Thanks for Helping Me Connect to My Past in Brazil & See Payday’s Future

Lula campaigns in Minas Gerias, a key battleground in the Brazilian Presidential Election (Ricardo Stuckert)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRASIL – As a labor reporter, I have written over 1,700 stories from 44 states. While the struggles are different and have their unique elements, the stories of workers’ struggles in the U.S. are often remarkably similar.

Yet the past two months in Brazil have challenged me like no assignment has ever challenged me. I’ve had to speak in Portuguese, something which I studied 15 years ago while studying in Brazil. I’ve gotten robbed, food poisoning, but I’ve grown a lot. I’ve begun to think differently about how people organize in settings that are very different from the U.S

(Check out our full list of over 20 dispatches from Brazil.)

The past two months here have led me to reflect a good deal and connect with my past. Nearly 15 years ago, I studied community journalism here in Brazil. For years, I would recall what one of my journalism professors here told me, saying that good journalism was “community therapy.” 

Walking around PUC Rio’s campus, I found myself thinking about that journalism course and how I had applied those lessons about the need for an independent media movement in my work founding Payday Report. Thinking of myself in those years made me reflect on how much I had built in the independent media movement with Payday. It also gave me the confidence to continue helping build independent media institutions in the next few years. 

Being here in Brazil also got me thinking about the future. While trade unionists in Brazil are very familiar with American politics, most Americans know hardly anything about Brazil. Many readers approached me and told me they wouldn’t have paid attention to the election here in Brazil if it wasn’t for our coverage. 

As a result, I have decided to take Payday in a more international direction. We will cover more stories overseas and help connect labor movements. I’m also in the early stages of a book about Lula and Brazilian-American solidarity. 

With all that said, I just want to thank the readers for helping to support our work these past two months in Brazil. It’s helped me connect with my past and imagine a new future for Payday. 

Thank yinz so much! 


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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