Tenn. House Speaker Framed Black Activist – Boeing Union Activists Fired – Oregon Teachers Strike May 8th

Evidence has emerged that Tenn. Speaker of the House altered evidence to have activist Justin Jones arrested (The Tennessean)

Folks, Greetings from the Burgh, where the Buccos are back in town after ending an 8 game losing streak following a 2 game sweep of the Rangers in Texas. Hopefully, they keep the momentum going against the A’s this weekend.

But first, it sounds like things are heating up back down in Tennessee.

Report: Tenn. Speaker of the House May Have Altered Evidence to Frame Black Activist

In February, a Black Lives Matter activist Justin Jones was arrested while protesting the refusal of Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to remove a bust of KKK Founder Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee State Capitol. Later, Jones was released on bond on the condition that he have no further contact with Casada.

Casada’s office then forwarded emails to police saying that Jones wanted to come to the State Capitol to meet with Casada after the bond was issued; indicating that Jones intended to violate the terms of his bail.

Now, new evidence has emerged that Casada’s Chief of Staff Cade Cothern may have altered the email, which was originally sent on February 25th to show that the emails were sent March 1st. Casada has claimed that he received the emails late due to a security glitch, but Jones has cried foul.

“It was a shock because it was my freedom,” Jones told Nashville’s NewsChannel5. “If this would have went through to revoke my bond, I would be in jail right now until my court date. So this is not something I take lightly.”

House Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and to preserve all emails and communication in the matter immediately.

Texts Show Aide Accused of Framing Jones Sent Racist Messages

Following the accusation of evidence tampering against the Tenn., Speaker of the House Casada is a series of racist text messages from Casada’s chief of staff Cade Cothern obtained by Nashville’s NewsChannel5.

In one text message, Casada’s Chief of Staff Cothern says “black people are idiots.”

In another set of text messages, Cothern says that if an acquaintance refers to Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston that he must be referred to as a  “thug n***er.”

Another text message uses a meme of Samuel Jackson playing the house servant, who snitches on resistant slaves in the movie “Django Unchained” to refer negatively to the intelligence of African Americans.

For more, see NewsChannel5.

Boeing Fired Union Activists at Troubled North Charleston Plant

Last month, the New York Times released a far-reaching investigation that showed severe problems caused by the refusal of Boeing to transfer qualified union members from their unionized plant in Seattle to their non-union plant in North Charleston.

Now, new evidence unearthed by the Guardian’s Michael Sainato shows that Boeing has retaliated against union activists at the plant:

Richard Mester worked for Boeing in South Carolina as a flight safety inspector for five years before being suddenly fired – along with two other employees – in November 2018 for allegedly failing to report a bird strike. However, the bad news also came shortly after the company was told Mester had been elected a union steward.

“I have 30 years’ experience as an engine guy, so I was taken back by it because I don’t miss bird strikes,” Mester told the Guardian.

An air force veteran, Mester had just bought a house and had two daughters in college when he was terminated. Mester and his colleagues have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging there was no bird strike at all, but rather that this is an excuse to fire workers involved in unionization efforts.

For more, go to the Guardian.

Epic Aldi’s Grocery Run Financed by Sudden $65 worth of Small Donations

Speaking of the Guardian looks like my freelance check from them won’t arrive till next Thursday, so I’m a tad tight on cash.

I wanna thank all my readers last night, who donated $65 so we could do a much bigger grocery run than expected. You guys are truly awesome.

As always, its Payday for a lot of folks, but for freelancers like me, Paydays are not so predictable.  Pass the hat. Donate here.

Please also become a recurring donor that helps the most.

Oregon Teachers to Strike on May 8th

Next Wednesday, teachers in Oregon will go out on strike to demand that the state legislature add $2 billion in education funding.

Yesterday, in an effort to avert the strike, a bill has passed in the  State House that would increase legislative funding by $2 billion. Now, the bill must pass the state Senate and be signed by the Governor.

Teachers say that no matter what happens, they intend to go out on strike to draw attention to the power of teachers. All the major school districts have already agreed to close schools to accommodate the teachers.

Sacramento Teachers to Go on Second Strike on May 22nd

On April 11th, teachers in Sacramento went out on strike to draw attention to their plight. The strike comes as the city’s school faces a $35 million deficit and the possibility of a state takeover.

The teachers are striking because they claim that the district is using the money saved by concessions forced on teachers to reduce class sizes. Now, the teachers want to go out on strike to prove that they are serious.

“They’ve ignored the main reason that we even had the strike which was to have the district honor the contract and the promises they made for students,” Sacramento Teachers union President David Fisher told Capital Public Radio

While most states’ strike has been for limited times, teachers in Sacramento are planning to go out on a second strike on May 22nd.

AFL-CIO Vice President Suspended Over $117 Strip Club Receipt Submitted for Reimbursement

A potential constitutional crisis is brewing at the AFL-CIO as dissidents increasingly become upset with what they see as the old guard regime of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

This week, AFL-CIO President suspended AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre from his duties as Executive Vice President after Gebre attempted to submit a $117 receipt from a strip club in Miami for reimbursement. After AFL-CIO staff flagged the receipt reimbursement, Gebre withdrew the receipt.

Gebere has protested the decision saying that the constitution doesn’t allow the AFL-CIO President to unilaterally suspend an officer without first an investigation by the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

“The basis for this action is a single receipt for $117.70 that was erroneously submitted to the AFL-CIO (not by me) and then withdrawn, without payment, once the error was discovered,” Gebre wrote to the 55-member AFL-CIO executive council in a letter obtained by Splinter  “The AFL-CIO Constitution does not provide the President any legal authority to unilaterally remove me or any other officer from their elected position, even temporarily and with or without pay.”

Gebre has demanded reinstatement and apology from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The AFL-CIO Executive Council is expected to meet on Monday to address the matter.

Flight Attendants Union President Signal Run for AFL-CIO President

In 2021, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will be up for re-election at which time he will be 71 years old. Observers widely expect him to retire with many expecting 49-year-old AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to run against him.

While Shuler would be the first female President of the AFL-CIO, many worry that Shuler, who comes out of the IBEW, which opposes the Green New Deal, represents the old guard of organized labor.

Now, 46-year-old American Flight Association President Sara Nelson, who became a labor folk hero in January when she called for a general strike to end the shutdown, has signaled in an to many she is moving to run for AFL-CIO President.

Nelson, unlike Shuler, favors the Green New Deal and has sought to ally herself with some of the more progressive elements within organized labor including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who many expect will forgo a run to back Nelson.

Nelson Would Need to Light a Grassroots Insurrection To Win

In an exclusive interview with Splinter News’ Hamilton Nolan, Nelson laid out what she would need to do to win:

Some people would say that the election of the AFL-CIO president is decided by ten people in a board room. But I think that if you just look at presidential politics, and you look at the decisions that unions are making to ensure that the process of endorsing a presidential candidate is transparent and directly tied to the workers on the front line—if you follow through that thinking, and the recognition from union leadership that they must have a process that engages members in determining who our leaders are going to be, that whole shift in decision-making leads to a place where the members could actually decide who the president of the AFL-CIO is.

If that paradigm shift happens, I would say yes, I have support from the major unions, because I have support from the local leadership of those unions.

I think the leadership understands the necessity of reflecting the grassroots. If you look around the table [in the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council], the table does not look like the grassroots

Read the rest of the interview here.

76% of New Union Members are Under the Age of 35

The AFL-CIO hasn’t had a President under the age of 60 since 1982. Current AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has expressed ambivalence about the Green New Deal, will be 70 this year.

A younger face leading organized labor could help the labor movement continue to make gains among the fastest growing part of the economy that is unionized: people under the age of 35.

In 2017, the labor movement gained 200,000 new members with 76% of them being under the age of 35.

With young teachers and journalists leading the way in unexpected gains for the labor movement in the past few years; With many young people galvanized by the Great Recession, many have wondered what a new more youthful face for the labor movement could do for driving even more rapid gains.

Victims of Massive ICE Raid in Tenn Could Receive Millions of Backpay

Last year, ICE conducted a massive raid detaining 97 immigrants, 86 of whom were undocumented, working at the Southeastern Provision plant in Eastern Tennessee.  

Now, in an unusual move, the federal government is suing the owner of the plant for backpay on behalf of 151 workers employed at the plant will be winning millions in back pay from the owner of the plant.

“Mr. Brantley is finally being held accountable after years of violating labor laws — failing to pay his employees what they had earned and failing to provide even the most basic safety protections,” Stephanie Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.  “When employers and the government hold the threat of deportation above workers’ heads, they are less likely to report such violations. The administration should immediately end their practice of worksite raids which enable bad actors like Brantley to flagrantly defy labor laws.”

Even if deported the workers will still be eligible for back pay.

Black Farmers Sue Over Being Sold Fake Seeds

A group of African-American farmers are suing Stine Seeds for selling them defective Stine Seeds. The farmers say that they were intentionally sold defective seeds at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in March 2017.

The farmers allege that they were sold defective seeds so that white farmers could swoop in and buy up their lands.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” President of Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Thomas Burrell told WMC5 in Memphis. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed, and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans, and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

Only 16,000 Black Farmers Left in the US

The Guardian has a long look this week at why the number of black farmers in the US has plummeted:

The number of black farmers in America peaked in 1920, when there were 949,889. Today, of the country’s 3.4 million total farmers, only 1.3%, or 45,508, are black, according to new figures from the US Department of Agriculture released this month. They own a mere 0.52% of America’s farmland. By comparison, 95% of US farmers are white.

The black farmers who have managed to hold on to their farms eke out a living today. They make less than $40,000 annually, compared with over $190,000 by white farmers, which is probably because their average acreage is about one-quarter that of white farmers.

As a fourth-generation farmer, Boyd has witnessed other black farmers do the same thing he’s done: claw at the dirt in an attempt to hold on to it. And Boyd has devoted himself to helping other black farmers, always remembering the words he heard his grandfather Thomas mumble over and over: “The land don’t know color. The land never mistreated me, people do.”

For more, Go to the Guardian.

Weekend Reads

Over at Mujerista, Christine Bolaños has a moving profile of Justice for Migrant Women Founder Mónica Ramírez:

Fueled with a desire to seek justice for migrant workers and equipped with the knowledge her education afforded her, Ramírez decided to take action. Today, she is most known for her authorship of the “Dear Sisters” letter published in TIME that helped spark the Time’s Up Movement. She has, however, had a multi-decade history of work fighting for the civil and human rights of children, women, workers, Latinxs, and immigrants.

In 2013, she created the first legal project in the United States dedicated to addressing gender discrimination against farmworker women that culminated in the creation of Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

She founded Justice for Migrant Women and co-founded Alianza Nacional de Campesinos and served as the organization’s board president until 2018. She wrote the now-viral “Dear Sisters” letter in that capacity from the perspective of migrant women directed at women in the entertainment industry.

Justice for Migrant Women provides a new model for addressing and advancing migrant women’s rights and justice. At the heart of that model is a commitment to ensuring all migrant women are guaranteed their civil rights, including the freedom to work free of sexual harassment, to live and work with dignity and be free of threats both against themselves and their families. The organization achieves this mission through numerous educational initiatives, raising public awareness, and advocating for the rights of migrant women.

Over at HuffPost, our friend Daniel Marans has a look at how a group of corporate Democrat African-American aligned with Trump supporting Delegates defeated a progressive candidate for speaker of the Maryland House of Delegate:

At one point in the contest, however, efforts to rally black support behind Davis reportedly took an ugly turn. On Monday, Del. Regina Boyce (D), a McIntosh supporter, announced her resignation from the Legislative Black Caucus on the grounds that weeks earlier, Legislative Black Caucus Chair Del. Darryl Barnes (D) warned the caucus that by electing McIntosh, “We are going to let a white lesbian be the speaker of the House.” Barnes denied making the comment, but at least two other black lawmakers who were present corroborated Boyce’s account.

Jones’ victory seemed to provide some satisfaction to all sides with even McIntosh allies noting the historic importance of her ascent.

“Someone pointed out from the House floor, looking around at all the white men looking down at us [in picture frames] from the walls, that that would no longer be the case,” Hettleman said. “That’s a really important thing.”

For more, go to HuffPost.

Over at the New York Times Magazine fellow Woodland Hills alumni LaToya Ruby Frazier and Dan Kaufman, a Payday supporter, have an excellent photo essay on  what’s happened in Lordstown since the plant has closed:

“Management walks in 15 minutes late,” Green recalled, “and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to unallocate the plant’ — that was it.”

Green had never heard the term before, but he soon found out that it meant his members would no longer have a car to build. The Cruze was finished, and G.M. had no plans to make anything else at Lordstown. Green followed the managers to the production floor, where they shut down the assembly line before repeating the same brief message to more than a thousand workers. “Some people started crying, and some people turned white as a ghost and looked like they were going to throw up,” Green said. “It felt like, ‘Oh, the end is coming.’ ”

For more go to the New York Times Magazine.

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing over 1,800 stories from 46 states, Elk was the only American reporter in the room with Lula on the morning of the election & traveled with him to the Oval Office. 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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