most importantly by the public — there is yet again a renewed push to sell campus jobs,” UCW spokesperson Thomas Walker told the Nashville Post. “Outsourcing is still and will always be a bad deal for Tennessee’s public servants, our higher education institutions and the communities they support. … We thought the Governor got the message; he even said his administration is no longer pursuing it.”

Top New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush Hired a Lawyer to Smear Sexual Misconduct Accuser

Back in December, Payday’s senior labor reporter Mike Elk wrote about his frustrations with the investigation into The New York Times star political reporter Glenn Thrush’s sexual misconduct and the public smear campaign launched against behind closed doors in the media world. 

Now, Vox editor Laura McGann is speaking out about the smear campaign and Thrush’s attempt to use lawyers and colleagues to smear her personal life

According to McGann in an interview with Jezebel, Thrush even hired a lawyer to go after her personal life. From Jezebel:

When Thrush learned that McGann was reporting out a story about him, he hired an attorney, Tom Clare. Clare sent a letter to Vox, which suggested that the company look into McGann’s “relationships” in the newsroom at Politico, where McGann and Thrush had worked together.

“I’d urge you to ask the reporter about her own relationships in the workplace while at Politico,” wrote Clare. “[A]nd to consider what those relationships have in the motivation for (or telling of) the current article.”

McGann tells Jezebel that she took those lines to be a veiled reference to her sex life or her previous romantic relationships.

“I was shocked. Who puts that in black and white in 2017?” she says. “And certainly when we’re in the middle of a national conversation about sexual harassment and sexual misconduct and why women haven’t been able to come forward? The New York Times was leading the coverage on this question of retaliation specifically and what men who are accused of these things do to women to keep them quiet. So for me there was a sense of shock and irony.”

For more, go to Jezebel to read about how reporters at The New York Times and other outlets worked to protect a high profile figure like Thrush.

Only 4 out of 15 Major News Outlets Cooperated With Harvard Study

The journalism industry still remains disproportionately white with whites composing 83 percent of all newsroom staff at a time when only 63 percent of the U.S. is white.

News outlets are known for asking tough questions, but when Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Policy conducted an in depth diversity study only 4 out of 15 major outlets participated.

The Women’s Media Center has the story:

Of 15 newsrooms queried, just four offered up the requested information, a breakdown of their political reporting teams by race and gender: USA Today (which responded quickly and thoroughly, the report notes), The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR.  Three additional outlets — PBS NewsHour, the Los Angeles Times, and NBC — provided partial data that was different from what was requested. The majority, however, declined to share any numbers at all, a fact that’s even more surprising given that these are major outlets that undoubtedly had the resources to do so: NBC, The Wall Street Journal, CBS, BuzzFeed, ABC News, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and Time magazine. In fact, a third of the non-respondents didn’t even bother to reply to the Shorenstein Center’s requests.

“We contacted multiple people over a span of two months,” said Chideya. “Some of them were people I knew. At NBC, for example, someone said they’d give me the numbers, but then NBC Corporate made it clear that those numbers weren’t going to be forthcoming.” The study also notes that it was “difficult to get reporters and editors to talk about the issue. Often, they would do so only if they were on background or off the record.”

“If this industry is going to say we’re here to stand up to the truth,” said Chideya, “then we have to stand up to the truth that our newsrooms are hiding numbers and preventing a deeper analysis. We can’t preach the gospel of transparency and accountability and then not practice it ourselves.”

Go here to read the full story.


Weekend Reads

Over at HuffPost, Dave Jamieson has a long look at how the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas has been able to maintain so much power:

For 65 years Nevada has been a “right-to-work” state, one where union-represented workers can opt out of paying dues, even though the union is still legally obligated to bargain on their behalf. Nationally, union membership in the private sector has tumbled to a near-historic low of just 6.5 percent; the numbers tend to be most dismal in right-to-work states, where unions typically wield less power in the workplace and the statehouse.

Yet the Culinary has found a way to thrive in Nevada. The union now represents 57,000 workers at the majority of casinos and hotels on the strip and all but one casino downtown. (Its sister union, Bartenders Local 165, accounts for 3,500 of those members.) Even though the right-to-work law means none of those workers can be required to support the union through their paychecks, more than 95 percent of those workers choose to pay full union dues anyway, keeping the union on strong financial footing. That is an astounding rate by any measure.

The union just recently flexed its muscle in contract talks involving 50,000 workers at 34 properties. As the previous contracts neared their June 1 expiration date, the union held a strike authorization vote. Ninety-nine percent of workers who cast ballots authorized the union to declare a citywide strike June 1 or later if they couldn’t reach a deal with the casinos, potentially disrupting the entire local economy. The credible threat led to a breakthrough, with the two largest operators ― Caesars and MGM, which together run 18 unionized properties ― soon agreeing to five-year deals. As of publication, workers are still preparing to strike at other properties where negotiations continue.

“There’s just a real willingness to organize and to constantly be organizing,” said Ruben Garcia, an expert in labor law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Law.

Go to HuffPost to read the full story.

The Washington Post has an indepth look at why rent strikes are growing in popularity nationwide:

Areas facing gentrification are the most likely to experience such strikes, Anderson added, because their residents are keenly aware of the risk of being displaced.

Such is the case in Los Angeles, where more than 90 tenants in a complex in the Westlake neighborhood are leading what the L.A. Tenants Union has said is the biggest rent strike in that city’s history.

Residents are demanding improvements to the buildings, which, tenant organizer Trinidad Ruiz said, have been beset with roaches, rats, bedbugs, security problems, mold, plumbing problems including sewage leaks, and more. But tenants are also protesting rent increases, which, according to the L.A. Tenants Union, have inflated rents by about 30 percent since the start of 2017, forcing tenants to pay as much as 70 percent of their income for housing.

“There is a desperation in these situations like in L.A., which is a huge, sprawling city, but it’s seeing gentrification on a citywide scale. If these people get pushed out of their community, there isn’t a community in L.A. they can move to instead,” Ruiz said. “They’re stuck. They can’t move anywhere else because they can’t afford it. So, because they have nothing to lose, they start to fight back. And because they’re not left with many tools, they use what they have — their rent checks.”

Go to WaPo to read the full story.

— Finally, the Columbia Journalism Review has a long look at the ageism in the newsroom:

John Archibald, 55, has seen plenty of change in the Alabama newsroom where he has worked for more than three decades, but none that has run its course faster than in the last six years. In 2012, three newspapers, including The Birmingham News, where Archibald started in 1986, merged into the Alabama Media Group with a shared website, AL.com. Of the roughly 100 journalists working in the newsrooms, nearly two-thirds were laid off. Now, roughly half a dozen of those who survived remain on staff after a roster of mostly younger reporters, editors, video journalists, producers, designers, and data whizzes were hired to fill some of the vacancies.

The new company has put a premium on innovation and even entirely new brands as AL.com has steadily grown its online audience. Printed newspapers are now produced just three days a week. Projects like its series of highly produced videos of everyday Alabamians reading verses from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” have won it widespread praise.

In the wake of the upheaval, Archibald, who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his coverage of state politics, says he initially lost sleep worrying about the job he loved. “The thing that kept me awake at night was the fear of not being able to do that work,” he says. Since then, he’s mostly put those fears aside, but for mid- and late-career journalists working in American newsrooms, the anxiety is real and comes in many flavors. The changes in Alabama have been dramatic, but they are only a more pronounced expression of the same trend in most American daily newspapers. Reductions in overall headcount—and the replacement of older journalists with younger ones (who bring a native fluency to digital work) through buyouts, layoffs, or even simple attrition—have been underway for the better part of a decade. The American Society of News Editors stopped trying to estimate the number of journalists working for daily US newspapers after 2015, the year it projected fewer than 33,000 employees in daily newsrooms. That figure came down from 55,000 as recently as 2007, and while the fears of what continued cutbacks portend are shared throughout the industry, it is older journalists who are having to struggle to adapt to a field that is altogether different than the one in which they started.

For more go to CJR.


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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