Mike Elk is a D.C. da Vinci with the drive to master any and all challenges. He is an expert labor reporter, union activist, whistleblower, fundraiser, party planner, and Post Traumatic Stress Posterboy.
Elk parted ways with Politico, a beltway publication located 18 stories below Washington Free Beacon headquarters, in August after a tumultuous year-long stint. He penned fewer than a dozen pieces during that time, while organizing a unionization drive among his colleagues and publicly calling attention to the publication’s oppressive work environment.
"I can’t work the kind of hours I did when I was 24," Elk, 28, told the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
He overcame the publication’s union busting with grace, poise, and his service dog, Kipp. Elk claims he developed PTSD after a source committed suicide; he adopted Kipp—who suffers from an anxiety disorder—from a local shelter.
"We got him when POLITICO locked me out of the office for eight months. We would just stay at home and play all day. To be honest, it’s the only way I got through the bullshit excuses they were giving on why they didn’t publish these 12 stories? I would get really upset and then Kipp would give me a hug or something," Elk told the Washington Free Beacon in October. Politico agreed to settle with Elk over his allegations that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has gone on to disparage Politico and printed stories that the publication refused to publish, including this moving confessional:
This morning, I found myself wanting to cry as I spoke on the phone to a United Steelworker staffer about an ugly lockout of 450 at Sherwin Alumna lockout that has gone on for 14 months. As a labor reporter, I have dealt with PTSD as a result of the suicides, divorces, and bar room brawls that happen during lockouts. It’s just so awful what happens to people during lockouts and the media even the so called "left media" rarely pay proper attention to them.
Ironically, I was unable to publish a story about their lockout because I was locked out from my own job for engaging in union activity. For 8 months, POLITICO illegally forbid me from coming into work claiming they didn’t know if it was safe for my health as PTSD survivor to come into a loud ,noisy, stimulating workplace like POLITICO’s newsroom. They did this against the wishes of Dr Harold J. Wain, the Chief of the Psychiatry Consultation Liaison Service at Walter Reed Bethesda.
Former colleagues marveled at Elk’s display of bravery and strategic brilliance outmaneuvering his Beltway titan employers. One tells the Washington Free Beacon that Elk could play a key role in the War on Terror if he ever recovers from PTSD.
"Free idea for CIA: recruit Mike Elk to join ISIS. He will destroy it from the inside like a cancer," the colleague said.
Our Man of the Year will be leaving the D.C. region in the coming weeks to move to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he will continue his union activism, but not before throwing a once-in-a-lifetime party on Dec. 17.
"This Friday, December 14th (sic) at my house in Mt. P 1884 Monroe St Nw, starting around 10, we are gonna have the wildest threesome of all time. Come dance your ass off. Bring beer, bring condoms, bring as many friends as you want. Love & Solidarity, melk," he said in an email.
Full Disclosure: Mr. Elk once approached a Washington Free Beacon reporter about unionizing the Washington Free Beacon. The idea has yet to catch on.
Published under: Men of the Year