Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Jennifer Abruzzo as the new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel. Abruzzo, who was nominated by President Joe Biden for the post, served as the Special Counsel for Strategic Initiatives at CWA before her confirmation, and has many years of experience working for the NLRB in various roles, including Acting General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel.
The NLRB General Counsel plays a critical role in setting the agenda for the NLRB and determining which cases it will pursue. The Trump Administration’s General Counsel, union-buster Peter Robb, cut the NLRB’s budget, reduced staff, and implemented policies that made it more difficult for NLRB lawyers to investigate worker complaints and pursue unfair labor practice charges.
No Republican Senators supported Abruzzo’s confirmation, resulting in a tie vote which was broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Today CWA and 40 other organizations launched the Worker Power Coalition, to push for the Senate to pass the PRO Act. New polling from the coalition shows overwhelming support for the PRO Act in states that are political battlegrounds or otherwise important to secure majority support in the Senate for the PRO Act.
“It’s time for the Senate to pass the PRO Act to give working people the tools they need to regain power at work,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “The PRO Act will impose serious penalties on corporations and CEOs that retaliate against workers who speak up to improve their working conditions and make it easier for workers to join together in unions to negotiate better pay and benefits and time off to spend with their families.”
Next week, on Wednesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 29, CWA members and retirees will be calling voters in Arizona, Alaska, and Virginia to ask them to urge their Senators to do the right thing and get the PRO Act passed.
You'll need a laptop and phone or smartphone to make the calls. RSVP at CWA.org/PROActPhonebank to receive information via email on how to join!
Lumen's Failure to Invest is Worsening the Digital Divide
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A new report from CWA and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) shows that Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) is worsening the digital divide in the U.S. by blatantly failing to invest in essential fiber-optic buildout in lower-income, rural, and Tribal communities. Lumen has cut more than 4,500 CWA-represented jobs since 2017, which has contributed to the problem.
The report, “Lumen’s Digital Disparity: Underinvestment in Infrastructure Discriminates Against Lower-Income, Rural, and Native American Customers,” analyzes Lumen’s network in 30 states using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data, interviews with Lumen technicians, and reports by local advocates in Lumen’s service area.
“With a massive national footprint and hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to building broadband in communities that need it most, Lumen Technologies needs to set an example for the industry and help close the digital divide by investing in next-generation networks in low-income and rural communities,” said CWA District 7 Vice President Brenda Roberts.
CWA is calling for Lumen to double the number of households passed by fiber in two years, to take advantage of federal funding opportunities for fiber buildout, and to stop its practice of outsourcing publicly-funded broadband jobs to non-union contractors.
“Lumen Technologies’ failure to effectively deploy broadband in unserved communities stems in large part from the ongoing job cuts of its highly-skilled union workforce,” said CWA Local 7804 President Jake Williams. “Union workers with CWA are Lumen’s most important resource when it comes to effective broadband buildout. Union workers have decades of training and experience in broadband deployment, and they know what it takes to build strong, lasting connectivity. Lumen needs to start investing in its workers who are on-the-ground hearing customers’ concerns and installing the company’s network.”
Bargaining opened on Tuesday for over 2,000 CWA-represented workers at Frontier Communications in California.
In his opening statement, CWA District 9 Vice President Frank Arce said that he was proud of the service CWA members have provided even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged and Frontier went through a bankruptcy and leadership change.
“This is the time for Frontier to recommit to its customers and its employees,” Arce said. “It’s time to get serious about providing high quality, reliable internet service to every household in the areas that it serves. It is time to recognize that workers aren’t a liability on a spreadsheet that needs to be optimized and minimized, but the very lifeblood of this company.”
CWA members and allies, including Scabby the Rat, rallied outside of the Frontier office in Long Beach, Calif., where contract negotiations opened this week.
New England telecom workers who are members of CWA Local 1400 and IBEW Locals 2320, 2326, and 2327 have voted to authorize a strike against Consolidated Communications. The workers say the company is hiring too many outside contractors and bargaining in bad faith in negotiations that have been ongoing since March. A three-year contract with Consolidated is set to expire on August 7.
Consolidated purchased FairPoint Communications in 2017. FairPoint workers struck for four months from October 2014-February 2015 over many of the same issues on the table now.
“CWA and IBEW are in lockstep with each other to continue to fight for good-paying jobs and to maintain those jobs in northern New England,” said CWA Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi as reported in the Portland Press Herald.
On July 16, members of CWA Local 1111 held a rally outside Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmyra, N.Y., to demand stronger support and better benefits from Arnot Health. Workers are currently in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement as the current agreement expires at the end of July.
For the past few months, workers have taken to the streets several times to demand dignity and respect on the job after caring for patients throughout the pandemic. They are fighting for higher wages, improved staff-to-patient ratios and affordable health insurance.
CWA Files Complaint Against Eyeglass Manufacturer Luxottica
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Last week, CWA, the AFL-CIO, and two global union federations filed a complaint with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) alleging severe violations of workers’ freedom of association at the Luxottica manufacturing and distribution center in McDonough, Ga. Luxottica is the world’s largest eyeglass manufacturer, employing more than 150,000 workers worldwide and more than 2,000 at the Georgia facility.
According to the complaint, Luxottica plant managers in Georgia are waging an aggressive anti-union campaign, and executives from the company’s European headquarters have failed to hold U.S. management accountable under OECD guidelines, which aim to promote ethical behavior by multinational corporations in their foreign operations.
"I have been an employee at Luxottica for four years. I am proud to work hard at my job every day," said Lisa Ragsdale, a worker in McDonough. "My co-workers and I are fighting to form a union so we can have a voice on the job. ... We believe Luxottica should support a union for its workers, whether they are in Italy or in the U.S."
“We’re turning an international spotlight on Luxottica’s interference with workers’ organizing rights in Georgia,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “Luxottica workers in Italy have long been represented by trade unions, who have a positive, mutually respectful, and productive relationship with Italian management. We want to ensure that Luxottica workers in the United States are treated with the same respect,” he said.
More than 160 workers at Oxford University Press in New York City have filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after the publisher refused to recognize their union voluntarily, despite the public support of a supermajority of employees. Last month, the workers announced they had formed their union with the News Media Guild, TNG-CWA Local 31222.
Voting Rights Update
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Last week, CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr., joined other leaders in Texas at a rally in Austin to protest attempts by the Texas Legislature to restrict voting rights.
On Monday, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens and Public, Healthcare, and Education Workers Sector Vice President Margaret Cook joined the Women’s Moral Monday March on Washington to take action in support of voting rights for all, an end to the filibuster, and a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. After a rally at the Supreme Court, the participants marched toward the Capitol and were arrested for blocking traffic.
The march was held on the anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Women’s Convention, which was a key moment in the fight for women’s right to vote.