Jan 13, 2022 - Workers Face "Death Trap" in Massachusetts and other news

January 13, 2022

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Organizing Update

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Image Comics

Last week, workers at Image Comics and members of Comic Book Workers United (CWA Local 7901), won their NLRB union representation election, making them the first comic book workers to form a union in the United States. The workers had hoped Image Comics, the third largest comic book and graphic novel publisher in the industry, would voluntarily recognize their union after formally announcing its formation late last year. The members are ready to negotiate a fair contract and help create a better and more equitable comics industry for all.

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New York Times

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of over 550 tech workers at the New York Times who have been fighting to join the 1,300 editorial and business employees already represented by The NewsGuild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003. New York Times management has spent months waging an anti-union campaign and delaying the union representation election while seeking to exclude some of the workers from the new bargaining unit. Last August, the tech workers led a half-day walkout in protest of the company’s efforts to hinder a fair election. The NLRB ruled that the workers should not be excluded from the unit, and will mail ballots to the employees later this month.

“We are thrilled that the NLRB found that we are one union, and are proud to be setting a precedent for our fellow tech workers across the industry,” said Nozlee Samadzadeh, a senior software engineer at the Times and a member of the Times Tech Guild organizing committee. “Despite management's attempts to divide us, this decision proves what we've known all along: that we are stronger together and will win this election.”


Bargaining Update

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Frontier Communications

CWA members at Frontier Communications in California, Connecticut, and New York ramped up their mobilization efforts this month, letting the company know that they were prepared to go on strike on January 15 if the company did not get serious about bargaining fair contracts.

The pressure paid off. Earlier this week, the CWA Frontier California bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with the company after months of mobilization and bargaining. The agreement includes retro pay, wage increases, and retains the current 401(k) matching.

Frontier members in Connecticut and New York have seen progress at the bargaining table but have not yet reached tentative agreements.


IUE-CWA Members Demand Explanation for “Death Trap” at Workplace in Massachusetts

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Members of the Marblehead (Mass.) Municipal Employees Union (IUE-CWA Local 81776) are speaking out about extremely hazardous working conditions at the town’s transfer station.

Although voters approved funds for a permanent building over six years ago, employees are still working in a decaying, rodent-infested trailer. According to a story in the Salem News, employees have fallen through the floor of the trailer, and there is a rusted electrical box in a corrugated steel enclosure that is part of the complex with exposed, live wires that carry enough voltage to instantly kill someone.

Local 81776 President Terri Tauro described the facility as a “death trap” at a Board of Health meeting. The local has filed a formal grievance with the town’s Health Department and has built a coalition with local residents to draw attention to the problem and demand an explanation for where the money for the new building went.


Worker Power Update

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CWAers Rally to Protect Our Democracy

Last week, on the January 6 anniversary of the violent attack on the United States Capitol, CWA members all over the country participated in rallies to demonstrate their commitment to protecting our democracy and holding legislators accountable. The anniversary of January 6 is an unfortunate reminder of how fragile our democracy is and of the ongoing attempt to suppress the voices and rights of Black, brown, and working class voters. The CWAers joined with a coalition of other union members and community allies who continue to mobilize to advance critical voting rights legislation, eliminate the filibuster, and reform our democracy.


Clockwise from left: CWA members in New York, Arizona, and Florida joined community allies to demonstrate their commitment to protecting our democracy and hold legislators accountable for the January 6 attacks.

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CWA Political Activists Participate in Voting Rights Training and Mobilization

With the fight for voting rights expected to come to the floor of the U.S. Senate next week, CWA members from across the country are combining education with activism to deepen their understanding of the issues and put pressure on legislators to pass legislation to protect our sacred right to vote.

During their virtual sessions, the members are learning about the history of voting rights from the Civil War, through emancipation, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They are discussing the most recent attacks on voting rights and how the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act will ensure that voters decide the outcome of elections, not politicians.

The educational sessions are followed by phone banks to urge voters in West Virginia and Arizona to call Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to put pressure on them to support updates to the Senate rules that will allow these important bills to pass on a majority vote.


CWAers from across the country are participating in virtual voting rights training.

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Strengthening Bargaining Rights in New Jersey

For the last several weeks, CWA members in New Jersey have been going all out to fight for the Responsible Collective Negotiations Act to strengthen workers' bargaining rights. The act expands the scope of bargaining for state government workers beyond basic topics like wages and benefits, and stops state government management from imposing their version of a contract during bargaining with employees. It also allows unions to charge non-union members for the cost of arbitration.

With time running out to get this bill passed, members sent over 700 emails to their New Jersey State legislators, urging them to stand with workers and strengthen our collective bargaining rights. That hard work paid off on Monday, when legislators voted to pass the Responsible Collective Negotiations Act in the Senate (23-14) and Assembly (49-27-1).

This is a huge win for our 30,000 State Worker members in New Jersey, and will have a big impact on our bargaining power going forward!


CWA Graduate Student Workers in New York Secure a Major Win to Eliminate a Burdensome Fee

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Members of the Graduate Student Employees Union (CWA Local 1104) at Binghamton University in New York won a major victory last week when the university announced that Ph.D. student employees will no longer be responsible for paying burdensome, mandatory fees. The students had spent years mobilizing against the fees, which average up to 15 percent of the stipends graduate workers are paid.

In many cases, these fees fund systems and services that graduate workers rely on to do their jobs, such as the software programs used to collect and assess student assignments and submit grades. This constitutes a “pay-to-work” system in which employees are being charged for the maintenance and upkeep of the workplace.

Unfortunately, student workers seeking master's degrees are still subject to this fee, but the GSEU members are committed to continue to fight until all graduate workers are free from onerous school fees.


CWA Public Sector Members in Colorado Fight to Expand Bargaining Rights for All Public Workers in the State

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CWA public sector workers in Colorado, members of CWA Local 7799, have launched a campaign to pass state legislation that would expand the right to collectively bargain for all public workers, giving them a real seat at the table to fight for better working conditions. Collective bargaining would provide the framework for nurses to bargain for safe staffing ratios to make sure that they can give the best medical care; educators to bargain for more resources so that every student can get the education they deserve, and much more. Over the coming months, the members will share their stories on social media, write letters to the editor, lobby state lawmakers, and mobilize community members who care about public workers and public institutions to show their support for this legislation that will benefit all Coloradans.

To learn more, click here.


Union Plus Scholarship Applications Due January 31

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Since 1991, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $5 million to students of working families who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education. More than 3,400 families have benefited from this commitment to higher education.

The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation, supported in part by contributions from the provider of the Union Plus Credit Card. (You do not need to be a Union Plus Credit Card holder to apply for this scholarship.)

This year’s applications are due by noon EST on January 31. Learn more at www.unionplus.org/benefits/education/union-plus-scholarships.