CWA Members Challenge Business as Usual at AT&T Annual Meeting
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More than a dozen activists from CWA Districts 4, 7, 9 and the T&T Sector traveled to Billings, Mont., last week to attend AT&T's annual shareholders meeting. They greeted the 200 attendees with leaflets and a banner declaring, "SHAME ON AT&T!"
Joining the CWA delegation were members from Locals 9408, 9421, 9400, 9423, 9510, 7250, 7050, 7303 and 4252. They're among the 15,000 CWA District 9 members in California and Nevada working without a contract while negotiations with AT&T West continue.
John Adams, Jr., third vice president, CWA Local 9421, said the goal of the trip was to refocus the company's attention on where it should be – on workers. "Our message was quite simple: AT&T needs to reward the workers who make this company the premier integrated communications company in the world and negotiate fairly at the bargaining table. The way that AT&T has approached this round of bargaining in District 9 is shameful," he said.
The CWA activists were disappointed – though not entirely surprised – when they learned that AT&T recently ended the open mic portion of the meeting, silencing the voices of workers and the public who are also shareholders.
But throughout the day, activists engaged with the AT&T's leadership, including CEO Randall Stephenson, Labor Relations Executive Vice President Mark Royse and Labor Relations Vice President Melba Muscarolas. While networking with shareholders, activists put a human face on our bargaining priorities: job security, healthcare and a dignified retirement for our members. LaNell Piercy, a Legacy T retiree from Ohio, shared firsthand how AT&T has broken its commitment to those who helped make the company so successful.
A statement by CWA Bargaining Chair Ellen West that was distributed at the meeting pointed out that treating new hires as second-class citizens with escalating healthcare costs and eliminating retiree healthcare coverage and pensions makes no sense for such a profitable company.
CWAers started early, leafleting AT&T shareholders beginning at 7 a.m., then moving inside for the annual meeting.
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DirecTV Workers Join CWA
DirecTV customer service workers in Huntington, W.Va., are the newest members of CWA Local 2009. Local 2009 top officers Shannon Fink, Chad Leggett and Mark Gabbert, plus local leaders and members worked with DirecTV activists and CWA organizers to get it done; the unit includes 564 workers.
Working with CWA Locals 7750 and 7777, CWA organizers and District 7 staff, a unit of 415 DirecTV customer care workers in Denver gained CWA representation.
The 85-member DirecTV Technical Group in New Mexico now has CWA representation, working with CWA Local 7011 President Stacy Watashe and Vice President Dave Prokash, special assignment organizer Glenda Winternheimer and D7 staff.
Dollar Thrifty Car Rental
Dollar Thrifty Car Rental agents in Los Angeles voted for a CWA voice and Local 9003. The workers' committee was strong and stood together despite the company's captive audience meetings and other anti-union tactics. The unit includes 83 agents. Wynter Hawk, Local 9003, and Victor Serrano, special assignment organizer, worked on this campaign.
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Today, CWA activists and allies held a National Day of Action to focus attention on Verizon's corporate greed. The 39,000 CWA and IBEW members remain on strike, pushing the company to stop offshoring jobs and to keep good jobs in our communities, so customers can get the quality service they deserve.
More than 400 protests were held nationwide, at Verizon Wireless stores and other locations in dozens of cities. In New York City, some 2,000 workers, supporters and elected leaders marched to a Verizon Wireless store on Wall Street.
At the Verizon annual shareholders meeting in Albuquerque, 250 Verizon workers, CWA members and allies protested outside the meeting. Inside, CWA activists spoke on shareholder resolutions and presented more than 300,000 petitions from customers to CEO Lowell McAdam.
"As long as corporate executives put short-term profits ahead of the workers who make those profits possible and the communities they promised to serve, the calls for a change of course at Verizon will only grow stronger," said protestor Bianca Cunningham before she was arrested alongside fourteen other protestors for civil disobedience. Cunningham is a former Verizon Wireless worker who was fired in September while helping her fellow employees form a union.
CWA members and allies demonstrate outside the Verizon annual meeting in Albuquerque.
Can you hear me now? Recently, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam walked up to a picket line and told striking workers, "This makes no sense to anybody. To be honest, I'm not sure why you're out here." Betsy Derr, a customer service representative in Bloomsburg, Pa., accepted that challenge and offers up a clear explanation on Medium that's become one of the site's most popular articles.
CWA has set up the Verizon Striking Families Solidarity Fund to make sure that members who are facing financial hardship during the strike have a place to turn. Donations may be made by going to StandUpToVerizon.com/solidarity. Checks should be made out to Verizon Striking Families Solidarity Fund and mailed to Strikers Solidarity Fund, 501 Third St NW, Washington DC 20001. Contributions will go to help CWA and IBEW strikers.
AT&T West Workers Mobilizing in Contract Fight
In bargaining, AT&T West continues to demand more health care cost shifting, cuts to job security and concessions for premises technicians, among other demands.
CWA Local 9511 techs show support for their suspended brother in Escondido, Calif.
Members of CWA Locals 9400, 9410, 9404, 9412, 9415 and 9423 demonstrated their solidarity at a company director meeting. "We had to wear gloves to ensure we wouldn't catch any bad juju from the company. They got the message," said CWA Local 9423 President Jason Hall.
AFA-CWA Spirit Airlines Flight Attendants voted for a new contract with significant improvements covering more than 2,200 Flight Attendants. The agreement was reached with the assistance of the National Mediation Board.
"Spirit Flight Attendants made a collective decision that will carry us through the next five years. This contract moves us forward and establishes a strong foundation for our future," said Jorge Buchelli, AFA-CWA Master Eexecutive Council president at Spirit Airlines. "Spirit Flight Attendants play a key role in the winning strategy and record profits of this airline. AFA pressed hard for an agreement that recognizes our effort and dedication."
The five-year deal dramatically increases wages, locks in the best health insurance coverage for Flight Attendants in the industry and improves job protections and work rules.
Verizon Refuses to Fix Customer Lines, Forcing Consumers to Take Fiber or Lose Service
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A complaint filed this week at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) charges Verizon Communications with systematically deceiving customers, refusing to fix the phone lines of customers on its traditional copper network, and forcing them to switch to the company's fiber network or lose all service. This practice is driven by an internal Verizon policy called "Fiber Is the Only Fix," according to the complaint, which was filed by public-interest groups, including CWA, Common Cause and Public Knowledge.
This is the first complaint alleging violation of the agency's copper retirement rules, which took effect on March 24, 2016. It charges that "Fiber Is the Only Fix" is an institutionalized policy designed to deceive customers and constitutes "unjust and unreasonable practices" that violate federal law. The complaint also charges that Verizon has been giving retail customers as little as 15-days notice before ending their copper service, when FCC rules say they must be given at least 90 days notice.
"By instituting this reprehensible policy to deceive customers, Verizon executives proved that only profits – not customer service – motivates this company," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "Verizon executives violated the law and are forcing our members to join in a program they strongly object to. With this complaint filed today at the FCC, we are standing up for our customers, just as we are standing up for them every day on picket lines from Massachusetts to Virginia."
Shelton added, "CWA fully supports the conversion from copper to fiber, but we believe that consumers should be able to make this choice without pressure, threats and deception from Verizon."
The FCC complaint covers seven states – Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
IUE-CWA Activists Protest GE Retiree Cuts
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IUE-CWA retirees leafleted shareholders outside the General Electric Co. annual meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., and IUE-CWA locals in other locations held solidarity demonstrations outside GE facilities.
In Jacksonville, Bill Freeda, president of the Media Sector of the CWA Retired Members Council and a former NBCU/GE employee, said that the company's action ending medical coverage for retirees as of January 2016 made a sham of GE Chairman Immelt's message to retirees that, "we honor your service."
A coalition of labor unions led by IUE-CWA has filed a lawsuit against GE, charging that the company's action violated federal labor law and the Employer Retirement Income Security Act.
Leaks Reveal Trans-Atlantic Trade Negotiators Want Another Deal By and For the 1 Percent
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This week Greenpeace released a series of leaked documents on the ongoing Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade talks, shining a light on the secretive negotiations that could lower standards governing workers' rights, the environment, public health and food safety.
Unfortunately, U.S. trade negotiators seem uninterested in using TTIP as a way to share prosperity among workers, corporations and communities in partner countries.
"It's the Trans-Pacific Partnership all over again, another trade deal being negotiated by and for the 1 percent," said CWA President Chris Shelton.
"Negotiators are looking to weaken workers' rights, environmental protections, consumer protections, and the ability of nations to act in the best interests of their citizens. There was some hope that TTIP could improve workers' rights in the U.S., and raise them to the standards that EU nations follow. The reports just made public by Greenpeace show that for U.S. negotiators, TTIP is business as usual, with corporations writing the trade deal to benefit their own bottom line."
"Because U.S. negotiators have refused to make their proposals available for public scrutiny, we're forced to rely on leaks for information. We share Greenpeace's concerns that TTIP is clearing the way 'for a race to the bottom in environmental, consumer protection and public health standards,'" Shelton said.
CWA has raised concerns that big banks are looking to use TTIP to roll back or side-step U.S. regulation of the banking industry, including the Dodd-Frank legislation, to benefit financial corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. The Investor State Dispute Settlement process, which would give more rights and privileges to corporations and investors, also has no place in TTIP or any other trade deal, CWA has declared. Several EU nations already have pushed back against the insistence of U.S. negotiators that this "secret tribunal" process be included in TTIP, and CWA and allies will continue to fight against the inclusion of these provisions in TTIP, as we did for TPP.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA also has pointed out that TTIP could give EU nations more access to the U.S. domestic market and increase foreign ownership and control of U.S. airlines, harming U.S. aviation, Flight Attendants' job security and aviation security.
If the U.S. Trade Representative truly wants to "position the U.S. and the EU to work together to push standards higher around the world," as it claims, negotiators should stop efforts to undermine existing EU standards that actually address environmental and public health issues. Working people in the U.S. and EU nations don't want another TPP.