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

Mike Elk interviewed by Moyers and Company on State of Unions

Moyers and Company interview labor journalist Mike Elk about unions, labor journalism, and other issues. Here is what they say about Elk.

At a time when union membership is in decline and labor is being attacked on many fronts, Mike Elk, the labor reporter for the progressive magazine In These Times, is one of the few full-time labor journalists working today. He brings the skills and tenacity of an investigative reporter to his coverage of organized labor and management in America and pulls no punches, no matter who he’s writing about.

Talking Union posts by Mike Elk

Labor Journalist Mike Elk Files Criminal Charges Against Honeywell and GOP Staffer

 by Mike Elk

(June 5) Today, I filed criminal charges for false imprisonment against Honeywell External Communications Director Rob Ferris and simple assault charges against Nicolas D. Muzin, Senior Advisor to Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC).  At first, I was hesitant to press criminal charges because I did not want to seem like a “cry baby”. However after taking to other journalists as well as many concerned Congressional staffers, I decided that allowing the intimidation of reporters in the US Capitol to go unchallenged is a scary precedent to set.The US Capitol is a public building open to reporters and private individuals should not be allowed to impede on freedom of press. Honeywell may financially ownthe Congress, but the building is still public property & should be open to the press.

The charges will be forwarded to the US Attorney’s office who will decide whether or not they will prosecute the matter to the full extent of the law. I believe that as members of the press its important we continue talking about this story so as to stand up for freedom of the press and the ability to ask tough questions of public figures in public buildings. I am available to comment on the matter and can be reached at (412) 613-8423.”

Here is more background information on the situation from PR Daily

Microphone Grabbed Out of Hands of Reporter Questioning Honeywell CEO

By Mike Elk

(June 1)For the last two years, I have covered union busting efforts by Honeywell, their close connections to President Obama and how federal agencies have assisted Honeywell in three different labor struggles since Obama came to power.  In particular, I covered a 14-month lockout at Honeywell uranium plant in Metropolis, Illinois, where Honeywell cheated on tests for replacement workers, who later caused several releases of radioactive gas into the atmosphere. Instead of their picket line with the striking workers as he promised to do during his campaign, Obama decided to fly with top Democratic donor and Honeywell CEO David Cote to India while the lockout was still going on. (Today, Obama and Cote will appear at Honeywell’s Minneapolis facility for an event on the economy).

Recently, on May 10, at around 2 p.m., managers walked into Honeywell’s uranium conversion plant in Metropolis, Ill., and told workers—both union and nonunion—they had to leave the plant immediately. Multiple workers present say a manager told them the sudden dismissal was because the company had to investigate “sabotage” of plant equipment. Honeywell has since allowed non-union contractors and salaried employees and managers back into the plant to operate it as the company’s investigation continues, but still hasn’t allowed the full unionized workforce to return.

Continue reading

Videos: Mike Elk on labor, politics, ALEC, and Koch Industries

In These Times staff writer Mike Elk spoke to a meeting of the Wichita Sate University Student Labor Project and Young Democratic Socialists on February 16, 2012.  Two days later, he spoke to an Occupy KochTown conference, organized by regional Sierra Club and occupy groups.  Elk is a prolific reporter who has broken many important stories–a frequent contributor to Talking Union. We think both videos may be of interest to Talking Union readers.

See the KochTown video after the break.

Continue reading

Why Huffington Post ‘fired’ me

by Mike Elk

Mike Elk

Last Thursday, I was “fired” as a labor blogger from the Huffington Post by executive business editor Peter Goodman for helping a group of union construction workers disrupt a conference of bankers. (I put fired in quotations marks because I, like the majority of people who blog for the site, was not paid for my contributions.) The workers demanded to know why Pulte Group’s vice chairwoman was leading the summit, and how her company grabbed a $900 million government bailout made up of funds that came from the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009. That bill was intended to create jobs and extend benefits to unemployed workers, but union workers said no jobs were created with this money.
Continue reading