Federal Call Center Workers Organizing with CWA Strike Against Maximus
This week, call center workers at federal contractor Maximus, who answer Medicare and Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace lines, went on a two-day strike demanding affordable healthcare and an end to poverty wages. The workers went on strike on Monday and Tuesday at Maximus’ largest call centers in Bogalusa, La., and Hattiesburg, Miss.
On the second day of the strike, workers across the country hosted a virtual town hall to discuss the impacts of Maximus’ policies and practices on its workforce and steps the company must take to ensure justice and fairness for its employees. CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, Reverend William Barber, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.) along with other leaders and community allies, participated in the town hall. Watch the recording of the virtual town hall here.
“By striking, you are sending a strong message that you are ready to stand up and fight for the treatment and respect you deserve,” said Steffens.
For the workers, most of whom are Black women, the fight against Maximus’ exploitation of workers is also a fight for racial justice. On the first day of the strike, Lakeisha Preston, one of the Black women who works at Maximus’ call center in Hattiesburg, told a Poor People’s Campaign rally in Memphis, Tenn., “For a full family coverage, the [healthcare] deductible is $5,000 and I have a 6 year old son. I couldn’t even afford to put him on there…This is why I am here to support the national struggle to lift lower wage workers out of poverty.”
Maximus workers organizing with CWA on strike in Bogalusa, La., (left) and Hattiesburg, Miss., for liveable wages and affordable healthcare.
Raven Software/Activision Blizzard
Quality Assurance testers at Activision’s Raven Software studio, who have been organizing to join CWA, made history this week as the first major video game studio workers to win 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 prevent the workers’ effort from having a voice on the job.
“Five months ago, we formed the Game Workers Alliance-CWA on the principles of solidarity, sustainability, transparency, equity, and diversity,” the workers said in a statement. “Now that we’ve won our election, it is our duty to protect these foundational values on which our union stands. Our biggest hope is that our union serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us. We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.”
The same day that the workers’ won their union vote, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed that they will be issuing a complaint against Activision for illegally threatening workers who spoke up about their concerns at the company and enforcing a social media policy that restricted workers' ability to take collective action.
“Activision did everything it could, including breaking the law, to try to prevent the Raven QA workers from forming their union. It didn’t work, and we are thrilled to welcome them as CWA members,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens.
Raven Software (Activision Blizzard) quality assurance workers, organizing to join CWA, made history as the first major video game studio workers to win their union election.
QualTek Tower Climbers
On Monday, a majority of wireless tower climbers at QualTek voted for union representation with CWA’s Tower Climbers Union. The workers are the first group of tower climbers in the United States to win formal union representation.
“This is an exciting moment for us and for every tower climber who wants better working conditions and improved safety,” said Derek Combs, a Tower Technician II at QualTek. “We are the bedrock of the wireless communications industry, but our lives have consistently been taken for granted and neglected. To win respect you need power, and when you are a worker, power comes from negotiating a union contract.”
America’s Test Kitchen
Workers at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) have formed a company-wide union, ATK United (CWA Local 1400). The workers filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday and asked ATK leadership to voluntarily recognize their union. The workers, who help produce and support ATK’s award winning content in multiple ways, are fighting for competitive salaries, affordable healthcare, better benefits, transparent and consistent processes for hiring, performance reviews, promotions, and pay raises, as well as a sincere commitment to diversity at all levels, a continuation of remote work flexibility, and a say in the decisions being made that impact workers.
“There were times I could not afford groceries,” ATK United member Afton Cyrus told a reporter for GBH News. “I had to make choices in the grocery store about what I could and couldn't buy while I was developing recipes at work I could never afford to make at home.”
Workers at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) held a rally announcing the formation of their union, ATK United (CWA Local 1400).
Workers at the Financial Times' U.S. bureaus won recognition of their union, FT U.S. Guild, earlier this month. They are part of the News Media Guild (TNG-CWA Local 31222), which also represents workers at the Associated Press, Guardian U.S., and other media outlets. The members are now preparing to bargain a first contract that includes transparency and equity in pay, and diversity in staffing, hiring, and retention.
More Organizing Updates
Workers at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle voted unanimously to certify the Yellowstone News Guild, part of the Denver Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA Local 37074).
Workers at Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) announced that they are forming the Acre Workers Union with the Chicago News Guild (TNG-CWA Local 34071).
Workers at Adolescent Content, an ad agency and creative consultancy focused on creating work opportunities for underrepresented Gen Z creatives, announced the formation of their union, Adolescent Creative Labor Guild, with CWA Local 9003.
Workers at Seven Seas Entertainment, the number one independent publisher of manga, danmei, and light novels in the U.S., have formed a union with CWA called United Workers of Seven Seas.
Workers at the Daily Kos won certification of their union, the Daily Kos Guild, part of the Pacific Media Workers Guild (TNG-CWA Local 39521).
On Monday, CWA Local 7304 members who work at the New Flyer bus manufacturing facility in St. Cloud, Minn., reached a tentative agreement with the company. The new contract includes wage increases, no changes in healthcare coverage, and no increases in healthcare premiums for the length of the contract. Under the new contract, workers will also receive increased 401(k) matching, paid maternity leave, time off to observe the Juneteenth holiday, hazard pay for those who worked during the COVID shutdown, reduced mandatory overtime, and more. The workers credit the gains in this contract to the incredible solidarity they built through member-led actions, including rallies outside of the New Flyer manufacturing plant and an overwhelming strike authorization vote.
Last Tuesday, AFA-CWA Frontier and Spirit Flight Attendants reached an agreement on job security and contract protections during the proposed merger of the two airlines.
“We are thrilled to announce our support for the merger of Spirit and Frontier Airlines after reaching a transition agreement that protects Flight Attendant jobs, assists with the AFA-CWA seniority integration that protects the accrued bidding seniority each Flight Attendant has accrued prior to the merger, and paves the way for efficient contract bargaining that allows Flight Attendants to experience the benefits of the merger as soon as possible,” stated AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson. “We support the necessary regulatory approvals that will improve competition, increase consumer options and experience, and maintain and grow good union jobs.”
Read more here.
Worker Power Update
CWAers in Ohio Building Power for More Jobs, Equitable Broadband Access
On Monday, Tim Ryan, Democratic Congressman from Ohio and candidate for U.S. Senate, met with CWA leaders from District 4 for a roundtable conversation on equitable broadband expansion and other CWA priorities in the bipartisan infrastructure law. During the meeting at CWA Local 4302's Union Hall in Akron, the CWAers discussed the importance of building out broadband to traditionally underserved communities, distribution of federal funds to companies with high labor standards, and creating more good union jobs.
CWA Activists in California Attend Annual Legislative Conference and Lobby Lawmakers on CWA Priorities
Last week, nearly 30 CWA activists from 14 CWA locals in District 9 attended the 2022 California Labor Federation Joint Legislative Conference and held a lobby day. CWA District 9 Vice President Frank Arce opened the pre-conference CWA meeting and spoke to the attendees. The participants also received a training on lobbying best practices and discussed CWA’s legislative priorities in California, including the expansion of broadband to rural and tribal communities in the state using experienced union workers. In addition, the participants had an opportunity to discuss the importance of and the resources available to form and support local Legislative and Political committees.
CWA District 9 Legislative and Political Activists with Gov. Gavin Newsom (Calif.) at the 2022 California Labor Federation’s legislative conference.
Pushing Pro-Worker Legislation in New York
After two years away, CWA political activists in New York flooded the State Capitol to lobby legislators on CWA-supported legislative priorities. The members primarily focused on two pieces of legislation that would protect workers’ collective bargaining rights and ensure the work to expand our broadband infrastructure is being done as safely as possible using experienced union workers.
Primary Election Victories for CWA-Endorsed Candidates
CWA-endorsed candidates won in key primary races held recently. In Georgia, gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams officially became the Democratic Party nominee for the upcoming general election. Incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock also won the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. Senate. Both candidates have shown incredible support for CWA and all workers’ rights, including a commitment to supporting CWA’s position on broadband expansion and collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. On the Republican side, State Senators Brian Strickland and Randy Robertson – both of whom sponsored the CWA-supported Broadband Resiliency, Public Safety, and Quality Act – won their primary races in their respective districts. Other CWA-endorsed candidates who won Democratic Party nominations in Georgia include Jen Jordan (Attorney General), State Senator and CWA Local 3204 member Nikki Merritt, and more.
In North Carolina, U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley won the Democratic Party primary. Beasly is a former union member and has been actively engaging with CWA members in the state. In addition, State Senator Wiley Nickel won the Democratic Party primary for North Carolina’s 13th congressional district. Senator Nickel has been a champion for working people and has co-sponsored several pieces of key, pro-worker legislation, including a bill to repeal the ban on public sector bargaining. Council Member Yvonne Kinston, member of CWA Local 3680, also won the Democratic Party primary for Fayetteville City Council’s 9th district.
United Campus Workers in Georgia and Mississippi Win Pay Increases
In a win for members of United Campus Workers at the University of Georgia (UCW-GA, CWA Local 3265), after over thirty years without a cost of living adjustment, full-time workers at all of Georgia’s 26 public universities will receive $5,000 salary raises. The pay increases are part of the FY 2022 amended budget recently approved by Georgia’s legislators, in part due to the mobilization and lobbying efforts of UCW-GA members. The members will continue to fight with renewed energy to secure fair pay for all workers, including part-time and student workers at the University of Georgia.
Similarly, workers at the University of Southern Mississippi, members of United Campus Workers of Mississippi (UCW-MS, CWA Local 3565) won pay raises two weeks after they held a rally to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage. Most salaried faculty and staff will receive a three percent pay increase this year. Stipends for graduate assistants will increase by $1,500 each fall semester for the next three years. Starting in July, benefit-eligible, hourly workers will see the minimum wage increase to $11.25 an hour, up from $10.10 an hour. The members are encouraged by this victory and will continue to organize for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
CWA Member Honored for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. As part of its yearly celebration of leaders from the AAPI community who are shaping the labor movement for the future, the AFL-CIO featured AFA-CWA Local 29043 member Folafolaga Avei. Folafolaga Avei has been a Flight Attendant with Hawaiian Airlines for nine years, where he also has served as the master executive council chairperson for the airline's human rights committee. As a representative, Avei has been at the forefront of educating members about issues related to the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Through these efforts, he has rallied the community to demand an end to anti-Asian hate, marched for racial equality and justice, and campaigned to protect children and women against human trafficking. Avei has also worked to reduce poverty and homelessness.