Rent & Honeywell Lockout

Dear Readers,

So I prepared a long pitch, but if you wanna save some time or just don't think that I am that funny, I understand. So here is the skinny -  I am broke and will labor report for money.

Indeed, this morning fellow yinzer labor reporter Moshe Marvit and I are leaving our hometown of Pittsburgh to drive to Paducah, Kentucky – across the river from Metropolis, Illinois to report on the second lockout in four years at Honeywell’s uranium enrichment plant in Metropolis, Illinois.

In 2010, I first began covering the labor, safety, and environmental problems at Honeywell’s uranium plant in Southern Illinois. I even covered how Honeywell workers were forced to eat their lunches out of a fridge that was containmated with uranium and how Honeywell workers' summer vacations were cancelled to prevent the rehiring of their local union president.

 Over a period of four years, I have written over 25 stories on a small group of workers at Honeywell. I stayed with the story for four years because while Honeywell CEO Dave Cote as President Obama’s appointee to the Deficit Commission is quoted almost daily in the press on how we should run the economy, but no reporter other than me ever bothers to ask how Cote treats his own workers.

Likewise, I have spent years getting to know the Honeywell workers on a deep personal level and eventually want to turn my research into book that captures the true color of an ugly labor struggle. I have traveled across the Midwest in an RV with the “road warriors” from Metropolis, Illinois, I have watched them confront powerful figures on Capitol Hill, and succumb to the seduction of karaoke when the pain of the lockout became too much to take.

I want you all to read about these experiences in an eventual book, but I am gonna need your help to keep gathering material to make this book come alive. In addition to going to Southern Illinois to collect material for my eventual book – several publications have already contacted me about doing a feature length story on the second Honeywell lockout. I plan to focus on the story of how workers emotionally, legally, financially, and even through group memberships in Cross fit classes have spent the last three years preparing to be locked out again.

It’s a fascinating story that you are gonna wanna sit down with a beer or two to read. However I am gonna need your financial assistance to tell it because my landlords don’t find the tales of union guys getting into bar fights with scabs that interesting.

Earlier this year, I was laid off from my job, but since I was able to raise over $4,000 from my readers, I was able to take the summer and focus on one single long form piece that is coming out in early October.

In between odd jobs, I have spent the last few months focusing on a 12,000 word long form investigative that connects the recent struggle of workers at Volkswagen in Chattanooga to the 1988 closing of the Volkswagen plant in my native Westmoreland County and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s an exciting and innovative long form story that features long interviews with everyone from Pittsburgh Pirates alternate union rep, relief pitcher Jared Hughes to Volkswagen worker Ed Hunter to the Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto against a backdrop of the music of Sister Sledge.

Several publications have already expressed interest in publishing my long form stories including my forthcoming piece on Honeywell. I have told all the publications that no matter where I publish the story at the top of each story will be a note thanking all of my donors who made the piece possible above and beyond what the media outlet was able to fund.

So give whatever you can and I promise to send you a postcard from the many Civil War sites around Paducah that I plan to visit.

For any of those who give $50, I promise to send you a signed copy of my book when it comes out several years from now. For those you give $75 or above, I will send you an autograph photograph of the Elk Family Golden Retriever, Mickey, begging. For those who give over a $100, I will call you personally and give you updates on the progress of my reporting. For $150, I will come to your house and play some sweet Sister Sledge records. For anybody, who gives over $250, well I’ll take you to Marx Café in Mt. Pleasant, D.C. and you can interrogate my bartender on how I am really doing on the book.

Whatever money you give, I will use it to research, interview, dig deep, write long form stories, and continue to gather material for an eventual book several years down the road.

It may take a while for me to get it done, but for you all have been reading my work for years – you know I am cooking on something good. Also, you know I plan to go up to Knoth’s smokehouse on Kentucky Lake where they are always cooking something good.

So help me pay for those brisket sandwiches and in return I’ll give you a piece of journalism that is just as delicious.




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Mike Elk 
Washington D.C., DC
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