About Me

Jonathan Michels is a freelance journalist based in Durham, North Carolina. Since 2011, he has reported on issues of national importance such as the struggle to remove white supremacist memorials and forced sterilization.

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia recognized his journalism in 2018 with an award in the longform category for his article about the uneasy formation of a syringe exchange in the U.S. South. Jonathan believes that for journalism to remain relevant, it must explore issues through the experiences of individuals and communities most affected.

Drawing on his experience as a frontline healthcare worker of more than 10 years, Jonathan frequently writes about the inequities of the American medical system and the need for universal, single-payer health reform.

Selected Work

Southern Workers Unite Around Medicare for All: “A Tremendous Liberation From Your Boss”

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A line of cars rolls up to the government center of the largest city in a state tied with neighbor South Carolina for least unionized in the country. Members of the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) emerge from the cars and join a picket line of Charlotte city workers. They hoist a banner declaring ​“The City Works Because We Do” and chant ​“What do we want? Medicare for All! When do we want it? Now!” “Having Medicare for All is a tremendous liberation from your boss,” says Ed B

HCA Healthcare Is Using Coronavirus to Union Bust Nurses

corporation in America, HCA Healthcare, is using the coronavirus pandemic to delay and undermine a union election for 1,600 nurses in North Carolina. After nurses filed in March to hold an election, HCA Healthcare petitioned the National Labor Relations Board, or the NLRB, to delay the vote because of the pandemic. In the meantime, it hired professional union busters costing $400 an hour to conduct meetings inside Mission Hospital in Asheville, urging nurses to oppose joining a union. And while

The Spin Doctors

Our new issue, “The Working Class,” is out in print and online now. Subscribe today at a discount to get it. Draft cards weren’t the only cards set on fire during the 1960s. Back then, at least one young medical student also burned their membership card in the powerful physicians’ organization that some had nicknamed the “American Murder Association.” While the Vietnam War ended long ago, people are still fighting for the physical and financial health of the US public — and the body count conti

“To Keep Not Only Patients but Ourselves Safe, We Have to Unionize”

Right now, nurses in North Carolina are mailing in their ballots in what could be one of the most consequential elections of their lives — and it isn’t the 2020 presidential election. After a five-month delay under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), more than 1,700 nurses at Mission Health hospital in Asheville will finally decide if they want to form a union with National Nurses United. The election results will be announced by the NLRB on September 16. HCA Healthcare is one of the wea

Winning Medicare for All Would Have Massive Implications Beyond Health Care

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) reintroduced the Medicare for All Act into Congress in March. The bill netted a record 112 cosponsors, which amounts to more than half the House Democratic caucus. Thanks to a surprise endorsement by Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the Medicare for All Act now seems destined to pass another historic marker, with its first hearing in the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce sometime in the current legislative term. Meanwhile, outside of the DC Beltway, Me

The Fight for Medicare for All Made Some Important Progress in 2020

Our new issue, “The Working Class,” is out in print and online now. Subscribe today at a discount to get it. With a national death toll quickly approaching 350,000, the need for a universal, single-payer health care system has never been more urgent. As 2020 comes to a close, we are no closer to winning a national health program in the United States than we were before COVID-19 struck, even amidst so much physical and financial suffering. But it would be a mistake to discount the entire year as

The Films of Ramin Baharani Urge Audiences To Look in a Direction Where Nobody Else Is Looking

On the heels of Ramin Bahrani’s third movie, critic Roger Ebert hailed him as a “new great American director,” comparing him to a young Martin Scorsese. On February 23, the Criterion Collection released his first two films, Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, on Blu-ray and DVD. With the induction of these two films into the collection, the Iranian-American Winston-Salem native takes his rightful place among the world’s master filmmakers. It’s a high honor for Bahrani to have his pictures included in

Kings Bay Plowshares Activists Pay Heavy Price For Resisting Nuclear Warfare

Patrick O’Neill gripped the hammer tightly in his hands. The police would soon surround him. O’Neill and six other Catholic peace activists had infiltrated the Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, with the goal of symbolically disarming the base’s six Trident submarines armed with first-strike missiles capable of holding 200 nuclear warheads. Some of the activists strung up crime scene tape and hung protest banners that read “The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide.” Others poured ba

North Carolina Played a Key Role in the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Torture Program After 9/11. Now, Advocates Want the Records Released.

At the urging of anti-torture advocates, North Carolina Democratic Congressman David Price is requesting that the CIA disclose information regarding the state’s outsized role in the rendition, detention, and interrogation (RDI) program implemented in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Between 2001 and 2005, the CIA supervised the kidnapping and rendition—or transport—of suspected terrorists to secret prisons throughout the world. Detainees were often held without charge and subjected to so

Q&A: Ajamu Dillahunt, long-time civil rights organizer and former USPS union president –

This story was originally published in 2015. See also: COVID-19: Context, tools, and strategies for workers from organizers and experts for more recent videos with Ajamu on the current climate of labor rights in 2020. Ajamu Dillahunt is a founding member of Black Workers for Justice, a grassroots organization focused on empowering African-American workers to become leaders in the Black Freedom and labor movements. The text below is taken from an oral history interview conducted on May 8, 2014.

Why we're fighting the American Medical Association | Jonathan Michels, Will Cox, Alankrita Siddula and Rex Tai

This Saturday, nurses, physicians, and medical students plan to walk out of their clinics and on to the streets of Chicago to confront the American Medical Association at the organization’s annual meeting. Health providers know that the outrageous costs and shameful inequality of American medicine are no accident – and that their patients’ lives are at stake. The AMA claims to represent the interests and values of our nation’s doctors. But it has long been the public relations face of America’s

Citizen-Led Truth Commission Seeks Justice For Survivors Of North Carolina Torture Flights

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was shackled and blindfolded. Then the men in black stripped him naked and placed him in a diaper. Although his eyes were covered, Slahi could hear the sound of aircraft engines whirring around him. One of the planes came to shuttle him to an United States air base in Afghanistan for interrogation. “I was so exhausted, sick, and tired that I couldn’t walk, which compelled the escort to pull me up the steps like a dead body,” Slahi wrote in Guantánamo Diary, a firsthand acc

Unions are needed everywhere—especially prisons

In early 2018, Florida prison inmates took part in a statewide labor strike to protest forced labor that they view as a modern form of slavery. The strike was just the latest action in a growing movement to organize inmates and for some, to abolish the prison system altogether. In order to maintain the pressure, incarcerated workers announced another wave of strike actions that took place on August 21, 2018. Inmate organizing has a powerful precedent. During the early 1970s, the prisoners' unio

‘Prisoners' organizations were thought to be dangerous.’: Conversations with organizers of the North Carolina Prisoners’ Labor Union –

"People were afraid of prisoners' organizations. People had Attica on their mind. Prisoners' organizations were thought to be dangerous.": Interview with Chuck Eppinette of the North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union Earlier this year, Florida prison inmates took part in a statewide labor strike to protest forced labor that they view as a modern form of slavery. The strike was just the latest action in a growing movement to organize inmates and for some, to abolish the prison system altogether. I

'The most violently exploited group in America'

"A voice locked up is not a voice unheard!" As the snowbirds arrived in Florida along with the mild January breezes, a small uprising of laborers who work under lock and key stopped production and made demands. This coordinated struggle was carried out by members of one of the most violently exploited groups in America: incarcerated workers. In 2018, inmates at 17 Florida prisons launched the labor strike, calling themselves "Operation PUSH", to demand higher wages and the reintroduction of pa

If you've never shot drugs, you ain't got a clue: Steve's story –

[I got the name "Gator"] from school. When you're young and you do stupid stuff, that's what I did. They said, "You're tough like a gator." It just stuck with me over the years. I'm 67 years old. I shot drugs and did all that stupid stuff we did back in the day. This all started when I was up in college in Richmond. I didn't last long up there and moved back home. Then I went to UNCG [the University of North Carolina at Greensboro] and stayed there for a little while. But that didn't last long.

Harm reduction is compassion, harm reduction is love: Louise's story –

Beginning in the 1980s as a response to widespread drug abuse and to the AIDS epidemic, harm reduction tactics promoted public health by preventing diseases from spreading through shared needles. Harm reduction advocates drew inspiration from civil and human rights movements and the tactics of AIDS activist groups such as ACT UP. Many AIDS activists worked in the streets of cities like New York to promote syringe exchange access—trading dirty needles for clean ones—and agitating against the abst

Who gets to be remembered in Chapel Hill? – Scalawag

It was just a sign in a window. A name. Hurston. Last August, campus police officers saw the sign and came to enforce university policy: The sign must come down, they said. The woman faced the three officers standing in her doorway and said no. "They can send five police, or 10 or 50 and I'm not taking down my sign," said Altha Cravey, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Symbols and names matter in the South, especially here at Saunders Hall, an academic building