UAW Launches 3rd Union Attempt at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen Plant – Sáo Paulo Transit Workers Strike Largest City in Latin America – Black Actors Praise SAG-AFTRA Hair & Makeup Requirements

Workers rally to support unionization attempts during a failed union drive in 2019. (Chattanooga Labor Council)

Greetings from the Burgh, where its been a very busy day as Payday prepares to go to Brazil to finish our documentary on the Landless Workers Movement 

Help Us Finish Documentary on the Landless Workers Movement 

For nearly 40 years, the Brazilian Landless Workers (MST) movement has used land occupations to help over 400,000 families gain the right to farmland.

Using agrarian reform provisions of the 1988 Brazilian constitution that “property should serve its social function”, the MST has engaged in long legal and political battles to win the right to occupy farms.

Despite often facing deadly violence from landowners, the MST is the largest producer of organic rice in all of Latin America. They have a network of stores and produce patterns around the country.

In August, I spent a week on a Landless Workers Movement settlement named after slain Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco, who I studied with in college at PUC-Rio de Janeiro in the mid 2000s. Now, I am going to finish filming some scenes in Rio. 

As a result of a grant from Illumine Service Foundation, I was able to afford a plane ticket. Now, we just need to raise money to cover expenses while we are out on the road. 

Donate today to help us finish the documentary on the Landless Workers Movement 

Sáo Paulo Transit Workers Strike Largest City in Latin America

While in Brazil, we will also be covering a growing strike movement against the privatization of public transit in  Sao Paulo, the largest city in Latin America. 

This week, tens of thousands of transit and water workers struck against the plans to privatize public transit proposed by Sáo Paulo state Gov. Tarcísio de Freitas, a Bolsonaro ally. He has pledged to crack down on unions that are striking and has pledged not to falter in his plans to privatize in Sáo Paulo. 

From the AP: 

Camila Lisboa, president of the Sao Paulo Subway Workers Union, which opposes privatization, lamented “authoritarian statements that do not consider the right to strike.” Lisboa claimed that privatization would lead to more expensive fares and poor service — a position also embraced by part of the opposition.

A court decision had said minimum service should be maintained during the strike, but that requirement was not respected, Sao Paulo state’s press department said.

Passengers faced long delays Tuesday. Two subway and train lines stopped working.

Federal lawmaker Sâmia Bomfim, of the leftwing PSOL party, warned of privatization, citing the recent blackout in Sao Paulo that plunged the city into the dark for several days. She blamed power distribution company Enel, one of three companies providing electricity in Sao Paulo.

“The population goes without electricity for days because ENEL (privatized) thought only of profit, fired thousands of employees, and ended up not serving (Sao Paulo) when we needed it most,” Bonfim said on X, formerly Twitter.

For more, check out the AP. 

UAW Launches 3rd Effort to Unionize Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant 

In 2014, the UAW narrowly lost a bitter union election at Volkswagen by a margin of 626-712. (See my on-the-ground report “The Battle for Chattanooga; Toxic Masculinity, Ableism, and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen”). 

Five years later in 2019, the UAW lost again by a margin of 776-833. Now, the UAW is going to try again. 

The announcement came from UAW President Shawn Fain as part of a broader organizing push to target foreign transplant auto plants in the US South. 

“Since we began our Stand Up Strike, the response from autoworkers at non-union companies has been overwhelming,” Fain said in a new video. “​​Workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially in the South, are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.”   

Already, Volkswagen’s management has responded by raising wages at its plant in Chattanooga by 11%. 

For more on the decade long fight to unionize Volkswagen in Chattanooga, check out this half-hour episode on NPR. 

Well Fargo Workers Unionize in Alaska 

In Bethel, Alaska, a group of 5 Wells Fargo workers are becoming the first Wells Fargo workers in the US; organizing with Wells Fargo Workers United, an affiliate of the CWA. 

The city is extremely expensive to live in with the average rent costing $2,000-a-month.  Workers say that they don’t have enough money to live there. 

“Wells Fargo earns profits worth billions of dollars every year, they can afford to pay us better,”Walker Sexton told the Anchorage Daily News. “I work two jobs because Bethel is super expensive to live in.”

For more, check out the Anchorage Daily News. 

Black Actors Praise SAG-AFTRA’s New Hair and Makeup Requitements 

Finally, Black actors are praising new provisions in the SAG-AFTRA tentative agreement that provide for culturally sensitive hair and make up requirements for Black actors. From Black Enterprise: 

Details into SAG-AFTRA’s recently reached deal with Hollywood studios reveal the new provisions for hair and makeup that will greatly benefit actors with more textured hair who have faced discrimination in the past. As part of the new contract, principal performers or those who have speaking roles will be able to consult with production about their hair and makeup needs ahead of filming, Rolling Stone reports.

If production is unable to meet their requirements, the actor will receive compensation for seeking outside help that will cover a minimum of two hours Czech Labor Unions Stage a Day of Action in Protest at Spending Cuts and Taxesin the styling chair. Actors and stylists are praising the new provision that addresses industry discrimination that historically underserved and damaged textured hair.

“You can tell the minute somebody touches your head whether they know what to do with it,” Linda Powell, the SAG-AFTRA national executive vice president said.

For more, check out Black Enterprise. 

Strikes & News Happening Elsewhere

Alright yinz, that’s all for today. Keeping sending tips, story ideas, email and comments to [email protected] 

Donate to help us finish our documentary on the Landless Workers Movement. Please, if you can sign up, as one of our 763 recurring donors. Thanks again for all of the support. 

Love & Solidarity, 

Melk

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]