May 27, 2021 - Customer Service Representatives File Complaint Against Unfair Wages, and other news.

May 27, 2021

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CWA Members in Georgia and Colorado Reveal Impact of Unnecessary Pandemic Job and Budget Cuts

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New reports this week from CWA's United Campus Workers members reveal the impact of unnecessary pandemic job and budget cuts on university workers.

In Georgia, an analysis of salary data by members of UCW-CWA Local 3265 showed that Black employees at 25 University System of Georgia (USG) campuses were disproportionately impacted by job cuts during the pandemic. Higher job cut rates hit service and clerical workers as well as part-time faculty.

The report revealed that USG cut jobs despite a strong financial position, and the university system could have maintained staffing levels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers are calling on USG to recommit to diversifying employee ranks, return staffing levels to at least the pre-pandemic baseline, and ensure that initiatives to hire diverse staff prioritize rehiring people of color and women whose jobs were cut over the past year.

In Colorado, UCW-CWA Local 7799 members found that the University of Colorado (CU) system used the COVID-19 pandemic to make a series of drastic budget cuts that were passed on to workers even though better choices that prioritized good jobs and affordable education were available. UCW Colorado is calling on CU to shift its budget priorities, make transparent budget decisions, provide a living wage for all employees and impose a temporary pause on debt-financed capital construction projects.


Customer Service Representatives at Maximus File Complaint Against Unfair Wages

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Call center workers employed by Maximus have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor calling for the Biden Administration to revise pay rates for tens of thousands of federally contracted customer service representatives who are earning unfairly low wages.


CWA members showed their support for Maximus workers during the 2019 Customer Service Week of Action.

The workers, who help Americans navigate access to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act marketplace, would earn about 22% more than their current pay if prior administrations had set their rates fairly and accurately. Workers doing similar jobs directly contracted by the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration earn more than $50,000 per year, while the Maximus workers earn $30,000 or less.

The Biden administration recently raised all federally contracted employees' wages to a minimum of $15 per hour, which was only a first step, according to Jamie Brown, a Maximus employee in Mississippi. "We are organizing a union and need Biden’s support in our fight to truly close the pay gap," said Brown.

A new report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) reveals that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has lobbied to suppress essential call center workers' wages for more than a decade and failed to keep workers safe on the job. The NELP report also found that Maximus opposed workers' efforts to organize with CWA as part of its attempts to stop pay hikes and improvements in working conditions.


Organizing Update

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American Red Cross

On May 18, workers at the American Red Cross in Binghamton, N.Y., overwhelmingly voted to form their union with CWA Local 1123. The new bargaining unit has 42 members in five different job titles. Executive Vice President Nikki Tonas said, "The entire membership of CWA Local 1123 congratulates our new union sisters and brothers for holding steady and joining our family today. Our union became even stronger and there will only be more to come as we continue to organize to build our union's power for workers' rights."

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Forbes

On May 14, employees of Forbes, including reporters, editors, designers, videographers, and social media editors, announced their intention to form their union with The NewsGuild of New York-CWA Local 31003 with more than 80% of eligible staffers in support. They are asking management to respect their collective voice and recognize their union voluntarily.

"We're organizing to promote greater diversity in our newsroom, to gain more of a voice in editorial decisions, and advocate for a more supportive work environment where there are clear pathways for promotion," senior media editor Dawn Chmielewski said.

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And More!

This month, workers at MinnPost (Minnesota Newspaper and Communication Guild-CWA Local 37002), The Appeal (NewsGuild of New York-CWA Local 31033), and Skylight Books (CWA Local 9003) have joined CWA and won voluntary recognition from their employers. Workers are also organizing at the Longview Daily News (Pacific Northwest NewsGuild-CWA Local 37082) and the Kansas City Star (United Media Guild-CWA Local 34067).


CWAers Build Skills to Fight For Gender Justice and Equity

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Last week CWAers in District 9 participated in our union's first ever pilot training on Fighting for Gender Justice & Equity. This training is designed to provide the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to effectively prevent and combat gender-based harassment and discrimination in our workplaces, our union, and our communities.

Over 35 members from across CWA District 9 participated in this training. They had honest and critical discussions around broader systemic issues such as patriarchy and sexism, the intersection of various identities with gender in the context of harassment, and the role they play as union leaders in building a broader movement for gender justice and equity. Participants also gained valuable skills on bystander intervention and how to address the different ways gender-based mistreatment shows up in the workplace and the union.

CWA District 9 Vice President Frank Arce welcomed participants to the training and Maggie McCormack, the National Women's Committee representative for District 9 and President of Local 9588, helped facilitate the training.


Arizona Activists Increase Pressure for Ending the Filibuster to Pass Legislation to Build Union Member Power

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Last Thursday, CWA members joined hundreds at End the Filibuster rallies in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff to increase the pressure on U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to declare their support for ending the filibuster. A few days later, members of the Arizona Democratic Party passed resolutions calling for Sens. Sinema and Kelly to work to end the filibuster and support the PRO Act, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. CWA Local 7050 member and Arizona Democratic Party Labor Council Co-Chair Angel Wells helped circulate the PRO Act resolution and spoke in favor of its passage at the party meeting.

"For too long, union members have worked tirelessly to elect politicians who promise to support us then use the filibuster as an excuse for why they cannot pass legislation like the PRO Act that addresses our needs and builds union member power," said Wells. "We are tired of getting the runaround. It's time for our Senators to stand on the side of getting things done for working people."


CWA members, pictured here with Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (center), joined hundreds of other Arizonans at End the Filibuster rallies in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff last Thursday.


For the People Act: Get (and Share) the Facts

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The For the People Act ensures that eligible voters can participate in elections and reduces the role of large donations in political campaigns. Corporate lobbyists want to hold on to their power and keep things the way they are so they can keep calling the shots, so they are helping spread misinformation about the For the People Act.

The Brennan Center has published a great explainer debunking the most common myths about the For the People Act. Check it out at www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/people-act-separating-fact-fiction and if you are on Instagram, share this summary with your friends.

Still have questions? Join a tele-town hall with former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Congresswoman Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) tonight at 7 pm, ET. Learn more and sign up at www.mobilize.us/allonthelinega/event/391074.


CWA Member Launches Campaign for Florida Legislature

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Angel Perry, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 3108 in Orlando, is running to represent the 50th District in the Florida House of Representatives. The seat will be vacant in 2022 due to term limits.

Perry says that she found inspiration for her union work and public service in her parents, who were New York state employees and proud union members. While serving as a shop steward, she sought out more opportunities to get involved. Perry became a delegate to the AFL-CIO's political endorsing convention where she screened candidates who were seeking endorsements, lobbied for pro-worker legislation, and worked to elect endorsed candidates.

"My passion is helping people," said Perry. "Now, more than ever, people need someone who represents them with a voice that is clear that they know belongs to them. I can help with that."