Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer and labor journalist based in Washington, D.C. He writes frequently for the Huffington Post and In These Times and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Fox News, and NPR. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/mikeelk.

Recent Articles

CWA Crows Over AT&T Deal

In cellular merger, organized labor comes out on top.

(Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
When news of AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA broke on Sunday, the immediate reaction among progressives was one of dismay. "Don't believe the hype: There is nothing about having less competition that will benefit wireless consumers," said S. Derek Turner, research director of the open communications advocacy group Free Press, in a statement. Other progressive consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Digital Democracy, were also quick to issue statements denouncing the deal, which, if approved, would create the country's largest cellular carrier. However, one progressive group cheered the merger: the Communication Workers of America, a labor union whose more than 500,000 members include 150,000 AT&T employees. "[Union members] in the U.S. will welcome this news since of all the possible partners, AT&T will mean better employment security and a management record of full neutrality toward union membership and a bargaining voice," CWA...

The Revival of Labor

The standoff in Wisconsin has energized the labor movement. The question is: Now what?

Students sleep outside the state Capitol this week after Wisconsin Department of Administration officials shut the building's doors. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
After weeks of pitched battle that has clogged the state Capitol with protests and gummed up legislative works, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hinted in an interview yesterday with the Wisconsin State Journal that he might be willing to make a deal with the public-sector unions. The gesture was a weak one: He suggested that issues like unions' right to collect dues and hold elections are on the table, but he is still unwilling to negotiate on public employees' right to bargain collectively on non-pay issues like benefits. Such a compromise would be unacceptable to most union activists, but it was the first sign that Walker is feeling pressure and willing to make a deal to resolve the massive protests, now more than two weeks old. Whether Walker deals or not, it's clear that the protesters are prepared for the long haul. Walker made his biggest tactical blunder by attempting to kick people out of the Capitol last Sunday, just as the protests were starting to die down. Instead of clearing...

Cattle Call

Why is a Washington watchdog attacking an obscure USDA official?

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
The problem of money in politics is simple -- those with more resources too often have a stronger voice in the democratic process, regardless of the merits of their position. Watchdog organizations exist to uncover those who would use wealth to improperly influence politics. One such organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has an admirable record of exposing corrupt members of Congress, but in recent months, CREW has for a second time sided with corporate interests and intervened in policy questions where no evidence of corruption can be found. In October, the Prospect reported on CREW's criticism of student-loan reform advocates. CREW's position was based on talking points disseminated by the for-profit education industry and relied on biased sources, including lobbyists later hired by the education industry. CREW's own executive director, Melanie Sloan, was hired by one of those lobbyists, Lanny Davis , in November, to begin work this month. Before Sloan'...

Why Are Progressives Fighting Student-Loan Reform?

How the for-profit college industry co-opted liberal activists

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (AP/Harry Hamburg)
Editors' Note: This piece has been modified since publication . High-stakes Washington lobbyists have multiple tactics to win policy fights on behalf of their clients. A classic move is to line up unusual allies, especially progressive supporters for special-interest causes. Sometimes this is done through shell groups, but it's far more effective to get established progressive leaders and organizations to lend their credibility to your cause. Which is how the Obama administration, in its recent attempt to regulate the for-profit college industry, found some unusual opponents: Melanie Sloan, director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Tom Matzzie, MoveOn's former Washington director. With their help, the industry successfully delayed the implementation of new rules to obstruct predatory lending practices, in part by painting critics of the industry as scheming banksters. "What we see here is that the for-profit school industry has...