It isn’t cheap to run an election, and this year’s is turning out to be expensive in Pennsylvania. This is the first year everyone in the state can vote by mail, and mail ballots are expected to be in high demand due to the pandemic. So, counties are spending millions on new equipment and additional staff to avoid a long, drawn-out vote count.

And this week, I asked labor reporter Juliana Feliciano Reyes about her work, what’s changed in the pandemic, and what she’s looking forward to in the future.

— Lauren Aguirre (@laurencaguirre, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The week ahead

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Behind the story with Juliana Feliciano Reyes

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with labor reporter Juliana Feliciano Reyes.

Why did you decide to become a reporter and what drew you to your beat?

I decided pretty early I wanted to be a reporter; I was 17 and had completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University. I loved how reporting gave me entry into places I never would have had access to otherwise, how it gave me license to talk to all kinds of people. To this day, I still feel that way. I cover labor and find myself in situations where I look completely out of place — a rally outside a Teamsters union hall comes to mind. Reporting gives me a kind of boldness which didn’t always come so naturally to me, like sometimes I might think: Why would anyone answer my questions? Like I didn’t think I was the kind of person who deserved an answer. But being a journalist, you have to work out those hang-ups fast and I love that about reporting — how it teaches you to have respect for yourself.

As for why I was drawn to labor, we all have such messy, dramatic, intense relationships to work. I was fascinated by organizing — the way that workers are fighting for power on the job. There’s just an inherent narrative tension to labor right now: Union membership in the United States is the lowest it’s ever been. And yet, there’s all this organizing and labor activity and support for workers, especially during the pandemic.

What is something you expected to see in your reporting with the pandemic? What is something you didn’t anticipate?

I expected there to be a focus on health-care workers but I didn’t realize there would be such a focus on all kinds of workers. In the early days especially, it felt like everything was a labor story.

Are there any big trends on your beat you’re keeping an eye on?

Rank and file members challenging establishment union leaders, the growing political power of nonunion low-wage workers in Philly, and how the labor movement is reckoning with the role of police unions — just to name a few!

What is one of the best parts of your day or something you’ve been looking forward to while we’re all social distancing?

I go to Manila every year in the winter to visit my family and get away from the cold and struggle through what it means to be of a place but not live there or be from there. Also Philippine mangos! I probably can’t go next year but I’m looking forward to going back when I can.

What is something you wish more people better understood about your work?

You know when you’re like, “I need to detox from the news, it’s just too much?” That happens to journalists, too.

Email Juliana Feliciano Reyes at jreyes@inquirer.com and follow her on Twitter at @juliana_f_reyes.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Sunflowers are one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing, @mcjw13!

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout-out!

How to create a pandemic pod for safe social interaction

Socially distanced hikes and outdoor summer barbecues have helped people have in-person contact with friends and family during the pandemic. But as temperatures cool and winter approaches, meeting up outside will be less feasible. How can you still get social interaction? Enter pandemic pods, or quarantine bubbles. This is a group of friends or families who agree to strict safety rules that enable them to socialize while reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus. We have some steps to take and questions to ask if you want to create your own pod.

What we’re…

Comment of the week

“An inspiring story, and how gratifying that she got recognition for her lifelong learning experience while still living, AND learning. Many more years, Mrs Schreiber!” — janetkroll on Holocaust survivor finally gets her high-school diploma - at age 88.

Your Daily Dose of | Phillies' cardboard fans

Citizens Bank Park has hosted 10,000 photo cutouts of Phillies fans this season, and they’re a hit. Phillies officials said they’d heard nothing but positive reviews from TV viewers, players, and even umpires about the cardboard fans. While the Phillies themselves aren’t at the top of the standings, they might be leading the league in the number and variety of cutouts. (The Eagles also got in on the action. Check out a photo gallery of their fan cutouts here.)