Hey y’all, it’s Payday and we gotta get our trusty 2003 Dodge Neon “Judge Hanson” back on the road to West Virginia. Pass the hat and spare what you can because our travel situation is up in the air.
Greetings from the Burgh, where Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk has found himself stranded 45 minutes from the Pennsylvania- West Virginia border, working the phones frantically with his long-time labor sources deep within the Mountain State.
Payday Labor Reporting Mobile “Judge Hanson” Broken Down as We Try to Get Back to West Virginia
Folks, our handy labor-reporting mobile “The Judge Hanson” — named after Wayne Hanson, retired District Magistrate for the fishing communities around Conneaut Lake, PA — has an expired inspection sticker and needs serious mechanical work in order to pass inspection this month.
Apparently, after putting 25,000 miles all over the South and Appalachia in the car, the electric circuits on the dashboard are malfunctioning. Also, the pothole crisis in Jackson, Mississippi put a real beating on the exhaust system, which will need some patches.
Good news: the engine, made by UAW Local 2448 members in Normal, Illinois, is still going strong at 145,000 miles. The Judge Hanson has some fight left in him.
So far, we have filed 8 stories on West Virginia Teachers Strike. Helping us get the car fixed so we can get back out on the road.
(If anyone is going down to West Virginia and passing through Pittsburgh and has enough space for an air mattress, contact us: [email protected])
State Senate President Refusing to Pass Pay Raise As Strike Enters 7th Day
The West Virginia teachers’ strike appears to be going on indefinitely as State Senate President Mitch Carmichael balked at meeting the teachers’ demands.
On Thursday, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a measure increasing teachers’ pay by 5%. The money comes from revised revenue projections, which show the state earning $58 million more than expected.
However, State Senate President Mitch Carmichael says that he would prefer that the additional $58 million go towards shoring up the state’s insurance and instead proposed to give teachers and service personnel raises of 2% in the first year, 1% in the second year, and 1% in the third year. Service personnel would receive only 2% raises in first year and 1% raises in the second year.
“Certainly, we’re skeptical,” Carmichael said on the State Senate Floor Thursday. “I think all people are skeptical when we see a revised revenue estimate after a contentious meeting. So, we’re going to think of a thoughtful manner to validate these numbers”.
“But what I will say is: this surplus will, with our plan [having been] adopted, be dedicated to the PEIA reserve fund to long-term stabilize the problem,” Carmichael told the chamber.
Other Public Employees’ Union May Join the Strike in West Virginia
The West Virginia School Service Personnel Association — an independent union that represents bus drivers, clerical workers, and janitors — has played a key role in mobilizing support for the wildcat strike. Under Carmichael’s plan, service personnel plan would receive only 2% raises in the first year and 1% in the second year.
Bus drivers in many counties refused to go to work, leading schools in those counties to cancel classes. The union has vocally opposed Carmichael’s attempt to dilute the plan to increase wages to acceptable levels.
“Senate President Carmichael is wanting to strip HB 4145 and use the money for pay raises and direct it into a one time only appropriation that will only freeze PEIA (not fix it). In essence, he is wanting to only give teachers, service personnel, and state employees what they already have,” said the union in a statement.
They have also been reaching out to other state employees’ unions which may join the strike. Unlike teachers and school service personnel, who were offered a 5% raise, the union’s lower paid employees were offered only 3% — which Carmichael wants to further diminish by spreading over two years.
Sources confirm to Payday Report that other public employees’ unions in the state inspired by the action are also considering striking in solidarity with the teachers.
(Full Disclosure: Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk worked out-of-college in 2008 as a project organizer for the independent West Virginia Public Employees Union UE Local 170, which represents over a thousand public employees in the state.)
Teachers Focusing on Natural Gas Tax Increase As Public Support Builds
As the teachers bravely continue to go on a wildcat strike, it seems that public support for the union is growing.
“I was concerned that going wildcat today would dampen public support. So far, I’m not seeing it,” tweeted teacher Jonathan Williams. “People are still in our corner as we stand up for a better system for public employees”.
The key demand of the teachers is the passage of a tax increase on natural gas. This bill is adamantly opposed by the state’s natural gas industry, but supported by the state’s Democrat turned Republican Governor Jim Justice.
Students Supporting Teachers in West Virginia
As students all over the country in the wake of the Parkland massacre engage in walkouts for gun control, students in West Virginia are also organizing to get their teachers back under the banner of #SecureOurFuture:
“We’ve received a lot of support from our community, largely from current and former teachers who have expressed their gratitude for our efforts. One of our main goals was to have a cohesive message that could represent every West Virginia student, so many students have reacted positively to our movement,” the group told the NewsGuild represented Nation in a statement.
“However, we have also encountered a lot of people who assume we are uneducated on the issues or that our involvement follows encouragement by our teachers, rather than our own personal experiences and views,” the group told the Nation.
Teachers Forced to Wear Exercise Monitoring Devices or Lose $500 a Year
With teachers living paycheck to paycheck, many are forced to participate in the state’s wellness program or lose $500 a year. In a long interview with the NewsGuild represented New York Times, Katie Endicott told of how much the step-tracking wellness devices associated with the program are despised:
They told us that essentially if you weren’t a single person, if you had a family plan, your health insurance was going to rise substantially. As a West Virginia teacher — and I’ve been teaching 10 years — I only clear right under $1,300 every two weeks, and they’re wanting to take $300 more away for me. But they tell me it’s O.K., because we’re going to give you a 1 percent pay raise. That equals out to 88 cents every two days.
They implemented Go365, which is an app that I’m supposed to download on my phone, to track my steps, to earn points through this app. If I don’t earn enough points, and if I choose not to use the app, then I’m penalized $500 at the end of the year. People felt that was very invasive, to have to download that app and to be forced into turning over sensitive information.
To read the full interview touching on many aspects of the strike, go to the NewsGuild-represented New York Times.
To Avoid West Virginia’s Fate, Pittsburgh Signs Union Contract With Teachers
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) gave 96 hour notice that they intended to strike unless an agreement was reached with the union’s 3,100 members.
However, seeing the example of West Virginia less than 45 minutes away, the school district decided to settle with the teachers union Wednesday.
“Both sides had to make some concessions, but I think we were determined on the behalf of teachers and the parents and kids of Pittsburgh to avert a strike,” said PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis in a statement. “We kept working until we achieved that. I hope it’s a contract that our members can be proud of.”
The union did not immediately release details of the contract. The contract still has to be ratified by the membership before it takes effect.
The Players Union Files Grievance Against the Buccos
Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting, the West Virginia casino billionaire who also owns one of the biggest chain of right-wing newspapers in West Virginia, is in the process of trying to buy the storied Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston-Gazette.
Nutting has garnered a reputation of gutting regional newspapers, including Payday General Counsel Oliver Bateman’s hometown Uniontown Standard-Herald.
The Major League Players’ union is certainly upset with Nutting. Earlier this offseason, Nutting traded away the team’s top star, former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, who offered to take a discount to stay in Pittsburgh, as well as ace pitcher Gerrit Cole.
This week, the union filed a grievance against Nutting for failing to invest his revenue sharing money back into the ballclub. The owners of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Florida Marlins, and the Oakland Athletics were also included in the grievance.
The Players Association confirmed to the media that they filed a complaint, but did not issue a statement. MLB also stated that the complaint was filed.
As a result of Major League Baseball having an antitrust exemption, it remains unclear how much the Pittsburgh Pirates receive in revenue sharing. Leaked documents obtained by Deadpsin showed that they made $39 million in revenue sharing in 2008. However, since then the Pirates’ revenue has increased as the team performance has improved, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
By August 15th, each of the teams will be forced to provide a full audit of their internal finances to the Players Association.
–In the wake of Parkland Massacre, some on the right have accused the student leaders of the gun control movement #NeverAgain of being paid agitators. Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine who famously integrated Little Rock Central High in 1957, talks with the Writers’ Guild-represented HuffPost about how the paid agitator label has been used to smear activists:
“It’s disappointing. You just feel accused and ashamed,” she told me, letting out a deep-throated sigh. “Shame is a big deal in this ― making people feel ashamed and making them feel that they’re doing the wrong thing when they speak out or participate in activism.
“This is the United States. We don’t like desegregation. We like segregation. We like not to affirm young people’s sense of determination.”
The accusations lobbed at 16-year-old Trickey and her peers remind her of what’s now happening to the survivors of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
— In the wake of the school shooting, some have been calling for increased funding to institutionalize people, but disability activists have opposed this push.
Former Obama Administration Disability Official Ari Ne’eman, now an advisor on disability rights to the ACLU, has a long piece at the American Prospect looking at the abusive nature of institutionalizing people with mental health disorders:
A comprehensive analysis from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law finds no correlation between the availability of psychiatric hospital beds and either murders involving firearms or incarceration rates. Research has found that serious mental illness accounts for only between 3 percent to 5.3 percent of violent crime—and even this association is reduced after controlling for neighborhood and substance abuse problems.
Even when perpetrators have some history of mental instability, their actions are typically motivated by exposure to extreme ideologies that glorify violence. Our culture needs to come to grips with a truth we lost long ago: Horrifying acts are sometimes the result of evil ideas, not illness.
Others believe that the decline of quick and easy institutionalization has made it more difficult for people with mental illness to access care. That explanation ignores an obvious reality: Most people who forgo mental health treatment do so for the same reason too many Americans forgo other kinds of health care: They can’t afford it.
Involuntary commitment doesn’t make care affordable; it only satisfies a demand for coercion that is all too common among legislators who refuse to fund help for people who actively desire it.
– Daily Kos has an excellent look at scholar and Mississippi native Keri Leigh Merritt’s masterpiece Masterless Men:
In the period just before and after secession, “affluent Southerners used an insidious form of racism to try to scare lower-class whites into supporting [it],” but some still poor whites refused to back the Confederacy, while others served unwillingly. Merritt added: “cases of lynchings and threatened jail time for desertion, treason, and vagrancy were widespread … most poor whites had little or no choice but to support the war effort.” Ultimately, desertion rates she characterized as “incredibly high,” along with “increasing numbers of small scale revolts by lay-about groups of non-slaveholders,” had a significant impact on the Confederacy’s ultimate defeat. She concluded: “secession, the Confederacy, and Civil War were all overwhelmingly the creations of one small class of Americans: wealthy southern slaveholders.”
The author’s work disproves the argument that poor whites supported slavery because they thought they could one day own slaves themselves. “By understanding that the lives of poor whites and blacks followed similar trajectories during the mid-nineteenth century, the far-reaching impact of slavery is finally revealed …. While the consequences were certainly far more severe and sustained for black Americans … the economic repercussions of slavery also greatly affected lower-class whites.” It’s important to note that Merritt takes care, despite her topic being the study of poor whites, to make very clear that the white South’s oppression of and violence toward African Americans and American Indians was profound, systematic, and incredibly harsh.
On how the slaveowners dealt with poor whites: “The master class had a long-established, effective, and well-planned system of social control. They kept the white poor uneducated and illiterate on purpose.” There was no public education, with public funds going to law enforcement and the prison system. Masters could thus “incarcerate (at will) whites who failed to follow their social dictates.” It was impossible to maintain slavery without “near-constant surveillance” that included “heavy-handed forms of social control” over poor whites.
Poor whites were, Merritt explained, “directly prevented from enjoying many of the privileges of whiteness,” and had a strong sense of “class consciousness.” They did attempt to organize labor associations or unions, but the slaveowners used harsh measures to suppress them. Although abolitionists tried to “forge feelings of common interest between slaves and poor white laborers,” these were generally unsuccessful, as censorship laws made it difficult to distribute anti-slavery materials, and almost all poor whites were illiterate. There was racial tension around labor, as poor whites resented slave labor that undercut their own ability to earn wages through agricultural work. Nonetheless, the author’s research found a significant degree of positive interaction across racial lines in the antebellum period, enough to counter “overarching assumptions that poor white racism was as violent and pervasive as it appeared to be after emancipation.”