Welcome to Payday!

JP Wright and Mike Elk talk in Middletown, Kentucky (Moshe Marvit)

Welcome to the first unionized digital labor news co-op in the South, founded by former POLITICO Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk and labor folk musician and Railroad Workers United Co-Chair J.P. Wright.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership in the South last year increased by nearly 150,000 members (5.5%), bringing the total number of union members in the South to almost three million. Compared to other regions of the country, this increase was greater in both absolute and relative terms – the Northeast had the next highest growth, adding 94,000 members (2.2%). With its low unionization rate (5.8% compared to the Northeast’s 17.6%) and a growing economy, the South has great potential for further growth in union membership.

Despite this, there is not a single full-time labor reporter at any publication in the South. Rarely are unions covered in the South. This not only leaves organizers on the ground isolated in labor fights, but also denies labor critical opportunities for growth and community education. More than this, union leaders in the South feel that they are covered unfairly and are eager for a publication that covers them fairly. We seek to remedy this, and will seek out labor struggles in the South that aren’t being covered properly.

Payday Report intends to build an audience and financial base of labor activists, fundraising as a community organizing project. In the process, we plan to lead workshops on platform cooperativism and help other media workers throughout the South start their own publications.

Payday could be a game changer for labor coverage in the South, but only if workers are willing to support it and get involved. We can do this. Let’s organize the South and make sure that the workers doing that tough work get the type of labor reporting that they deserve.

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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