Mar 19, 2020 - COVID-19: A message from CWA President Chris Shelton

March 19, 2020

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A message from President Shelton on the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Brothers and Sisters,

I know that each and every one of you has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is unprecedented, and CWA members are on the front lines doing the work necessary to keep people informed, connected, and safe during this difficult time.

We are devoting every available resource to make sure that employers are doing everything possible to protect and support CWA members during this pandemic. Over the past few weeks, District, Sector, and Division Vice Presidents have been contacting all of our employers to request detailed information about their health and safety precautions, sick leave accommodations, and plans for continuity of pay. They have been making sure that existing collective bargaining agreements are followed and negotiating additional protections to address the special challenges that you are facing in this rapidly changing environment. This early engagement spurred many employers to take a variety of precautionary measures and get prepared for the onslaught of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, while CWA has established agreements with many of our employers, many companies are failing to update front-line managers about new sick leave and safety protocols. While some employers have been proactive by working with CWA in setting up enhanced safety procedures, others have not taken necessary action. We are following up to identify and resolve these problems.

Our legislative and political teams are also keeping their eye on the larger picture. Federal, state, and local governments are moving quickly to address the crisis. Sadly, even during times like this that demand national unity, some corporations are instructing their lobbyists to resist programs that would provide immediate help to working people and retirees and lay the groundwork for a recovery that includes everyone, not just the 1%.

We are also frequently updating the resources on our COVID-19 information page at cwa.org/covid-19. There you will find information on what to do if you believe that your working conditions are unsafe and links to reliable sources of information about the virus. In the coming days, we will be posting best practices recommendations for different types of work and information about the policies that specific employers have implemented.

Conditions vary across the country and are changing constantly. Your local leadership will have the most up-to-date information on policies in place at your work location. If you have a question and are unable to contact your steward or local officers, there is a link on our COVID-19 information page where you can submit a question that we will route to the appropriate person for response.

While we have many difficult months ahead of us, I know that we will do what we do best – take care of each other, make sure our health and safety is protected on the job, and fight for legislative and political change that puts working people first.

Chris Shelton Signature

Chris Shelton

p.s. Please note that CWA National, District, Sector, and Division staff are also following social distancing guidelines in order to do our part in stopping the spread of this virus. Although most of our office buildings are closed, we have implemented a work-from-home plan that allows us to continue functioning at full capacity. Larger meetings have been postponed and smaller meetings have been moved to audio- and video- conferencing platforms.


CWA Urges Congress to Pass P.A.I.D. Leave Act

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CWA is urging the House and Senate to immediately pass the P.A.I.D. Leave Act, a comprehensive bill to provide all workers with paid sick days and family leave, in response to the current coronavirus crisis, and to have these benefits in place for workers and families to deal with future crises and life events. The bill was introduced on Tuesday by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

"Nobody should be forced to go to work while sick or capable of spreading a disease during a pandemic," said CWA President Chris Shelton. "Congress must immediately act to give all workers paid sick days and paid family leave to stop the spread of COVID-19. Working people across the country and across the world are looking to their elected officials to use their power and provide leadership in this time of crisis. Our legislators have an opportunity to act now and save lives by passing this bill."

Send a message to your members of Congress telling them to support the bill at https://actionnetwork.org/letters/paidleaveact.


CWA and Consumer Advocacy Groups Urge Broadband CEOs to Lift Data Caps and Waive Fees

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On Monday, CWA and consumer advocacy groups sent a letter to major broadband CEOs urging them to lift data caps, waive data cap fees, and take other steps to help the American public stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and facilitate access to essential communications services for all. 

"In this collective time of crisis, we are asking broadband CEOs to show leadership by lifting data caps, waiving fees, and doing everything within their power to help people connect to the world from home and stop the spread of COVID-19. People's lives are depending on it," said CWA President Chris Shelton.

Groups signing the letter include Common Cause, Consumer Reports, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, MediaJustice, National Consumer Law Center, National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America's Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, The Utility Reform Network, and United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

"The telecommunications industry must do more to protect consumers and facilitate connectivity during the novel coronavirus pandemic," the organizations wrote. "Connectivity is essential during times of crisis, and during an infectious disease crisis in particular. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have recommended 'social distancing,'...This guidance will require a significant shift to tele-work, tele-medicine, and tele-education. This shift necessitates far more bandwidth than under normal circumstances."

The groups made recommendations for Altice, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Read the full letter here.


Workers Demand That Maximus Take More Proactive Steps to Protect Employees from Coronavirus

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With the spread of COVID-19 across the country, call center workers at Maximus who are organizing to join CWA are demanding the company take immediate steps to protect their employees from COVID-19, including providing paid sick days without penalty and ensuring a safe workplace at every call center.

Maximus employs about 10,000 workers in 11 call centers across the country who handle Medicare and ACA Federally Facilitated Marketplace inquiries under a federal contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Maximus' emergency attendance policy issued in response to the virus still will count excused COVID-19 absences as an unscheduled absence worth 8 hours – employees can only miss 64 hours in a 12-month period, or face termination.

The workers are outlining steps that Maximus should implement immediately to protect their call center employees. Read more here.


Illinois CWAers Help Families in Need

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The closing of schools due to COVID-19 pose hardships on many families – especially those with children who rely on meals from school. Members of the CWA Unified Council of Illinois helped box food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help these families.


Union Plus COVID-19 Benefits

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CWA members participating in various Union Plus programs may be eligible for additional assistance related to COVID-19. Click here to see a full list of Union Plus updates and resources.


Coronavirus Safety and Reporting

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As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect communities across the globe, CWA leaders are engaging with employers to ensure that they are providing CWA members with comprehensive safety and prevention measures in an environment that encourages open and free communication without fear of reprisal or negative impacts on pay or continued employment.

CWA's Health and Safety department has established a process for locals to report on what protections employers have put in place as well as for members to report any incidents of exposure or infection. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms consistent with infection, contact your healthcare provider immediately and follow reporting procedures established by your employer. Also notify your CWA Local or District as soon as possible.

Local health and safety committees are also sharing information with members on protocols for avoiding infection at their workplaces.

These resources provide more information on how to protect yourself from coronavirus infection, what to do if you are sick, and how to address the risk of infection in your workplace:


Organizing Update

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Glitch

In a historic step forward for workers organizing in tech, employees at Glitch, a coding platform tool company, last week won recognition for their union and will join CWA Local 1101. Glitch voluntarily recognized the union after it demonstrated that 90% of the workers indicated their support for joining CWA.

The organizing effort is part of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) initiative, launched by CWA in January to help workers in the industry build power. By forming a union, Glitch employees, about half of whom work in the New York City headquarters and half of whom work remotely throughout the country, will gain a voice on the job and the ability to collectively bargain for pay equity throughout the company, and protections from unfair discipline and lay-offs.

"We are excited to set the standard for the tech community, and for us at Glitch to join CWA in pushing for ethical, humane, and responsible behavior from tech employers. We are also very excited to support workers everywhere engaged in similar struggles," said Zainab Shah, a Partnerships Manager at Glitch. "The balance of power is a little more in favor of workers today, and I'm proud of us for contributing to the long and deep-rooted tradition of organizing for labor rights in the U.S. and beyond."

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Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications workers on the Navajo Nation in Arizona have voted to join CWA. The bargaining unit will contain 36 technicians who provide telecommunications services on the vast reservation.

Despite being on the brink of bankruptcy, Frontier hired anti-union consultants to come in and campaign against the union. The consultants did ride-alongs, had one-on-one conversations, and told lies about unions. The workers overcame the anti-union campaign by sticking together, talking to each other, and publicly showing their support for the union.

"I have worked for Frontier for years and in the last few years myself and my co-workers feel we have no voice in our future," said Technician Darryl Bitsoi. "We just want a seat at the table with a voice to protect our jobs and our ability to serve our customers. That is why we voted to join CWA."


Workers at Frontier Communications on the Navajo Nation vote to join CWA.

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The Roanoke Times

Journalists at The Roanoke Times marked Lee Enterprises' takeover of Warren Buffett's BH Media Group on Monday with an announcement on Tuesday: They're forming the Timesland News Guild, becoming the first to organize since the purchase was announced in January. More than 75 percent of Roanoke Times newsroom employees – reporters, photographers, graphic artists, copy and online editors, designers, and support staff – signed cards indicating support for the union organizing effort.

"We're taking this step to give our newsrooms a seat at the table with our new owners," said Tonia Moxley, a reporter at The Roanoke Times since 2000.

Union organizers seek to work with local management to strengthen The Roanoke Times, they said in a press statement. "A union can hold company leaders accountable to the high journalistic standards readers deserve, advocate for the restoration of jobs and beats that serve the community, and negotiate for fair pay and employment practices," they wrote.


Political Update

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Georgia

On a town hall call on Tuesday evening with hundreds of CWA members, CWA Georgia announced its endorsement for Sarah Riggs Amico for U.S. Senate.

"Sarah Riggs Amico has consistently shown that she understands and believes that being a union member is the best way for workers to have a voice on the job," said Tony Tilley, Chair of the CWA Georgia Political Council. "She will be an invaluable ally for CWA members in the U.S. Senate to protect union jobs, pass the PRO ACT and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act to expand workers' rights, and stop the offshoring of call center jobs."

"Sarah Riggs Amico's record of fighting for working families speaks for itself," said CWA Local 3204 President Ed Barlow. "When AT&T Southeast workers went on strike last year, she joined CWA members on the picket lines. Sarah understands that the stakes have never been higher for working people, and CWA is proud to endorse her for the U.S. Senate."

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Illinois

In Illinois' 13th District, CWA-endorsed candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, won her primary on Tuesday. She will take on incumbent Rodney Davis, who has a long record of betraying workers in his district, including recently voting against the PRO Act, important legislation to expand workers' rights to organize and take collective action in the workplace.