Apr 23, 2020 - Remembering CWAers We've Lost

April 23, 2020

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Workers Memorial Day: Protect Our Rights, Protect Our Lives

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April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, when we remember workers killed or injured on the job and renew our commitment to fight for strong safety and health protections.

This year's observance comes as we are in the middle of a safety and health crisis. Not only are hundreds of working people dying each day as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, often due to exposure at work, the response of the Trump Administration has been to weaken or suspend workplace protections.

The theme of this year's Workers Memorial Day is "Protect Our Rights, Speak Up for Safe Jobs." The AFL-CIO has posted resources, including flyers and artwork that you can use as you commemorate the day, at https://aflcio.org/about-us/conferences-and-events/workers-memorial-day.

CWA members have been speaking up every chance we get, drawing attention to the ongoing need for personal protective equipment, ventilator production, testing, and other tools to address the pandemic. We have been making sure that our employers are putting policies in place that minimize the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19, supporting workers who are not yet union members as they fight for protection, and pushing for local, state, and federal legislation to address the crisis.

Our commitment to fighting for safe working conditions has never been stronger.

This Workers Memorial Day, CWA especially remembers these members and others who were killed on the job over the past year:

Steven Herring, 55, a member of IUE-CWA Local 83761 in Louisville, Ky., was fatally crushed between a moving fixture and stairs on the refrigerator production line.

Kendrick Hudson, 24, a member of CWA Local 3645 in Charlotte, N.C., died after the tug he was driving hit a piece of baggage that had been left on the tarmac, flipped over and pinned him underneath.

Allan McConn, 62, a member of CWA Local 6171 in Krum, Texas, suffered a fall while on the job. After finishing the job he drove himself home. He went into a coma and was rushed to the hospital where he passed away.

Tommy N. Ngo, 35, a member of IUE-CWA Local 87020 in Denver, Colo., died when a transformer that he was servicing exploded.

Larry Shroeder, 53, a member of CWA Local 6137 in Corpus Christi, Texas, died when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver while on the job.

Fatalities as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to rise. While it is difficult to know how someone may have been exposed to the virus, we do know that many people have been exposed while at work.

The following COVID-19 related deaths have been reported to CWA's Health and Safety Department as of April 22. We have established a memorial page for members who have lost their lives to COVID-19, which we will continue to update.

Rolondo "Sonny" Aravena, a member of CWA Local 1101 in New York, N.Y.
Richard Austin, a member of CWA Local 1182 in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Priscilla Carrow, a member of CWA Local 1180 in New York, N.Y.
Maria Clark, a member of CWA Local 1037 in Newark, N.J.
Zeke Cousins, Chief Steward and member of CWA Local 1101 in New York, N.Y.
Karisma Dargan, a member of CWA Local 1182 in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Larry Edgeworth, a member of NABET-CWA Local 51011 in New York, N.Y.
Alan Finder, a member of TNG-CWA Local 31003 in New York, N.Y.
Cynthia (Neicey) Ford, a member of CWA Local 1037 in Newark, N.J.
Eddie Germain, a member of CWA Local 1032 in Newton, N.J.
Tony Greer, a member of NABET-CWA Local 51016 in New York, N.Y.
Gerald Hall, a member of CWA Local 4100 in Detroit, Mich.
Anick Jesdanun, a member of TNG-CWA Local 31222 in New York, N.Y.
Jason Lewis, a member of CWA Local 1182 in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Steven Michael, a member of CWA Local 1180 in New York, N.Y.
Robert Moody, a member of CWA Local 1180 in New York, N.Y.
Cynthia Moss, a member of CWA Local 1000 in Cranford, N.J.
Marius Narcisse, a member of CWA Local 1180 in New York, N.Y.
Dr. Gene Nebel, a member of CWA Local 1040 in Trenton, N.J.
Cletus Nwachukwu, a member of CWA Local 1037 in Newark, N.J.
Eunice Oden, a member of CWA Local 1183 in New York, N.Y.
John Pong, a member of CWA Local 1037 in Newark, N.J.
Carol Ryer, a member of CWA Local 1182 in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Cheryl Shingles, a member of CWA Local 1081 in Newark, N.J.
Walter Simpson, a member of CWA Local 1105 in Lake Success, N.Y.
Richard Stewart-Johnson, a member of CWA Local 1101 in New York, N.Y.
Nicole Varlow-Graves, a member of CWA Local 1000 in Cranford, N.J.
José Vázquez, a member of CWA Local 4299 in Chicago, Ill.

An additional 10 COVID-19 related fatalities have been reported for CWA members whose names have not yet been publicly released.


Bargaining Update

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Altice (West Virginia)

After almost eight months of negotiations, the CWA District 2-13 Bargaining Committee reached a Tentative Agreement for a first contract with Altice in West Virginia for a four-year contract.

The agreement provides, among other things, job security, grievance and arbitration rights, and guaranteed pay raises.

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CenturyLink

As bargaining continues, members of CWA Local 3176 in Central Florida who work at CenturyLink are continuing to push the company for a fair contract.

Since the merger of CenturyLink and Level 3 Communications, the company, led by L3 CEO Jeff Storey, has been trying to replace union workers with contractors and driving down the quality of working conditions in an effort to have a higher profit margin.


As members of CWA Local 3176 continue to bargain with the company, a mobile billboard to get CenturyLink to recognize that its workers want a fair contract made appearances at the CenturyLink building in Ocala.


Organizing Update

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WIRED

Staffers at WIRED, a tech magazine and website, announced Wednesday they are forming a union. More than 85 percent of eligible WIRED staff signed union cards and have requested voluntary recognition. The bargaining unit will consist of approximately 80 people, including writers, researchers, and video producers.

Senior Writer Andy Greenberg said, "We seek to unionize so that our entire staff has a seat at the table as Condé Nast decides how to adapt to the media industry's dramatic transformations. The current economic crisis has only made that need more urgent. If we can collectively protect any member of our staff from the effects of budget cuts, we have a responsibility to demand a say in how those cuts are decided."

Workers at Condé Nast's other union publications issued a statement of support: "We stand with our courageous colleagues who have united to take charge of their own future by forming a union, and we call on Condé Nast to immediately recognize the WIRED Union and begin the process of developing their first collective bargaining agreement," they wrote.

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Vermillion County Emergency Communications Center

To help keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 Public Service Telecommunicators in the Vermillion County Emergency Communications Center in Danville, Ill., have won recognition for their union and have been officially certified by the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

The workers' efforts to form a union received initial pushback from the employer, but after the workers showed 100% support, the employer agreed to voluntarily recognize the union!


Frontier Members Pioneer New Training Techniques

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The class picture of Frontier Telecommunications members who began mobilization trainings this week as they continue to fight for a fair contract. Frontier declared bankruptcy last week. The trainers used new techniques to engage members over Zoom to make sure that even during social distancing, we continue to mobilize around our fight at Frontier. CWA Locals 9588, 9586, 9575, 9400, and 9003 have participated in online mobilization training so far.


Congress Should Not Use COVID-19 Recovery Money to Fund T-Mobile's Merger Commitments

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CWA and other advocacy groups sent a letter this week calling on Congress to ensure that T-Mobile does not receive COVID-19 recovery funding to meet the commitments it agreed to when it sought approval of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger from federal and state regulators. The letter was signed by New America's Open Technology Institute, the Rural Wireless Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, the American Economic Liberties Project, and Free Press Action.

"Congress must hold the new T-Mobile accountable for the promises it made to ram the merger through the approval process," said CWA Director of Government Affairs Dan Mauer. "T-Mobile promised that the merger would give the company the resources to build out 5G to nearly the entire U.S. population, including rural areas. COVID-19 recovery funds should be used to address the crisis caused by the pandemic, not as a corporate handout to help the new T-Mobile fulfill the promises the company was eager to make to push this merger through."


168 Members of Congress Call for Electronic Union Representation Elections

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Reps. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) sent a letter on Monday signed by 168 Members of Congress calling for funding to enable the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold union elections electronically in the next coronavirus stimulus bill. A prior appropriations bill restricted the NLRB from using any funds to implement electronic voting.

"Workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively with their employer are always important, but especially so when subjects like adequate health care benefits, access to protective equipment, and pandemic safety protocols, are – quite literally – matters of life and death," the Members of Congress wrote.

Four weeks ago, the NLRB took the extraordinary action of halting all union representation elections in response to COVID-19. Rather than using mail-in ballots or a more modern approach like telephone or internet voting, the NLRB chose to suspend the rights of workers everywhere. The National Mediation Board, which oversees representation elections for airline and railroad workers, has allowed internet voting since 2007.

"Now more than ever, workers must have a voice," said Andrew Pantazi, a NewsGuild-CWA member and reporter at the Florida Times-Union. "At my company, Gannett has used the coronavirus as an excuse to cancel three union elections, all while the company forces furloughs and fails to provide necessary protective equipment for journalists."


We Are Always Essential Town Hall Call

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Senator Elizabeth Warren is joining CWA members and essential workers from unions across the labor movement for a "We Are Always Essential" town hall call on Saturday, April 25, at 1pm ET/12pm CT/11am MT/10am PT. Sign up at https://cwaunion.wufoo.com/forms/we-are-always-essential-town-hall or text WORKERS to 69866.

Elected officials of every party, at all levels of government, must act NOW to put the health, safety, and financial well-being of America's workers first in our efforts to address this continuing crisis. Now, more than ever, it is clear that workers need and deserve healthcare for all, guaranteed paid sick and family leave, a fair minimum wage of at least $15/hr, and the right to join a union no matter where we work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that our economy is out of balance. While the Trump Administration continues to put corporations and billionaires ahead of working people, millions of us are risking our lives, facing unprecedented financial insecurity, or both.

Join the call to learn how we can make sure plans to address the crisis put working people first.


CWA Backs New Orleans Hospitality Workers

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Earlier this month, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens wrote a letter expressing concern about the New Orleans Convention Center's lack of response to members of UNITE HERE Local 23 and other community groups who have been seeking aid and relief for laid-off New Orleans hospitality workers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

CWA is scheduled to hold its 78th annual convention at the New Orleans convention center in August 2021.

"The convention center should not be allowing $184 million in unrestricted net assets to sit unused while workers in New Orleans face layoffs, food shortages, and evictions," Steffens wrote. "This conflict must be resolved in order for our convention next year to proceed as scheduled."

On Wednesday, the Convention Center's board approved a $1 million donation to support the hospitality workers. While this amount is insufficient to address the crisis, in an article in The Times-Picayune, Bo Delp, UNITE HERE Local 23's Senior Political Organizer, noted that there had been no response at all from the Convention Center's management until they received CWA's letter.


Reminder: CWA's COVID-19 Resource Page

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We continue to update our COVID-19 resource page with new resources to address common questions and concerns that CWA members have as the pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our lives.

Materials include recommended health and safety protocols for workers and information about benefits available as the result of recently passed federal legislation to address the crisis.

Your local leadership will have the most up-to-date information on policies in place at your work location to address the COVID-19 pandemic and what action you should take if you believe you are being asked to work under unsafe conditions.

Remember, 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.