About Me

Jonathan Michels is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta, Georgia. 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 15 years, Jonathan frequently writes about the inequities of the American medical system and the need for a universal, single-payer health system.

He is a proud member of the National Writers Union's Freelance Solidarity Project, a union devoted to improving the lives of freelance digital media workers by improving their working conditions.

Selected Work

Daimler Truck Workers Are Strike-Ready in the Anti-Union South

Autoworkers in the South are currently engaged in a historic, high-stakes labor struggle against the multinational corporation Daimler Truck North America (DTNA). The labor contract between DTNA and seven thousand United Auto Workers (UAW) members who build the company’s heavy trucks and buses at plants in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee is set to expire at midnight on April 26. While Daimler Truck posts multibillion-dollar profits, DTNA workers say they are beaten down by stagnant wages.

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

Should the deadline be extended for NC eugenics victims? | Facing South

The June 30 deadline for victims of North Carolina's eugenics program to apply for compensation is quickly approaching. As of June 1, only 518 claims were made out of an estimated 1,500 people who have been verified by the state for compensation.

"They need to get rid of this June 30 deadline," said Elizabeth Haddix, an attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

The center works with low-income African-American clients, similar to the people that North Carolina targeted for sterilization d

The UAW’s 2028 National Strike Should Center Medicare for All

Fresh off their historic labor victory against the country’s Big Three automakers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) are laying the groundwork for workers across multiple sectors to join them in a general strike on International Workers Day, May 1, 2028. UAW president Shawn Fain’s call to utilize labor power — four hundred thousand working members and six hundred thousand retirees make up the UAW alone — for the “good of the entire working class” is a major departure from business-as-usual unionism.

A New Doctors’ Union in the South Is a Model for Health Care Organizing

Each day on his commute to the clinic, Dr Crister Brady traverses the rolling farmland of Eastern North Carolina, gliding past the neon-green tobacco fields where many of his patients live and work. Brady’s clinic, the Prospect Hill Community Health Center, is one of ten federally qualified health centers operated by Piedmont Health Services Inc. The nonprofit provides comprehensive primary care services to patients who are uninsured or who receive coverage from Medicaid and Medicare.

We Don’t Just Need Medicare for All — We Need a National Health System

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) emerged thirty-five years ago amid the austerity cuts of the Reagan administration, which threatened to hollow out critical social safety-net programs like Medicaid. Rather than marshaling physician support to defend the limited (albeit lifesaving) poverty program, PNHP opted instead to pour its energies into expanding the possibilities of what health care reform could look like in the United States.

Breaking the ‘wicked silence’ of eugenics in North Carolina

Until 40 years ago, the state of North Carolina forcibly sterilized poor people. The Winston-Salem Journal exposed the story that was right under everybody’s noses in 2002. Now, victims are finally getting compensation, but is history repeating itself with new policies that hurt the poor?

At one time in the United States, wealthy and powerful individuals promoted eugenics, the belief and practice of using flawed science to “purify” the human race. It fell out of fashion following the revelation

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

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

“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

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

Occupy Winston-Salem: Three years later

For the men and women in suits and ties leaving the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, the scene was anything but business as usual. Protesters with signs and banners chanted boisterously from across the street. Several passersby joined in the ruckus.

This was Fifth Street in Winston-Salem and it was just one of many actions that residents organized since they stood together as an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement three years ago in October 2011.

The movement was born when th

'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

‘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

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

Triad City Beat nominated for two Altweekly Awards

In just its third year of eligibility, Triad City Beat has been nominated for two national Altweekly Awards, given by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia to its member papers throughout the US and Canada.

Jordan Green was nominated for Best Political Columns — Green took Second Place in the category in 2016. This year, pieces on police relations, a needle exchange in Forsyth County and the events on the ground in Charlottesville.

In the Longform News category, freelancer Jonathan Michels

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

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

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
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