European Journalists Support Organizing American Media Workers

by Paul Garver

MikeElk-800x400

[ed. note] Mike Elk is leaving Politico, where he was part of a team hired to write for Morning Shift. Mike will focus on organizing media workers.

Mike is pictured here with his father Gene Elk, director of organization for the United Electric Workers (UE)

Mike Elk is a first rate labor reporter with a strong union background and a fierce commitment to the workers’ movement. He is one of the few U.S. labor journalists to understand the importance of global worker solidarity. Too bad that Politico did not publish more of the articles I know he was working on. I wish him the best in continuing to organize media workers.

In a statement yesterday, Politico pledged to remain neutral on its workers organizing a union.

Following is an article on Mike Elk by the European Federation of Journalists, together with its protest letter to Politico, which has being trying to establish a European bureau.

Update (20.08.2015) The European Federation of Journalists sent today a letter to Politico CEO Jim VandeHei expressing its concern about news reports suggesting that Mike Elk, Labor reporter at Politico and co-author of the Louisville Statement, has been fired. Politico confirmed, on Thursday, Mike Elk’s departure, saying it has “nothing to do with his union activities”. (…)

Over 12,000 jobs have disappeared from the US media industry, over the last decade. But according to Pew Research Center’s count, 5,000 full-time edit jobs have been created in 2014 across US digital publishing companies. As a consequence, unions are cropping up in digital newsrooms. And a new group, Media Workers Unite, calls for rights for US online journalists.

Earlier this year, the employees of Gawker Media, Vice and Salon voted to unionize: they want to share in the growing prosperity of digital media industry and be able to establish decent working conditions for online journalists.

Pay in digital publishing companies is consistently lower than traditional media, where union collective bargaining has led to better agreements on salary, retirement security and working conditions. Following the most recent US survey, the median annual salary for Journalism and Mass Communication B.A. graduates was $40,500 for union members and $32,000 for non-union members.

Underpaid and exploited, US online journalists are now seeking to unionize. Some of them founded a new group, Media Workers Unite, announcing the release of the “Louisville Statement of Media Workers’ Rights”, on October 8th, at The Carl Braden Memorial Center in Louisville. Among the 12 rights they call for: overtime protections (hours worked above the limit of 40 hours a week must be paid), less restrictive social media policies when journalists are off the clock, protections against age discrimination, freelancers rights, racial and ethnic diversity…

“When you are in the labor movement, no matter how scary this world can get, you never walk alone,” says Politico reporter Mike Elk, co-author of the Louisville Statement with several journalists and trade unionists, including members of the Newspaper Guild, an US affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). “As a workplace safety reporter, I see overtime as hazard that science tells us leads to mental health collapses like that I experienced that has been widely ridiculed by many. Despite the naysayers, we must put a stop to forced overtime in the media industry as it is literally killing media workers (…) and causing serious mental health issues for so many others. (…) The days of McCarthyism are over in the newsroom – everyone deserves a voice!”

The authors of the Statement call on media workers to join them this October 8th – 11th in Louisville in developing a Nationwide Center for Media Workers.

efj on elk

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