May 14, 2020 - Trump Labor Secretary Wants Employers to Report Workers During COVID-19

May 14, 2020

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Universal Access to Broadband is Needed to Support Critical Services During the Pandemic and Create Jobs

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made something clear that CWA members have known for a long time: millions of families in the United States do not have access to affordable, reliable broadband internet connections.

In a letter sent this week, CWA President Chris Shelton, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry urged Congress to include affordable, universal access to broadband in legislation that addresses the coronavirus pandemic.

Frontline workers are keeping people connected, teaching our children, and providing healthcare and essential public services during this crisis. But technicians can't install high-speed internet service if fiber optic cable hasn't reached the neighborhood. Teachers can't keep children who cannot access online materials engaged and learning. Nurses can't provide telemedicine services to patients who lack broadband and who can't get a reliable cell phone connection.

Two of the leaders' recommendations are part of the HEROES Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week: more funding for the FCC's E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband, and assistance covering the cost of broadband for low-income households. In many parts of the United States, however, high-speed broadband connections are not available at any price. By funding broadband expansion, Congress will create family-supporting jobs and provide millions of Americans with a gateway to jobs, education, healthcare, public safety, civic participation, and communications among friends and family.

Read the full letter here: https://cwa-union.org/sites/default/files/20200511-union-letter-on-broadband-covid.pdf.


Organizing Update

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Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel workers voted overwhelmingly to join the NewsGuild-CWA this week. The 53-person bargaining unit will join CWA Local 3108.

The group, which organized around cuts to their newsroom, faced unexpected delays when their March 25th election was canceled by the NLRB, causing a delay of nearly seven weeks for their vote count.

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Inside Higher Ed

Less than a week after publicly announcing their union campaign, 12 editorial and tech employees at DC-based Inside Higher Ed won voluntary recognition. The group will join the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild.

Issues for the workers included shifting schedules, tight deadlines, and the desire to gain stability by having a seat at the table. The group had previously delivered a petition to management and won better severance pay, showing the power of collective action!

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Pop-Up Magazine Productions

Staffers at Pop-Up Magazine Productions announced this week that they are forming a union as part of the Media Guild of the West. An overwhelming majority of more than 30 non-management employees at Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine signed union authorization cards.

The editors, producers, designers, and other staffers said they are seeking to partner with management to build a sustainable work environment for all, including by addressing issues such as job security, transparency, career growth, and compensation.


Bargaining Update

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CenturyLink

After eight weeks of bargaining, CWA members at CenturyLink in the central Florida area reached a tentative agreement with the company covering 256 workers. The agreement includes improvements on job protections and working conditions, maintains current benefits, and provides a 4.5% increase on wages during the life of the contract.

CWA Local 3176 President Greg Douglas said, "The membership sent a clear message to the company that as union members we have a collective voice and we are willing to use it."


The COVID-19 pandemic raised challenges during bargaining, requiring the bargaining committee to conduct all meetings remotely using audio/video technology instead of face-to-face. Despite those challenges, the local mobilized effectively during bargaining, using tactics like an electronic mobile billboard (above).


Trump's Labor Secretary Encourages Employers to Report Workers Who Fear Contracting COVID-19

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During a global pandemic, instead of focusing the Labor Department's resources on protecting workers, President Trump's Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia is encouraging employers to report workers who refuse to return to their jobs out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

Scalia issued a new guidance this week on COVID-19-related unemployment insurance urging states to have employers report workers for refusing to return to their jobs, saying, "States are strongly encouraged to request employers to provide information when workers refuse to return to their jobs for reasons that do not support their continued eligibility for benefits. We also strongly encourage states to remind employers and the public about the claimant and employer fraud resources within each state."

"When you put a union buster in charge of the Labor Department, workers are the ones who suffer," said Micki Siegel de Hernández, CWA Deputy Director of Occupational Health and Safety. "During a time when the Labor Department should be putting its full efforts into making sure Americans are safe on the job, Scalia is continuing to focus on instilling fear in the workplace, allowing hazardous conditions while shielding employers from liability, and creating more red tape for states trying to get unemployment benefits to people who desperately need them. Trump's administration's actions have been disgraceful and show blatant disregard for workers' lives."


Health Care Worker COVID-19 Survey

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The George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health, under the direction of Dr. David Michaels, has launched a critically important survey of health care workers. The survey collects information about COVID-19 exposures, infections, and workplace health and safety conditions such as the provision of N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE). It will document the often dangerous conditions that health care workers have been facing since the pandemic began, and the results will be used to prevent illnesses and advocate for protections.

CWA urges all CWA members who are health care workers from all different kinds of facilities to take this important survey to add your voices and experiences to this effort. We also urge you to share the survey link with other health care workers you know. The survey is anonymous – you will not have to provide your name or your employer's name.

Click on this link to participate: https://publichealth.gwu.edu/covidsurvey


CWA Members Make Sure Unemployed Workers Receive Benefits

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The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in record numbers of workers losing their jobs. CWA members in New Jersey have been handling a flood of unemployment claims. In just seven weeks, they processed twice as many claims as had been processed in all of last year.

In an interview with NJTVOnline, Lydia Diaz, a CWA Local 1037 member, expressed her dedication to helping unemployed workers. "I wish that I could work 24 hours to get everything done for them so that they could get that pressure lifted off their shoulder, that they're going to be okay," Diaz said.

The CARES Act, passed last month by Congress, expanded unemployment benefits for many workers, and the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed extending that coverage.

More information on the CARES Act and other state and federal benefits is available on CWA's COVID-19 resource page. The page also includes materials on recommended health and safety protocols for workers.

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.


In Memoriam – May 14, 2020

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CWA has established a memorial page for members who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

This week we honor the memory of Rebecca Pina, a member of CWA Local 1040 who worked at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital; Yves Sajous, a member of CWA Local 1182 who worked for the New York City Police Department Traffic Enforcement District; Freddy Salvatore, a member of CWA Local 13000 who worked for Verizon; Ramon Caraballo, a member of IUE-CWA Local 81485 who worked for Slant/Fin; Jean Emile, a member of IUE-CWA Local 81485 who worked for the Federal Pump Corporation; and Joseph Rogers, a member of IUE-CWA Local 81485 who worked for Slant/Fin.