Feb 18, 2016 - 2,600 Heartbreaking Stories | Communications Workers of America

Feb 18, 2016 - 2,600 Heartbreaking Stories

February 18, 2016

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It's Time for the Senate to Do Its Job

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Shortly after the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Republicans in the Senate pledged that they would not consider a nomination from President Obama for a replacement. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

President Obama has both the Constitution and history on his side, and he should announce a nominee as soon as possible. Article II of the Constitution directs the president to nominate and, “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” appoint Supreme Court judges. There is no special loophole for election years. In fact, there are 11 instances where the Senate took action on a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year.

It’s time for the Senate to do its job: give Obama’s nominee a fair hearing and timely vote. The American people deserve a fully functional Supreme Court – not another institution bogged down in partisan gridlock.

Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January 2015, they have blocked the President’s attempts to fill vacancies on the 12 federal courts of appeal.

CWA and allies are continuing to fight for Senate rules reform which began in 2010 through the Democracy Initiative’s Fix the Senate Now campaign, to ensure that qualified nominees can receive fair hearings and up-or-down votes.


2,600 Reminders Why TPP is Wrong for Workers

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By Tuesday, Feb. 16, more than 2,600 CWA members had submitted comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) expressing their concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its potential to harm American workers and communities. The USITC is currently investigating the TPP’s potential effect on America and will likely publish its findings in May. 

CWAers and a broad group of allies oppose the TPP because the deal will send more call center and manufacturing jobs overseas, worsen income inequality, and allow foreign tribunals to overturn U.S. policy decisions, laws, and regulations. CWA members voiced concern about the secretive negotiating process and the fact that some of the TPP nations have alarming child labor records. Here are some excerpts from the comments:

  • Louis Kershner (Bothell, WA): "As a sole wage-earner with a disabled child, my family has had to endure hardship each of the three times my job has been offshored, and we live in constant fear of it happening again. Too many of my hard-working friends and colleagues have invested their lives in their careers, only to see their jobs destroyed, sent away for pennies on the dollar. The recession this country has just endured makes it clear that Americans can't get jobs if the jobs are being sent wholesale overseas. It is clear that for the American economy to thrive again, we have to bring jobs back home again and impose restrictions that put our working families ahead of international corporations that don't even pay taxes here. Instead, the Trans-Pacific Partnership represents a giant step in the wrong direction that will blow a hole in the American economy it will have to struggle for decades to recover from.” 

  • Charles Pierce (Seattle, WA): "The TPP is a trade pact that was negotiated by corporate elites in secret and, if approved, will further erode American (and many other) workers' pay and benefits. It will cause further transplants of good-paying jobs to overseas locations and erode workers' ability to maintain a decent standard of living in the U.S. The average pay and benefits of American workers have been going down for the past 35 or so years, and continue to go down in comparison with the cost of living and the increases in productivity by American workers. This trade pact is a corporate grab for yet more power, which will further deny American workers decent pay and benefits and protections. There is no justification that exists for this.” 

  • Kristin Brody (Chicago, IL): "The U.S. will lose countless jobs by signing on and affirming the TPP. It's the same model that resulted in the loss of 3.4 million jobs after NAFTA, which now makes it almost impossible for me to buy American made goods to support our economy and our workers here at home. It's obviously horrible for Americans and enforces underpaying workers around the globe. It's clearly all about businesses making money and ravaging the environment. I believe that instead of going along with slave wages and ecological destruction in Asia, the U.S. should pave the way for others to be treated fairly, care well for God's beautiful creation all over the world, and protect workers and manufacturing here at home, which the TPP does not. No thank you!” 

  • Patrick O'Dell (Harrisonville, MO): "How can a trade agreement that forces American workers to compete with countries that pay their workers 56 cents an hour possibly benefit our country? Just as in the past, this trade agreement will ship millions of jobs overseas. This not only forces people into poverty but also destroys the tax base that was funded by people with a decent job. I would not be able to fathom how this is even being considered were it not for my knowledge of the complete takeover of our government institutions by the corporate elite. It is time to take back our democracy and start doing what is right for all the people rather than the top 1 percent.”

 

CWA President Chris Shelton with the thousands of CWA member comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
CWA President Chris Shelton with the thousands of CWA member comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission.


Bargaining Update

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East Orange Municipal Workers Ratify Agreement

Members of CWA Local 1077 in East Orange, N.J., ratified a contract covering 400 municipal workers. The contract, also approved by the city of East Orange, will benefit workers, city residents and the entire community.

CWA Local 1077 President Bennie Bratley said the contract provides for flat pay increases in the first two contract years and percentage increases for the rest of the contract term. The agreement is in effect through 2018.

“One of the best features of this agreement,” said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA's New Jersey Director, is that it “phases in a minimum wage of $15 an hour by the end of the contract. There aren’t a lot of workers who fall into this category, but for those who do, this provides them with a living wage. CWA applauds the mayor for his foresight in making sure that people who live and work in East Orange are paid a living wage.”

The contract also establishes a new health care savings committee.

Read more here.

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Envoy Air Flight Attendants Ratify Mid-Term Improvements

Envoy Air Flight Attendants, represented by AFA-CWA, approved mid-term contract improvements that provide for yearly pay increases through 2020 and improvements to per diem and reserve stand-by pay.

Envoy Flight Attendants ratified an eight-year contract in 2012, that called for binding arbitration in 2016. Flight Attendants began negotiating with Envoy management last year. The agreement covers more than 1,200 Envoy Flight Attendants. Envoy, which is wholly owned by American Airlines, plans to hire more than 400 Flight Attendants this year.

“Envoy Flight Attendants made a collective decision that will carry us through the next four years,” said Robert Barrow, AFA President at Envoy Air. “We are dedicated to raising the standard in the regional industry for Flight Attendants.”


Organizing Update

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Twenty gaming technicians in New York now have a CWA voice.

Twenty gaming technicians in New York now have a CWA voice.

IGT Techs Join CWA

Technicians employed by International Game Technology who fix gaming machines at Monticello, Aqueduct and Yonkers Raceways in New York voted 13 to 7 for representation by CWA Local 1101 in an NLRB election. The workers overcame the tough anti-union campaign waged by a union-busting consultant by building support, taking over the captive audience meetings and wearing CWA gear.

IGT technicians who fix Lotto machines joined CWA last year, and 25 technicians who work for Scientific Gaming joined CWA Local 1105 about two years ago.


The Political Revolution is Taking Hold

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In Nevada and many more states, CWA activists are participating in the broad support that’s building for the presidential bid of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. This week, CWAers will be caucusing in Nevada, then going to the polls next week in South Carolina. CWA activists in the 12 Super Tuesday states already are mobilizing to get out the vote for those March first primaries. The states are: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Check out cwavotes.org for more information.

CWA District 9 Vice President Tom Runnion and CWA activists canvassed for Bernie Sanders in Nevada last weekend.
CWA District 9 Vice President Tom Runnion and CWA activists canvassed for Bernie Sanders in Nevada last weekend.

CWAers join members of the National Nurses Union at a Las Vegas canvassing event.
CWAers join members of the National Nurses Union at a Las Vegas canvassing event.

Supporters in Arizona rock out for Bernie Sanders. Yolanda Bejarano, an activist from CWA Local 7019, organized the benefit concert on her own time. Death metal, country mariachi, noise and folk bands all helped raise more than $3,000.
Supporters in Arizona rock out for Bernie Sanders. Yolanda Bejarano, an activist from CWA Local 7019, organized the benefit concert on her own time. Death metal, country mariachi, noise and folk bands all helped raise more than $3,000.

In Minnesota, 27 activists train for the upcoming caucus on Super Tuesday. Members said they’re voting for Bernie Sanders to save the middle class, see America grow, lower student debt, protect union rights, and more.
In Minnesota, 27 activists train for the upcoming caucus on Super Tuesday. Members said they're voting for Bernie Sanders to save the middle class, see America grow, lower student debt, protect union rights, and more.


CWA Retirees, Active Members Fight Nokia-Lucent on Pension Grab

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CWA retired and active members are pushing back against Nokia-Lucent’s attempt to grab billions in pension assets from a plan covering retired CWA and IBEW members and transfer those funds to an underfunded management fund. The campaign supports the lawsuit brought by CWA charging that Nokia-Lucent is violating the law and the collective bargaining agreement in place covering Lucent workers. Retirees and active workers are picketing Nokia-Lucent facilities, contacting their members of Congress and other leaders, and raising the issue in the media.

Read some of the media coverage here and here.