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Nov 19, 2020 - Ban on COVID-19 Leave Requests at Call Centers and other news

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With Elliott Management's AT&T Exit, It's Time for a New Path

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This week, Elliott Management disclosed that it had sold its shares of AT&T stock just one year after it began its destructive campaign to make a quick buck by forcing AT&T's management to drastically cut costs.

Unlike the hedge fund managers at Elliott, CWA members who work at AT&T have a long-term interest in the success of the company and the customers they serve. Instead of catering to the whims of Wall Street, AT&T's leadership now has an opportunity to pursue a new path that increases prosperity and connectedness for all Americans, which is especially critical as our country struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We must continue to mobilize and put pressure on AT&T to provide its workers with the support necessary to protect their health and prevent the spread of the virus. AT&T must stop cutting jobs so long as work is contracted out or delegated to authorized dealers. Additionally, AT&T should extend its suspension of stock buybacks in order to invest in building desperately needed next generation networks across its entire footprint, including rural areas. It should work with CWA leaders to include frontline workers in retraining programs for jobs of the future. And it should once again be an anchor for the middle class by allowing all of its workers to choose union representation without management opposition or interference.

Hedge fund managers with deep pockets and big ideas will come and go, but CWA members are the foundation upon which AT&T has built its success, and we are here for the long haul.

As COVID-19 Cases Surge, Maximus Directs Managers Not to Approve COVID-19 Leave Requests

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Despite the national surge in COVID-19 cases, the giant federal healthcare contractor Maximus has directed managers and supervisors not to approve any COVID-19 leave requests, and not to refer employees to human resources for COVID leave through early December. This "COVID-19 leave blackout" applies to the thousands of Maximus employees who respond to Medicare and ACA calls. While some employees are now working remotely, many are working out of Maximus' call centers.

"I feel like I'm putting myself back at risk, and they don't care," said Sylvia Walker, who works at the Maximus call center in Bogalusa, La. "COVID is very much alive in this city and in this state where I live. The people you encounter on the phones are already stressed. They're feeling lonely, they call, they cry, they are distraught, and we have to deal with that. The company shouldn't be adding additional stress on us and putting policies in place that could put us, our families, and our communities at risk of contracting a deadly virus when we are working hard to serve the public."

Since before the pandemic hit, workers at Maximus call centers have been organizing to join CWA to address low wages and poor working conditions. Maximus also recently informed workers of devastating changes to their individual health coverage, increasing deductibles to $4,500 next year and increasing maximum out-of-pocket expenses by 20%, to $6,000, in 2021.

"With these changes, almost everything I need currently for my health care is subject to a $4,500 deductible," said Christopher Thomas, who works at the Maximus call center in Lawrence, Kan. "Now seeing my neurologist will cost me about $500 per visit and my meds that they prescribe are now basically unaffordable to me with this new plan. What kind of employer guts medical coverage in the middle of a global pandemic?"

Journalists of L.A. Times Win A Decisive Victory for Pay Equity

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The journalists of the Los Angeles Times have won a victory for pay equity: Owners of the Times and Tribune Publishing agreed to pay $3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that women and journalists of color were paid less than their white male counterparts. The settlement was announced last week.

The L.A. Times reported that as a result of the agreement, nearly 240 current and former employees are eligible to receive a portion of the award.

Although the L.A. Times Guild did not have "standing" in the suit, the journalists released a report in April 2018, showing that on average women of color at the Times made less than 70 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

L.A. Times workers fought for and won a first contract in October 2019, mandating the company to interview at least two candidates who are women or workers from traditionally underrepresented groups. They also set pay minimums for all newsroom positions and limited the company's ability to subcontract out work.

"This is a huge win for every worker," said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss, a former L.A. Times data and graphics reporter. "Every union has the obligation to fight against pay inequities and workers have the tools to do it."

Los Angeles Times Guild members celebrate the holidays, December 2018.

CWA Opposes Verizon's Attempt to Avoid Thorough Public Review of TracFone Acquisition

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CWA filed comments this week urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny Verizon's request to give its proposed acquisition of TracFone a "streamlined" review. CWA's filing lays out serious procedural, public interest, and antitrust issues involved with the potential $7 billion transaction.

"During the pandemic, the Lifeline program for low-income consumers is particularly critical. Any proposed transaction that could affect that program or alter competition in the wireless industry must face full scrutiny from regulators at the FCC," said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor.

Union Plus Holiday Giveback: Celebrate An Extraordinary Union Member!

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Over the next month, Union Plus is accepting nominations for extraordinary union members across the country that deserve something a little extra this holiday season. One hundred winners will each receive $1,000 in appreciation of all that they do for their communities.

There are two ways to enter:

1. Record a video
Create a one minute video telling us all about an extraordinary union member (even yourself).
• Submit your video using the form available here, OR
• Post the video on your personal Instagram account using the hashtags #UnionPlusGiveAGrand and #Contest.

2. Write all about it
Use the entry form available here to paint us a picture (in 300 words or less) of an extraordinary union member.

Nominations will be accepted until December 4th, and winners will be announced throughout December.

For more information visit

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The Contest (the "Contest") is open to legal U.S residents 18+. See Official Rules & Appendix for complete eligibility details and eligible unions in Official Rules. The Contest is not open to the general public. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Contest begins 11/9/20 and ends 12/4/20. Click here for Official Rules. Sponsor: Union Privilege.

In Memoriam – November 19, 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 Cyrus B. Stamos, a member of CWA Local 1298 who worked for Frontier Communications.