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 also marks the 50th anniversary of the day that the Occupational Health and Safety Act went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job.
Our observance comes as working people are still dying each day as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while many are still dealing with the traumatic physical, emotional, and financial effects of the crisis.
While the Biden administration has worked to put in place responsible, qualified officials who are working hard to repair the damage that the previous administration did to OSHA, union representation is still working people's best way to protect themselves on the job.
As we grieve those we have lost from COVID-19 and other workplace hazards, we must do everything we can to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to ensure workers have safe jobs and the right to freely form a union without employer interference or intimidation.
This Workers Memorial Day, CWA especially remembers these members and others who were killed on the job over the past year:
On September 18, 2020, Martin DeMaris, 62, a member of CWA Local 1085 in Sewell, N.J., who performed correctional facility maintenance for the Salem County Sheriff's Department, died after his tractor rolled over while he was cutting grass on a pond embankment.
On October 13, 2020, Alec Williamson, 38, a member of CWA Local 1124 in Watertown, N.Y., a Verizon Field Technician, was flagging one end of a work zone for a crew running fiber cable, and was struck and run over by a vehicle that failed to stop.
On April 18, 2021, Dan Semich, 48, a member of CWA Local 3808 in Nashville, Tenn., an AT&T Wire Technician, died as the result of a fall from a midspan ladder during an installation.
Fatalities as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic continue. 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.
We have established a memorial page for members who have lost their lives to COVID-19, which we will continue to update.
Join Our Fight to Pass the PRO Act
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This week, CWA members and allies from the labor movement and beyond are taking part in a PRO Act Week of Action. The PRO Act is historic legislation that will put power in the hands of workers and reverse decades of legislation meant to crush unions. The bill will completely change labor law as we know it and shift power away from CEOs to workers.
CWAers are holding phonebanks, rallies, and taking online action to push the Senate to do the right thing and pass this bill. CWAers are also holding thank you events for legislators who support the PRO Act.
Our pressure is working. Last week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced he is co-sponsoring the PRO Act.
Want to join the fight? Sign the petition to demand your Senators pass the PRO Act. We'll follow up with more ways you can take action this week and beyond.
CWA members in District 1 and across the country are phonebanking to get PRO Act passed!
PRO Act Stories: Building A Better Future for All Workers
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Desiree Jackson, a bank worker and member of CWA Local 9412 who helped organize a union at Beneficial State Bank in California, spoke about the importance of passing the PRO Act.
At a listening session of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hosted by chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Desiree Jackson, a bank worker and member of CWA Local 9412 who helped organize a union at Beneficial State Bank in California, spoke about the importance of passing the PRO Act to make sure all workers have the freedom to join a union.
"During my time at Wells Fargo, I was under constant pressure to meet deadlines," Jackson said. "We had to complete all of our assigned tasks each workday or it would result in a meeting with our manager to be reminded of our job expectations."
After experiencing health issues from these pressures, Jackson took a job at Beneficial State Bank, where she began discussing forming a union with her coworkers. Thanks to CWA negotiating a strong neutrality agreement with Beneficial, Jackson and other workers were able to meet with experienced CWA organizers during lunch breaks to learn about the benefits of joining a union. The workers are now negotiating their first contract.
"All workers should have the same opportunity I had on whether to form a union in their workplace," Jackson said. "That's why the Senate should pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act."
CWA Welcomes President Biden’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment
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President Biden's executive order creating a Presidential Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment is a historic step toward increasing worker power and realizing the promise of the National Labor Relations Act.
From the minute President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), corporations and their allies in Congress sought to undermine it. Although the Act explicitly states that the federal government should encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining, over time the relentless corporate campaign to disempower working people has weakened the Act, and the NLRA and other laws have not been updated to reflect changes in the workplace.
To address these issues, President Biden has also endorsed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. That endorsement and the creation of this task force sends a strong message to the Senate that passing the PRO Act and other labor law reform bills is central to the President’s agenda.
CWA is looking forward to working with Vice President Kamala Harris, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and the rest of the members of the task force to ensure that the federal government is using all available avenues to ensure that working people are able to exercise their freedom to join together in unions to improve their working conditions.
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National Public Radio (NPR)
A group of 63 employees who work in NPR's digital media division have announced that they are organizing a union with NABET-CWA. NPR has tentatively agreed to voluntarily recognize the union pending verification that a majority of the workers in the unit have signed union authorization cards.
"We hope the success of our campaign is part of a greater movement in tech organizing that will positively impact the efforts of fellow technologists across the industry," the workers said in a statement.
Biden Puts Workers First with New NMB Pick
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President Biden has nominated Deirdre Hamilton to serve on the National Mediation Board, which is the agency that resolves labor-management disputes in the rail and airline industries. By picking Hamilton, who previously served as an AFA-CWA staff attorney, for this important position, Biden is ensuring that in his administration, transportation workers, including passenger service agents and AFA-CWA Flight Attendants, will really have their voices heard when it comes time to resolve issues with employers.
"The rail and aviation industries are highly unionized and drivers of good jobs. The Railway Labor Act (RLA) was the first federal law guaranteeing the right of workers to organize, join unions, and elect representatives without management coercion or interference. Deirdre has amassed an in-depth knowledge of the RLA, how it functions, and she is an excellent choice to enforce the full spirit of this law as a member of the Board," said AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson.