The NABET-CWA Network Negotiating Committee reached a tentative agreement this week with NBC Universal on a new contract to replace the Master Agreement, which expired on March 31, 2018.
The new contract includes wage and benefit improvements and covers all NABET-CWA members at NBCU, including nearly 3,000 staff and daily hire employees working as broadcast technicians in the studios, and in the field for NBC News, NBC Sports, and NBC Entertainment as well as other employees at company network and TV station operations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.
NABET-CWA Locals 11 (New York), 52031 (Washington, D.C.), 54041 (Chicago) and 59053 (Los Angeles) will be conducting membership meetings and providing further information on this contract package, and will conduct ratification voting over the next few weeks.
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Editorial staffers of BuzzFeed News announced this week that they are forming a union with the NewsGuild of New York-CWA Local 31003 and are requesting voluntary recognition from their employer. More than 90% of eligible editorial employees signed on to the union effort.
The efforts to organize to have a voice on the job follow several tumultuous weeks in which nearly 15% of the Buzzfeed staff were laid off company-wide.
"I love working at BuzzFeed News," said Albert Samaha, Investigative Reporter, in a press statement. "I care deeply about the future of this place, and I believe a union will bring stability to our workforce, grant us a crucial voice in company decisions, and make BuzzFeed stronger in the long run. My colleagues overwhelmingly support this effort, and I'm proud to stand with them."
Canadian staff at BuzzFeed also officially filed for union certification this week to join the Canadian Media Guild-CWA Local 30213.
"We are striving to improve transparency, equity, diversity, and working conditions across the company," Buzzfeed Canada staff said in a statement.
Journalists at the Hartford Courant have taken a major step toward joining the NewsGuild-CWA. Members of the newly-formed Hartford Courant Guild filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board Monday and requested voluntary recognition from Tribune Publishing, the paper's parent company.
The Hartford Courant Guild will cover approximately 60 reporters, editors, and photographers.
In a statement, employees wrote that accomplishing their mission "has grown harder with each passing day." Declining revenues and decisions by corporate managers who have little regard for or knowledge of their communities and the work Courant employees do to serve them have led to deepening cuts to their resources and standards, they said.
Parking Production Assistants
Parking Production Assistants (PPAs) employed by Netflix, Possible Productions, and Big Indie The Hunt won voluntary recognition to join CWA Local 1101. These three employers signed on to the Master Agreement CWA negotiated recently with the employer group AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers).
Although PPAs work as freelancers, at any one time, Netflix employs about 25 PPAs, while Possible Production employs about 50 PPAs, and Big Indie The Hunt employs about 10.
House Hearing Reveals Weakness of T-Mobile and Sprint's Merger Claims
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CWA President Chris Shelton testified in front of Congress on Wednesday at a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. At the hearing, Shelton warned that the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger will harm thousands of workers and consumers.
"Thirty thousand fewer jobs," said Shelton. "Lower wages by as much as $3,000 per year. Disproportionate harm to low-income communities. Higher prices for all consumers. All to help a state-owned German company and a Japanese billionaire make more money. Members of the Committee, that is not in the public interest."
At the hearing, witnesses who raised concerns about the proposed merger offered detailed and extensive documentation and analysis, while merger supporters relied on vague and unsubstantiated claims.
"Without binding and enforceable commitments – and I mean commitments that have no loopholes – such promises are just cheap sales talk and are easily broken," Shelton said. "Trusting Sprint and T-Mobile with American jobs is like trusting a vampire at a blood bank. These are two of the worst companies in the United States when it comes to labor law and the treatment of workers. In recent years, T-Mobile has been charged with more labor law violations per worker than even Walmart."
Shelton highlighted T-Mobile's track record of buying companies and then cutting jobs, noting the aftermath and harm of T-Mobile's 2018 acquisition of Iowa Wireless (the subject of a CWA report, Disrupting Rural Wireless, released this week). As Shelton noted, "After it acquired Iowa Wireless in 2018, it closed all iWireless call centers and more than 90 percent of its retail locations. It closed every single store in rural Iowa."
Members of Congress also expressed skepticism about the companies' claims during the hearing, pressing T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure on jobs, consumer prices, rural buildout, and their commitment to the federal Lifeline program that helps low-income consumers access critical telecommunications services.
Meanwhile, CWA's concerns about potential job loss in the merger have drawn attention at the state level. Earlier this week, CWA expressed disappointment at the New York Public Service Commission's decision to approve the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, but noted that the union's concerns were taken into account by the PSC's requirement that the number of workers directly employed by the companies be preserved at the same level for at least three years after the merger.
At a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing, CWA President Chris Shelton told Congress that the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger will harm thousands of workers and consumers.
USIC Workers Overwhelmingly Vote to Keep Their Union!
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USIC workers, members of CWA Local 1101, who mark the New York City and Long Island streets for Con Ed and National Grid before they dig, voted overwhelmingly to keep their union last week. The employer launched a vicious anti-union campaign aimed at intimidating workers leading up to the vote.
CWA has successfully lobbied in New York City to include these members under "prevailing wage" laws, which would mean a significant wage increase. Although the Comptroller agrees with CWA and has ordered USIC to pay prevailing wage, the company has appealed the decision.
Councilman Brad Lander has now promised to introduce legislation to mandate that USIC pay the prevailing wage. Many other elected leaders backed these workers as they fought to keep their union despite USIC's threats and coercive tactics, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York State Senator and Labor Chair Jessica Ramos.
USIC workers, members of CWA Local 1101, voted overwhelmingly to keep their union!
CWAers Across the Country Make Progress on Passing Legislation to Protect Call Center Jobs
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CWAers across the country are making major strides on passing legislation to protect call center jobs from offshoring!
This week, the New York Call Center Jobs Act passed through the New York Senate Labor Committee. It's a big step forward to getting the bill enacted. Check out this great story in The Daily News about the committee vote.
New York CWAers flooded the New York State Capitol with red this week to urge legislators to pass the New York Call Center Jobs Act.
In Virginia, a call center bill focused on state agencies passed the House of Delegates this week with a 60-34 vote. It's next up in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
In Washington, the House and Workplace Standard Committee has a hearing on a call center bill today, while in Maine, the Labor and House Committee is holding a hearing for a call center bill next week.
In Tennessee, a call center bill was introduced this week in the House and Senate with bipartisan support.
New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, West Virginia, and Arizona have already introduced call center bills, while Connecticut, Florida, Alabama, Minnesota, Colorado, and Nevada are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Aviation Safety at Risk if Government Shutdown Resumes
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At a press conference at National Airport in Washington, D.C., this week, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens and AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson joined labor union allies to call on Congress and the White House to avoid another federal government shutdown in order to keep workers and the flying public safe.
"At CWA, we understand that some of the most important work we can do together is to fight for workplace safety," Steffens said. "Many of our members saw firsthand during the last shutdown how dangerous it is to furlough aviation safety officers and to withhold their paychecks. It was an extremely scary situation. It is wrong to use workers and their families and the flying public as a pawn in a political game. We are ready to do whatever it takes to stop this from happening again – to keep our members and the flying public safe."
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens (front) and AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson joined labor union allies to call on Congress and the White House to avoid another federal government shutdown in order to keep workers and the flying public safe.
Nelson also testified on Wednesday before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation on the impact of the 35-day federal government shutdown and what we need to do to stop further damage.
"Safety and security is non-negotiable," Nelson told Congress. "It is critical that Washington stop the threat of a day 36 and take steps to ensure this never happens again. We've all seen that aviation relies on many areas of government to keeping flying safe. We call on all lawmakers to ensure government workers are never locked out again."
As the possibility of another shutdown looms, AFA-CWA members are holding pickets and leafleting at airports across the country this week to draw attention to the importance of keeping the government open and are calling for mass protests at airports if the shutdown resumes on February 16. Click here to sign up to receive updates about the protests.
AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation on the impact of the 35-day federal government shutdown and what we need to do to stop further damage.
NewsGuild-CWA and NABET-CWA Decry Violence at Trump Rally
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The NewsGuild-CWA and NABET-CWA released a joint statement decrying violence at President Trump's rally earlier this week in El Paso.
The BBC said cameraman Ron Skeans was "violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd" while covering the campaign rally Monday night. Spokeswoman Charlotte Morgan said Trump could see the incident and checked with the BBC to make sure "all was OK."
"We have run out of words to describe the depravity and danger of [the President's] verbal attacks on journalists," NewsGuild-CWA and NABET-CWA said. "Trump would not need to check on the safety of journalists if he didn't use his words to rile his supporters."
USA Today reported that Trump said early in his speech that he was popular "despite the fact that the media refuses to acknowledge what we've done and how well we're doing it." The crowd then booed. "I guess 93 percent of the stories are negative. No matter what we do they figure out a way to make it bad," he said to an angrier round of boos.
The NewsGuild-CWA, NABET-CWA, and CWA are supporting federal legislation called the Journalist Protection Act that makes it a felony to assault journalists. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California said Tuesday that he plans to reintroduce the bill with Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
"This is what happens when a President calls a free press the "enemy of the people" and whips his rallies into a frenzy. Assaults must not be tolerated," Swalwell said.
CWA Shares Vision for Future of American Labor
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CWA was well-represented at a conference last week at Georgetown University Law Center on "The Future of American Labor" sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, The Century Foundation, and the Harrison Institute for Public Law.
CWA President Chris Shelton provided his perspective on sectoral bargaining on a panel moderated by former CWA President Larry Cohen, while a member of the NewsGuild-CWA's Tidewater Media Guild, Kristen Zeis, participated on a panel about organizing millennials using digital communications.
On the sectoral bargaining panel, Shelton spoke about how collectively bargaining an agreement that covers all workers in a sector of the economy helps lift standards for all workers. He described how he and other telecommunications union members took to the streets to achieve formal national bargaining with AT&T in 1974. National bargaining lasted only a decade until the federal government broke up AT&T in 1984. The government failed to preserve or promote sectoral bargaining after the break up.
"Our framework of workplace-by-workplace organizing and individual company bargaining is broken," Shelton said. "We must demand that progressive government take on the responsibility of creating mechanisms that allow workers to sit down across the bargaining table from the powerful so that our voices will be heard."
CWA President Chris Shelton (right) provided his perspective on sectoral bargaining on a panel moderated by former CWA President Larry Cohen.
On the organizing panel, Zeis, a photojournalist at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, told conference attendees that when Tribune Publishing laid off 50% of its Daily News staff last summer, she and her colleagues at the Virginian-Pilot realized that they needed the protections that forming a union provides for workers and for local news. "For many of us, it was about our papers and preserving the legacy of our papers," Zeis said.
A member of the NewsGuild-CWA's Tidewater Media Guild, Kristen Zeis (second from right), spoke on a panel about organizing millennials using digital communications.