Aug 5, 2021 - Emergency Assistance Available for Rent and other news

August 5, 2021

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President Shelton and Senator Menendez Defend Public Sector Against Cuts

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In a joint opinion piece published in Newsweek on Saturday, CWA President Chris Shelton and New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez fought back against attempts to cut pandemic relief funds for state and local governments.

Shelton and Menendez noted that public sector workers, including CWA members, responded heroically to the pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic ... has upended our daily lives and shuttered businesses for significant periods of time,” they wrote. “Local governments in both red and blue states saw a substantial drop in tax revenue throughout 2020. As local revenues fell and demand for emergency services increased, public sector workers were once again on the chopping block. More than 1.3 million public sector jobs were cut nationwide. Women and people of color disproportionately held these positions.”

They concluded that, “[t]aking funds away from state and local governments when they need these resources most after a decade-plus of relentless cuts, would be remarkably shortsighted and economically irresponsible and only exacerbate the economic strife far too many workers continue to experience due to COVID-19.”


PRO Act Week of Action

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CWA activists were out in force collecting and delivering postcards during last week’s PRO Act week of action. They also participated in phone banks to talk to voters in Virginia, Arizona, and Alaska about the bill.

The PRO Act will strengthen penalties against employers who retaliate against workers who speak out about low wages and unsafe conditions. It will make it easier for workers to join unions so that they can negotiate for fair wages, quality healthcare, health and safety protections, and paid leave.

To view a slideshow of events, click here.


CWAers Participate in Direct Action to Mark Voting Rights Act Anniversary

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On Monday, to mark the anniversary week of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, activists from all over the country came to Washington, D.C., for a rally and direct action led by poor people, low-wage workers, and faith leaders. CWAers including District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr. and Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, who was arrested during her participation in the nonviolent protest, were among those who took to the streets. Participants at the rally demanded Congress end the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr.


Secretary Treasurer Sara Steffens and District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr. participated in the Moral Monday National Action in Washington, D.C, on Monday, August 2nd.


Bargaining Update

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PAL-CWA

CWA members who work in Lawrence, Kan., public schools are speaking out. After weeks of negotiations for a first contract, they say the most recent offer from the school board, which included a 2 cent per hour pay raise, was “a huge insult.” The bargaining team countered by proposing a $3 per hour pay raise to bring the minimum hourly wage for most members to $14.

In June, the board voted unanimously to recognize the Personnel Association of Lawrence–Communications Workers of America (PAL-CWA Local 6400) as the bargaining unit for hourly employees, including custodians, secretaries, electricians, and maintenance and food service workers.

As reported by Trish Masethin in the Lawrence Times, Chrystal Hunter, a member of the PAL-CWA bargaining team, said current wages are so low that some school employees rely on food stamps and other public assistance while administrators make six-figure salaries. “If COVID has taught us anything,” said Hunter, “it is that we are a community and that we need to help and uplift one another, especially those in the most need.”


PAL-CWA Local 6400 members are fighting for a fair first contract.

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New Mexico Public Workers 

Almost 2,300 public sector workers across 13 state agencies reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the state of New Mexico, effective July 20. Members of CWA Local 7076 voted overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement. Local officers said they were pleased with the outcome for state employees and thanked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for listening to workers and signing a much-needed update.

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NABET-CWA WDIV

Members of NABET-CWA Local 43 in Detroit, Mich., have ratified a 3-year contract extension agreement with WDIV-TV. The contract provides for a 3% wage increase immediately, with another 3% increase in 18 months. The agreement came a month after the previous contract expired at the end of June.

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The New York NewsGuild

Workers at The New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Ars Technica have unanimously ratified their first union contract with Condé Nast as members of The NewsGuild of New York (TNG-CWA Local 31003). The contract includes raises of up to 76% for some members and a salary floor of $60,000 to be in place by 2023. They also won just cause and a ban on non-disclosure agreements.

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KPFA

After 6 months at the bargaining table, workers at KPFA-FM radio in Berkeley, Calif., have ratified a 3-year contract for members of CWA Local 9415. The contract includes pay raises of 9.3% over 16 months, a more powerful health and safety committee, and maintenance of current health, dental, and retirement benefits.


Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Rejects CenturyLink/Lumen’s Attempt to Weaken Regulations

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Last week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously rejected CenturyLink/Lumen’s attempt to eliminate service quality rules and call center answering time requirements.

CWAers played a crucial role in defeating CenturyLink/Lumen’s petition to weaken regulations. An investigation by CWA found that the company has failed to maintain its physical copper plant and has failed to deploy fiber to 46 percent of its coverage area in Minnesota. CWA’s analysis revealed that the company is prioritizing network upgrades to wealthier areas, leaving lower income communities with outdated technologies. These violations led the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and Department of Commerce to recommend that the PUC reject the company’s petition.

In addition, CWA’s comments to the PUC noted that the company’s reduction of its Minnesota workforce by 52 percent is the real cause for having limited technician resources available to respond to requests for broadband repairs and installations.

Now more than ever, access to telecommunications services is critical to our nation’s health, safety, economy, and education systems. As the PUC noted in its decision, landline service is still relevant, particularly to elderly, rural, and lower-income customers who deserve quality service protections. Keeping these protections in place will allow customers to receive quality customer service in a timely manner.


New Report Finds T-Mobile Paid $0 Taxes on Billions in Profits

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A report released last week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reveals the results of the Trump-era Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) for T-Mobile, Amazon, and other corporate giants. Passed in 2017 without a single Democratic vote in Congress, the TCJA’s provisions allowed 39 of the nation’s most profitable companies, including T-Mobile, to pay $0 in federal income tax from 2018 through 2020.

During that time, T-Mobile successfully pursued a job-killing merger with Sprint, reported $11.5 billion in profits, and received $80 million in tax refunds.

T-Mobile workers have been organizing to join CWA, but the company has taken aggressive action to deny employees their legal right to form a union. T-Mobile has been guilty of violating U.S. labor law multiple times and has been subject to dozens of unfair labor practice charges.

Current regulations allow companies like T-Mobile to deduct the costs of this union-busting activity, which often includes millions in payments to “union avoidance” consultants. Meanwhile, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act eliminated the union dues deduction for millions of workers.

During the upcoming budget reconciliation process, Democrats in Congress will try to end or limit a variety of corporate tax breaks, including the deduction for union busting costs, and impose a minimum tax on corporate profits.


Flight Attendants and Airport Agents Face Safety Threat from Unruly Airline Passengers

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A new national survey of nearly 5,000 Flight Attendants released last week by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, found that over 85 percent of all respondents had dealt with unruly passengers as air travel picked up in the first half of 2021. More than half (58%) had experienced at least five incidents this year. A shocking 17 percent reported experiencing a physical incident.

Airport agents are also facing increased hostility and violence from passengers. CWA member Stella Yoon, an American Airlines agent stationed at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport for the past four years, says she has seen it all. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Stella says she sometimes encountered rude passengers who said unkind things to agents who were simply doing their jobs. But in recent months she and her co-workers have faced out-of-control customers on a daily basis. "It’s at another level now. It’s flat-out abusive and unacceptable," she said.

Often these passengers face few consequences.

Earlier this summer, a passenger physically assaulted three Piedmont employees at Charlotte Douglas International airport. The incident was recorded on camera, but the charges were later dropped by prosecutors who cited a backlog of cases due to COVID-19. As a Flight Attendant who participated in the survey wrote, “We tell them [passengers] that it is a federal offense to not comply with crew member instructions, use foul and/or threatening language onboard, and then the plane is met by airline supervisors or airport law enforcement and the passenger gets a slap on the wrist and sent on their way.”

CWA is calling for stricter enforcement of federal laws that protect airline workers.


Emergency Assistance Available for Rent, Utilities, and More

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If you’re having trouble making rent payments, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for renters and landlords to cover housing costs.

Help is available through the federal government’s Emergency Rental Assistance program. The funds are being distributed by state and local organizations to their local communities. This money can help with rent, utility bills, and even moving costs.

Learn more about the program and use the rental assistance finder to search for a program in your community: www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/renter-protections/find-help-with-rent-and-utilities.


Enter the Unions Power America Labor Day Contest for a Chance to Win $15,000 and More

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This Labor Day, to show appreciation to hard working union members who continue to power America, Union Plus is giving away $130,000 in prizes, including a Grand Prize of $15,000.

This year’s contest is meant to honor and celebrate the efforts union members put into their work and their community. To enter, simply submit a photo of you working hard at your union job or in your community along with a detailed caption describing how you’re powering America. Entries will be judged based on content and creativity, so have fun and wow the judges with your story! Winners will be announced in early September.

The contest ends August 22, 2021, so get your entry in now.