Wash. Fruit Workers Strike Spreads to 13 Sites – Truckers Protest Trump in DC – Meatpacker Tries to Decertify a Union

Alex Palma, a member of the independent union Familias Unidas por la Justicia waves his union flag outside of his plant in Yakima Valley, Wash. State (Evan Abell/ Yakima Herald-Republic)

Greetings from the Burgh, where finances are really good this Payday. 

Mass Layoffs Rock Corporate Media, Payday Reaches Record Fundraising Levels

This week, major outlets including Quartz, Vice, and Gannett issued additional layoffs. While the corporate media model of ad-based revenue and wealthy benefactors continue to burn, Payday is continuing its pace of record fundraising from only reader support.

It took us 3 and half years to reach 300 recurring donors; hitting the mark last August right before the GM strike. 

At the end of February, after our expose on SEIU sexual assault cover-ups, Payday had 400 recurring donors. 

Now, we have 480 recurring donors. We are experiencing a period of record growth. Help us keep going and become a recurring donor today. 

205 Strikes On the Map

The Payday Strike Tracking Map continues to grow this week with 206 strikes now up on the board. 

The map now includes the growing wildcat fruit workers strike wave in the Yakima Valley of Washington State and a growing movement of truckers striking nationwide. 

Donate today to help us keep covering labor’s fight back against COVID. 

Immigrant Fruit Workers Movement In Washington State Grows to 7 Strikes

The strikes in the Yakima Valley of Washington State continue to grow. Workers are already on strike at 7 major sites, and now they’re expected to strike on at least 6 more major sites this weekend. 

The Yakima Herald has the story

Hundreds of strike supporters showed up Thursday morning, traveling on foot or by vehicle between plants in a pack that workers started calling “the caravan.”

They had painted their vehicle windows with messages of support in Spanish. They honked and waved as they drove by. Strikers waved back, held their protest signs higher, and quietly said “Thank you” to each passing vehicle.

Rosalina Gonzales was one of those strikers. She’s worked at Columbia Reach Pack for 19 years. She does the physically demanding work each day to provide for her children and family, she said.

Gonzales, who held a neon poster board sign lettered with “Social Distancing — 6 feet” in bold Sharpie strokes, admitted to being nervous about speaking up. She said she and many other workers normally don’t talk to the press.

But they’ve decided to strike, because it’s the only way they feel the company’s management will listen to their concerns.

“There are a lot of people who have tested positive here,” she said. “I feel like I’m in danger, but I have to work. I have no choice.”

For more, go to the Yakima Herald. 

(Check out this long piece on the long history of immigrant farmworkers strike in the Yakima Valley)

Meatpackers Push Union Decertification & Captive Audiences Meeting During COVID-19 

Despite the risk of COVID-19, employers continue to bust union attempts. At Mountaire Farms in Delaware, workers are now being forced to attend anti-union meetings to vote their union out. 

The Salisbury Daily Times has the story

UFCW officials said Mountaire Farms hired an “outside contractor” to talk to workers about voting to remove the union. Part of those efforts included “forcing workers represented by the union to attend captive employee meetings conducted without regard to CDC social distancing guidelines,” the release stated.

“They’re forced to go in these rooms and can’t practice social distancing,” UFCW Local 27 vice president Nelson Hill said of the workers. “(Mountaire) is paying them, so it’s not an option. It’s part of the work day.”

Mountaire Farms also “surveilled” its employees on social media, according to the release.

Hill said union representatives were denied entry to the Selbyville plant earlier this spring, so they created a Facebook page to communicate with workers and “promote acts of mutual aid and protection.”

Mountaire Farms allegedly told workers they were aware of the Facebook page and the workers who were commenting on it, according to Hill.

That “put a chilling effect on outspoken workers,” UFCW Local 27 President Jason Chorpenning said in the release.

For more, go to the Salisbury Daily Times. 

Truckers Continue to Strike Nationwide

Nationwide, truckers continue to engage in protests over low pay, unsafe conditions, and long hours.

Earlier today, Trump attempted to claim that truckers circling Constitution Avenue in DC with signs reading “Make Trucking Great Again” were in fact honking in support of him. The truckers vehemently denied the charge, stating that they were actually protesting federal regulations. 

Rachel Premack at Business Insider has more

April rates for spot-market loads — trucking jobs tendered in real time rather than through a prearranged contract — were 54% lower than in April 2019, according to data from the load-board company DAT. Rates in April fell to five-year lows for refrigerated and flatbed loads.

Meanwhile, the $2 trillion stimulus bill that Trump signed into law in late March did not provide any direct support for truck drivers. Several truck drivers who applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration told Business Insider that they were not able to get funding, putting their livelihoods at risk.

For Joe Plummer, the pay to take a truckload of goods from his home base in North Carolina to Los Angeles had plummeted to $2,700 from $4,700 two months ago.

“We don’t need memes and news conferences saying ‘We support truckers,'” Plummer previously told Business Insider. “We need fuel to stay low, rates to go up, and some type of financial assistance until we recover.”

Check out Business Insider for more. For more follow Rachel’s Twitter @rrpre.

“Payday Pal” Daniel Marans Releases Al-Jazerea Documentary 

As many of you know, HuffPost reporter  Daniel  Marans is “a friend of Payday Report”, if you know what I mean…..Last month, Marans published an 8,000 word story drawing on interviews with over 36 Bernie Staffer on what went wrong. 

Now, Marans along with Jeremy Young are out with a new 25 minute Al-Jazeera “Faultlines” documentary entitled “America’s Divided Democrats” on the internal divisions and fights within the Democratic Party. 

Watch it here. Its only 25 minutes long and you can watch it on YouTube on your Roku, if you know what I mean…

Small Korean Baseball Site Publisher Gets Big ESPN Profile 

As many of you know with the Buccos not playing cuz of COVID, I’ve switched my allegiance to the NC Dinos in the Korean Baseball Organization. 

The ballclub includes legendary catcher Yang Eui-Ji, former Marlins Pitcher Drew Rucinski and the brilliant shortstop No Jin-Hyuk. 

I know all of these players’ bios because I read MyKbo.net. A small English-language site founded by Korean-America baseball fan Dan Kurtz to track Korean Baseball. 

Prior to ESPN broadcasting, MyKBO.net, founded in the early 2000s, never got more than 100 viewers at a time. Now, let’s just say, his site is having traffic problems. More from ESPN

Dan Kurtz woke up last Tuesday morning to a message he never dreamed of getting. Your site crashed.

He opened Twitter on his smartphone and saw that nearly a dozen other people had reported the same issue. While Kurtz slept in Washington state, the Korea Baseball Organization began its season, regaling an entire planet that craved real, live sports in a time without Major League Baseball. Kurtz’s website, MyKBO.net, was suddenly more popular than ever. Kurtz himself — a 40-year-old, stay-at-home father of three who identifies as a fan and nothing else — had instantly become a highly sought-after authority on the subject. A day later, he still hadn’t come to grips with it all.

“This,” Kurtz said, “is blowing my mind.”

Kurtz was born in Seoul, the metropolitan capital of South Korea, but was adopted by a Mennonite family in rural Pennsylvania when he was 4 months old. He grew up idolizing Mike Schmidt and watching the Philadelphia Phillies‘ nearby Double-A affiliate in Reading. But he gained an affection for Korea’s professional baseball league while living in his native country at the turn of the century. His fandom manifested into a homemade website for English-speaking KBO fans, a tremendously niche group until only recently. It began as a message board, grew to include live stats and never attracted more than 100 visitors at one time until late at night on May 4 in the Western Hemisphere.

For more, go to ESPN. 

Alright folks, that’s all for this week. Donate so we can keep covering labor’s fightback against COVID. 

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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