Workers Memorial Day: Organize for a Safe Workplace
Today, 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.
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 the Occupational Safety and Health Act, union representation is still working people's best way to protect themselves on the job.
This year’s theme is "Organize! Safe Jobs Now." As workers continue to organize, health and safety on the job remains at the top of their list of concerns. This is certainly true for Tower Climbers who are organizing with CWA. Their work takes place hundreds of feet off the ground, often in dangerous environments. Forming a union is the most effective way they will get the appropriate protections they need and a voice 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 critical legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act so workers can freely form a union and the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection to the millions of workers without it.
This Workers Memorial Day, we honor the memory of LaVon Pollock, a Service Technician at Verizon and a member of CWA Local 2201, who died on April 25, 2021, after falling about 18 feet in a work-related accident that occurred on April 19, 2021. He was working aloft on a mid-span cable when he fell to the ground onto his head. He was rushed to the hospital and died several days later from injuries sustained in the fall.
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.
Raven Software/Activision Blizzard
Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Quality Assurance workers at Activison’s Raven Software studio, who are organizing with CWA, may proceed with their union election. Activision Blizzard refused to voluntarily recognize the Game Workers Alliance/CWA, and has been using every procedural route possible to delay the vote in an attempt to subvert the workers’ effort to have a voice on the job.
“We are pleased that after reviewing the evidence, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Raven Software management’s attempts to undermine our efforts to form a union. It’s now time for Raven management to stop trying to prevent us from exercising our rights. We are looking forward to voting for – and winning – our union,” said the workers in a statement. Ballots will be mailed to eligible workers on Friday, April 29, and votes will be counted on May 23. They are the first unit within Activision Blizzard to form a union.
AT&T In Home Experts
Last August, AT&T In Home Expert (IHX) workers based in Southfield, Mich., won a hard-fought election to join CWA, and now their colleagues in the rest of the state have joined them as CWA members. They are building power with hundreds of thousands of workers at AT&T and other telecom companies to bargain for good jobs and strong contracts.
State of New Mexico
To keep our union strong, we must never stop organizing and mobilizing. That's why members in Santa Fe, N.M., spent several days last week engaging with State of New Mexico workers who are represented by CWA. The members held actions at their offices, made phone calls, and visited their coworkers at their homes. They talked about the historic wins that CWAers helped secure and the fight to overcome the challenges state workers face. The activists were able to nearly double Political Action Fund (PAF) contributions for CWA Local 7076, bring in new members, give members valuable organizing training, and identify new stewards to keep the fight moving forward.
CWA members in Santa Fe, N.M., spent several days organizing and mobilizing with State of New Mexico workers.
Last week, Verizon Wireless unjustly fired Jesse Mason, an employee in Seattle, Wash., who is organizing with his coworkers to join CWA. Jesse works right down the road from two Verizon Wireless stores that won their union vote a couple of weeks ago. After Verizon Wireless found out that Jesse and his coworkers were building support for their union, they fired him on bogus charges in a clear attempt to intimidate the workers. Jesse and his coworkers are not backing down. Help them make sure that Verizon knows they won’t be deterred by sending a letter to the CEO of Verizon, Hans Vestberg, demanding he reinstate Jesse and stop the intimidation tactics. Click here to take action.
National Audubon Society
Audubon workers who overwhelmingly won their union election last year are continuing to face resistance, and even discriminatory behavior, from the environmental nonprofit at the bargaining table. Audubon’s outside negotiator has employed clear anti-union and anti-worker tactics and has disrespected and discriminated against Audubon’s LGBTQ+ employees by disregarding their proposals to ensure equity and respect in the workplace and making light of preferred pronouns.
In response, the workers teamed up with workers from other environmental groups facing similar anti-union sentiments and discrimination from their employers and launched an “Earth Day to May Day” week of action. The week of action kicked off on Earth Day with a virtual rally on Instagram Live hosted by Audubon for All/CWA and Defenders United, as well as an in-person rally in New York City, and will run ten days until May Day, or International Workers’ Day, on May 1, 2022. More details on the series of events can be found here.
Audubon for All/CWA members rallying outside Audubon Headquarters demanding fair bargaining and an end to union-busting.
Hudson Youth Center
Workers at the Hudson Youth Center in upstate New York, members of CWA Local 1120, unanimously ratified their first contract. The contract includes pay raises, increased vacation time, job security language, extra floating religious holidays that reflect the diversity of the community and the workers, and retirement benefits. The workers began organizing with CWA after being inspired by CWA Local 1120’s political and social justice mobilization in the community. After the workers unanimously decided to join CWA, they were joined by Kamal Johnson, the mayor of Hudson, N.Y., and community members in a successful march to city hall to demand voluntary recognition from the City Council.
Workers at Hudson Youth Center (CWA Local 1120) ratified their first contract.
CWA District 7 members at Lumen (formerly known as CenturyLink) are mobilizing to prepare for bargaining their next contract, which expires in less than a year. The workers have launched an “I’m All In For A Fair Contract” Pledge Card Campaign. Members have been engaging by signing the pledge, wearing red, and building solidarity through online actions.
Worker Power Update
Electing Pro-Worker Candidates in Maryland
On Wednesday, CWA activists in District 2-13 came together to support CWA-endorsed Maryland gubernatorial candidate Tom Perez. As Secretary of Labor under President Obama, he played a key role in resolving the 2016 Verizon strike which resulted in big gains for CWA members. He has an outstanding record of public service when it comes to improving the lives of working families, fighting discrimination, and taking on the forces that want to restrict democratic rights.
The CWA activists participated in a phone bank to build support for Perez, who spoke to the participants before the phone bank and took some questions from workers. “We have an opportunity to build a Maryland that works for everyone, where everyone has a good job, quality education, and more opportunities,” said Perez. “We have an opportunity to build union labor as we build out broadband across the state of Maryland. Those are great union jobs that ought to be coming back to Maryland. And I want to make sure the union movement has a seat at the table.” CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney joined the phone bank and reminded members how important this election is for working people in Maryland.
Connecticut Senate Moves to Outlaw Captive Audience Meetings
Last Thursday, the Connecticut Senate voted to pass a bill that would outlaw captive audience meetings in the state. Captive audience meetings allow companies to force workers who are organizing to form a union to attend mandatory meetings where executives and union busting consultants employ scare tactics to weaken support for the union. Many newly formed CWA units have had to deal with such meetings and other intimidation tactics. This bill would level the playing field for workers to freely form unions without fear, lies, and intimidation. If the bill passes the House, it would make Connecticut the second state in the country to ban such meetings, alongside Oregon. CWA Local 1298 has been a strong advocate for this bill.
President Biden on Broadband for All
Speaking to a crowd in New Hampshire, President Biden reinforced his position that broadband buildout funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act should be done by experienced union workers.
“This law is going to make high speed internet available and affordable everywhere,” Biden said. “And it is going to create jobs. Thousands of union technicians will be laying down these broadband lines. Never again should a parent have to sit in their car at a McDonald’s parking lot, literally, so that their child can get access to high speed internet.”
CWA Members Set to Testify at Hearing on COVID-19 Protections in Healthcare
Two members of CWA Local 1168, Executive Vice President Robert Andruszko and Chief Steward Frank Jurgens, have been invited to testify at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hearing on new, permanent standards to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19. CWA’s National Deputy Director for Occupational Safety and Health, Micki Siegel de Hernández, will also testify at the hearing. The session will be livestreamed tomorrow, April 29, at 10:20 am EST, and available at https://youtu.be/W_ckBau-Q8o.
The members will urge OSHA to establish a comprehensive, enforceable COVID-19 standard to protect all workers in healthcare, to recognize that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is transmitted in the air and requires airborne protections to prevent exposures, and to reject weak CDC guidance that has put healthcare workers at risk throughout the pandemic. For additional information click here.
CWA Canada National Representative Council Meets in Person for the First Time Since Covid-19
The CWA Canada National Representative Council met in Toronto from April 22-23, their first in-person meeting since 2019. The National Representative Council meets annually and is made up of delegates from 18 locals. The delegates set policy, discuss issues important to media workers, and participate in educational and training seminars. This year, a key area of discussion was how workload and stress is now a major mental health issue for journalists, causing many to leave the industry.