Employer Moves to Divert Pension Money

Jan 28, 2016 - Employer Moves to Divert Pension Money

January 28, 2016

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West Virginia Right-to-Work Update

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The fight over "right to work for less" in West Virginia moves to the House of Delegates this week.

Last Friday, the West Virginia Supreme Court determined that the Senate seat vacated by Republican Senator Daniel Hall should be filled by a Republican, even though Hall was elected as a Democrat and switched parties after his re-election in 2014. That will keep the Senate at an 18-16 Republican majority.

The Senate earlier had approved the anti-bargaining bill by a 17-16 party line vote.


Solidarity Update

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At the District 9 leadership conference, CWA President Chris Shelton and District 9 Vice President Tom Runnion join CWAers in a solidarity action supporting the members of UNITE HERE Local 30 in their fight for a fair contract at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside. Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens also attended the action.


FCC Complaint Alleges Fraudulent Enrollment, Deceptive Advertising at T-Mobile

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Consumer and labor group Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW) filed a complaint on Wednesday with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for an investigation into T-Mobile for fraudulently enrolling subscribers into costly, unwanted add-on services.

CtW is also asking the FCC to curb advertising that misrepresents T-Mobile's payment of early termination fees when consumers switch carriers and the company's misleading "no contract" claims.

"From the duplicitous ads driving customers into stores to the enrollment in services without consumers' consent, T-Mobile has perpetrated a pattern of deception at virtually every stage of its Un-Carrier promotion," said CtW Research Director Nell Geiser. "T-Mobile gets credit for changing the mobile industry, but should not get a free pass when it deceives and cheats consumers."

The FCC complaint is the latest action in the "Calling Out T-Mobile" campaign, which launched in December. A similar letter was sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Attorney General of New York has announced an investigation into T-Mobile's advertising practices.

Learn more about T-Mobile's unethical marketing and billing practices at www.callingouttmobile.com.

And sign the petition urging the FCC to investigate the company here.


CWA Testifies Against Altice-Cablevision Deal at NYC Hearings

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Customers, advocates and workers testified against the Altice-Cablevision deal at New York State Public Service Commission hearings this week. In the Hudson Valley and the Bronx, they voiced their concerns about how European cable company Altice's move to buy Cablevision would negatively affect jobs and customer service.

"Altice's potential acquisition of Cablevision would be detrimental to the company, its workforce and its customers," said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District 1. "Given its track record in other business dealings in France and Portugal, the future of Cablevision under Altice's proposed deal would mean customers will get worse service and employees will lose their jobs. The public service commission should reject the deal as currently proposed to protect customer service and jobs."

Last month, CWA filed official objections with the Federal Communications Commission, pointing to the billion of dollars in debt that Altice will take on as part of the deal and its track record of refusing to pay its contractors and outsourcing.

Altice has outlined plans to take on $8.6 billion in debt to finance the deal – on top of Cablevision's existing $5.9 billion in debt. This level of debt will require such deep cost cutting at Cablevision that both staffing and network investments are likely to suffer, to the detriment of both consumers and workers. As a result of the heavy debt financing, Moody's immediately put Cablevision under review for downgrade.

According to the filing, Altice's planned $1.05 billion cuts in operating expenses and capital expenditures will likely lead to significantly worse customer service. This has been the experience in France, where Deutsche Bank reports that in one year, Altice-owned Numericable-SFR lost 1.256 million mobile subscribers, 246,000 retail broadband subscribers, and 719,000 home connections.

Next Tuesday, CWA will again testify at the last hearing in Long Island.


Are You Feeling the Bern?

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With just days to go before the Iowa Caucus, CWA activists are campaigning hard for Bernie Sanders. On Monday, the presidential candidate made a stop at CWA Local 7102's union hall in Des Moines to meet with labor activists. Then, on Tuesday, CWAers cheered Sanders at a rally at a Steelworkers' union hall. Throughout the week, our members have been mobilizing, phone banking and attending "caucus training" events to help them better understand the electoral process.


Iowa CWAers join National Nurses Union members at a community phone bank for Sanders in Davenport.

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Jamaal Anthony, a CWA Local 7901 area vice president, tells an Oregon crowd that Sanders brings people together. Drawing about 1,000 people to downtown Portland, the rally was one of dozens across the country planned to coincide with the Senator's Iowa speech last Saturday.

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CWAers were on the scene as Bernie Sanders rallied a big crowd in Chicago.

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CWA Local 1103 Secretary-Treasurer Joe Mayhew talks with CWA retirees and active members about setting up volunteer phone banks to build support for Bernie Sanders in New York State. CWA Local 1103 in Westchester, N.Y., is partnering with Westchester4Bernie; activities include leafleting at work locations and other actions.


AFA-CWA Flight Attendants Hold Worldwide Day of Action

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AFA-CWA Flight Attendants from United, Continental and Continental Micronesia and supporters started their Day of Action picketing in Narita, Japan, and continued around the globe with actions in Europe and at airports throughout the U.S.

The Jan. 21 Day of Action was the biggest demonstration yet of AFA-CWA's determination to get a joint contract for the 25,000 Flight Attendants at the combined United Airlines.

AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson said Flight Attendants, "will stand together to get a contract that ensures Flight Attendants share in the record profits we help create." AFA-CWA's Joint Negotiating Committee will meet with federal mediators again in February.

Here's a roundup of the actions:


Silent protest in Chicago.

  • Flight Attendants held a strike information seminar in Hong Kong, and dozens of Flight Attendants and pilots marched in the tourist section of Guam with picket signs in Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
  • In Frankfurt and London, Flight Attendants held strike information meetings and airport walks including signs in German.
  • Braving the cold, Flight Attendants marched with Continental MEC President Randy Hatfield and United MEC President Ken Diaz in Newark, NJ, while non-stop chants helped warm the strong showing of Flight Attendants and pilots at Washington Dulles and Denver, calling for a "Contract Now."
  • Flight Attendants in Boston, Cleveland and Las Vegas beat the airport protest restrictions with CHAOS strike information gatherings.
  • In Chicago, AFA Local Council 8 President Paul Antuna and AFA Local Council 36 President Kyle Hammontree led a silent march through Terminals B and C with more than 100 Flight Attendants who demonstrated calm, powerful, professional resolve to stand together for a joint contract that reflects their contributions to United Airlines.
  • Another silent protest in Houston was led by AFA Local Council 64 President Denny Wheeling and AFA Local Council 42 President Franko Ocasio, and nearly 200 Flight Attendants in San Francisco stood in silent resolve outside the terminal, calling management's failure to negotiate a joint contract to complete the merger shameful.
  • Picketing continued in Los Angeles and Honolulu, where Flight Attendants demonstrated the power of solidarity.

Check out photos from the event here.


At Newark Airport, Flight Attendants tell United, "It's Our Turn."


Bargaining Update

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Halifax Chronicle Herald Newsroom Workers Forced to Strike

Workers at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper, were forced to strike on Jan. 23 over management's outrageous concessionary demands that were set to be imposed on the 61 workers. The members already had rejected those giveback demands.

The reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff are members of the Halifax Typographical Union, CWA Canada Local 30130. The company's demands included wage cuts, longer hours, ending the current pension plan, gutting the union contract, and laying off a third of the staff.

One of management's demands would move senior editors to a non-union production center, where after one year, their pay would be cut by as much as $30,000 a year, the local said. "The newsroom unionized in 1999 over two issues: to get rid of a 10-year wage freeze and to eliminate glaring wage disparities like those the Herald wants to bring back," the local said.

"Imposing regressive working conditions is an extremely provocative move and the Herald knew full well that it would result in a strike," said CWA Canada staff representative David Wilson. "In my 20 years of negotiating newspaper contracts in Canada, I've never seen an employer do this," he said.

Management threatened to lock out the newsroom workers last week, and for several months has been attempting to recruit recent journalism school graduates and freelancers to produce news coverage in the event of a work stoppage.

CWA Canada Associate Members, which include 600 student, freelance and other journalists nationwide, is calling for solidarity with the Herald workers. Members are picketing in front of the Herald building.

Read more about the strike here.


Members picket in front of the Herald building.
Photo credit: Eric Wynne photo, CWA Canada

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NYC Traffic Agents Reach 7-Year Tentative Agreement

New York City traffic enforcement agents, members of CWA Local 1182, reached a tentative seven-year agreement with the city that includes raises and a signing bonus. The 2,100 agents issue parking tickets and direct traffic throughout the city.

"Our traffic enforcement agents keep our roads moving and our pedestrians, bikers and drivers safe. This agreement means they'll get the fair wages they deserve, while protecting New York City's fiscal health," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "With 95 percent of our workforce under contract agreement, compared to 0 percent when we took office, we're continuing to restore a productive and respectful relationship with the men and women who serve our city."

CWA Local 1182 President Syed Rahim said, "I am thrilled that a landmark tentative agreement has been reached between New York City and Traffic Enforcement Agents. This contract builds the foundation to adequately compensate my members who contribute so much toward the greatness of this City."

Read more here.

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Journalists, Elected Officials Rally to Save El Diario

The News Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003, rallied on the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning to protest the latest round of layoffs that have gutted El Diario/La Prensa, the mainland's oldest Spanish-language newspaper.

Journalists and union members spoke out alongside city council members, who had held an oversight hearing on the importance of supporting local ethnic media immediately after the press conference. They expressed concern that in its 103rd year of publishing, El Diario would soon go out of print.

"It'd be shameful for a city like New York City not to have a Spanish daily we can hold and read," said city councilmember Rosie Mendez.

On Jan. 15, El Diario's parent company, ImpreMedia, laid off nearly half of the publication's editorial and sales staff – dealing a devastating blow to an already overstretched, demoralized newsroom.

El Diario is viewed as "The Champion of the Hispanics" in the city's Spanish-speaking communities. Many readers – especially senior citizens – do not have access to digital forms of media, and would have no other way to learn about what's going on in their neighborhood, their city and their country if the outlet ceased its print publication.

Read more here.


City Council President Vincent Alvarez said he is proud to stand with the New York Guild in the fight to save El Diario.

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Stand Up to Verizon!


Members of CWA Local 2201 at Verizon Park Central work site in Richmond, VA, stand up for good jobs and a fair contract.


N.Y. Senator Demands Fair Contract for Verizon Workers

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rallied with CWA members last week and demanded fair contracts for workers at Verizon and Verizon Wireless.


Senator Schumer calls out Verizon executives for "squeezing the working people who made the company what it is."

"We need a fair contract for all the 39,000 workers here at Verizon," he told workers outside a store in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. "You know, ladies and gentlemen, in the old days, we wanted corporate America to make profits. You know why? In the '50s, '60s and '70s they knew that when they made profit, it was because of their workers. And they shared those profits with their workers. This day we're in a new era. It all goes to salaries to the people at the highest end."

Schumer's mother-in-law was a longtime CWA member. That good, union job allowed the family to build a better life and send his wife to college. That's why today Schumer is fighting for strong "card check" and a National Labor Relations Board with real teeth.

Schumer knocked the executives who "squeeze the working people who made the company what it is."

"That has to end," he said. "We really don't care if their stock goes up if our wages and benefits go down."

To change America, Schumer stressed, we need a strong union movement to bring collective bargaining to all workers. The senator ended his speech by calling on the company to rehire Bianca Cunningham, a union activist who was illegally fired after she helped organize 65 Verizon Wireless workers in Brooklyn.

"We're with you all the way," Schumer told Cunningham. "You have courage and strength and we're behind you."

Watch Schumer's remarks here.


Get Inspired to Take on the Big Banks; Join this Town Hall Call

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Get ready for a town hall call like you've never heard before.

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 pm ET, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and CWA President Chris Shelton will talk about what it takes to break up the big banks, to finally get Wall Street to pay its fair share and to fix our broken election system.

Millions of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – are ready to take on Wall Street and the big banks. We have the plan to do it. And we have the leaders to do it, two of whom will be talking with us on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Make sure you join this call.

To register, click here or text CWACALL to 69866.


CWAers Fight Nokia-Alcatel Pension Grab

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Across our union, CWAers are fighting back against a pension grab orchestrated by Nokia as part of its takeover of Alcatel-Lucent.

CWA members and retirees have a month-long mobilization planned for February, to focus public attention on Nokia-Alcatel's illegal attack on workers' retirement security. CWAers will hold informational pickets at major Nokia sites, join letter writing campaigns, build public awareness through newspaper letters to the editor and media outreach and mobilize for other actions.

Nokia bought Alcatel-Lucent last year; the deal is expected to close the first quarter of 2016.

Last November, Nokia moved 20,000 retirees and $3 billion from the Lucent Technologies Pension Plan (LTPP) – the plan covering only retired workers and surviving spouses – into the underfunded management pension plan. This jeopardizes not only the future assets of retired workers but restricts the fund's ability to subsidize health care, life insurance and death benefits for retirees.

CWA filed a lawsuit, joined by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), to stop Nokia. Nokia's action violates the current CWA-Alcatel contract as well as a separate, standing agreement between Alcatel-Lucent, CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that says excess pension funds would be used to pay workers' post-retirement health benefits. That agreement is in effect through the end of 2019. It also violates the "exclusive benefit rule" of the ERISA law – the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans.

CWA Telecommunications and Technologies Vice President Lisa Bolton pointed out that Nokia has raided the LTPP a second time, taking dollars to shore up health benefits for the 30,000 IBEW retired workers and spouses that it moved to the management plan.

"Years ago, CWA and Lucent management worked together to change the law and make it possible to use excess pension funds to help cover retiree health care costs. Now, these Wall Street bankers and managers want to use our money to meet their obligations, enrich themselves and shareholders, not to protect retirees," said Bolton.