On Monday, workers rallied in Seattle to celebrate Verizon Wireless Worker Jesse Mason's return to work. Verizon illegally fired Mason in early 2022 in retaliation for his union organizing activity. In response, CWA filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Verizon Wireless.
In a win for Mason, his co-workers, and fellow organizers, the NLRB formally issued a complaint alleging the company’s actions broke the law. After months of back and forth, Mason and Verizon Wireless reached a settlement that includes Mason’s reinstatement at his Seattle and Shoreline stores, as well as compensation for back pay and damages.
“As soon as I heard about the settlement, I was jumping up and down calling everyone I know. The whole reason I was insistent on getting my job back was I wanted to show everyone you have the right to organize,” Mason told The Guardian.
This is a major victory for all workers who wish to form a union and sends a strong message to anti-union employers, even the ones as big and powerful as Verizon Wireless, who often get away with such unlawful behavior towards workers, that they can be held accountable. Mason’s return to work marks another milestone for Verizon Wireless workers, who have been organizing at stores across the country to secure living wages, better working conditions, and increased staffing levels.
CWAers, other union members and supporters held a rally on Monday to mark Jesse Mason’s return to his job after reaching a settlement with Verizon Wireless following his illegal firing last year.
CWA, the Strategic Organizing Center, and the NAACP released a new report on Tuesday that exposes significant racial inequities at Maximus, one of the federal government’s largest service contractors, whose frontline workforce is nearly 50% Black and Latina women. The report reveals that workers interviewed at Maximus’ call centers, which serve the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), felt they have no clear paths to career advancement, keeping their careers stagnant in the lowest roles. The new report also shows that while white men make up only 9% of frontline workers, they account for nearly 50% of Maximus’ executives, and Black and Latina women account for only 5% of executives.
“Workers at Maximus have been organizing with CWA to fight for living wages, affordable healthcare, fair treatment, and a voice on the job. Black women workers, who make up a significant portion of the workforce at the largest Maximus call centers, have been courageously leading this fight and raising the alarm about the lack of equity. We are proud to stand with them” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “In the last year alone, Maximus CEO Bruce Caswell received over $200,000 in bonuses tied to diversity metrics. This is insulting to Maximus workers who, despite their efforts to move up in the company, continue to be held at the bottom of the corporate ladder with no hope of meaningful advancement. It’s long past time we hold this federal contractor accountable and ensure that all workers at Maximus, regardless of race or background, are given the respect and opportunities they deserve.” CWA and the NAACP have issued a letter calling on the Biden administration to live up to its commitments to ensure racial equity and take action by investigating racial disparities and potential obstacles to equal employment opportunities at Maximus.
A group of labor, racial justice, and political leaders including Congressman Bennie Thompson, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, CWA President Chris Shelton, and Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable Executive Director Cassandra Welchlin held a virtual press conference on Tuesday to announce the release of the report, express their solidarity with Maximus workers, and call for an investigation by the Biden Administration. Read more here.
Striking CWA workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launched the “Today in Pittsburgh Labor” radio show this week. The first episode aired on Sunday, March 19, on KDKA Radio (1020 AM/100.1 FM) and the show will continue to air on Sundays at 11pm ET. The show, which is hosted by J-Doc and Joe Krause, explores the state of labor unions in the Pittsburgh area and features union leaders from across the community with an inside look at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers’ strike. Upcoming episodes will follow the progress of the Post-Gazette strike and feature the voices of supporters, including elected officials and members of the business community. Journalists from the Pittsburgh Union Progress, the striking workers’ publication, will highlight stories they are covering, and leaders and members from other Pittsburgh-area unions will join “Today in Pittsburgh Labor” to discuss the issues facing working families in the region.
You can listen to the first episode of “Today in Pittsburgh Labor” here.
Worker Power Update
Florida CWAers Mobilize to Defeat Anti-Worker Legislation
CWA activists in Florida have been working hard to stop SB 256, anti-worker legislation which is designed to circumvent the Florida constitution and destroy Floridians’ right to be union members. The bill targets Florida's public sector unions by banning paycheck dues deduction and decertifying locals below 60 percent membership. Last Thursday, CWA members joined over 100 union activists to speak out against the bill during a committee hearing in the state legislature. On Tuesday, CWAers and other union activists participated in a day of action at the state capitol in Tallahassee and Miami to call on state lawmakers to vote against this harmful bill. The CWA activists are committed to continuing to mobilize along with other labor partners to defeat this bill and hold their state representatives accountable.
CWA activists participated in a day of action in Florida as part of their mobilization to defeat SB 256, anti-worker legislation which is designed to weaken unions and destroy Floridians’ right to be union members.
CWAers in Minnesota Build Support for Pro-Worker Legislation That Will Ban Mandatory Anti-Union Meetings
CWA and other labor partners, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota, are mobilizing to build support for new legislation that will ban mandatory anti-union “captive audience” meetings that employers use to prevent workers from forming unions. The legislation, which makes it illegal to retaliate against workers who decline to participate in these meetings that are designed to intimidate workers and weaken their organizing efforts, is co-sponsored by State Representative and AFA-CWA Local 27048 member Kaela Berg, who is a staunch advocate of workers’ rights in the state legislature.
“[W]e were subject to numerous tactics by our employer to try and divide our united group and scare our colleagues. As an open committee member, I expected and experienced hostile management and retaliation. But the captive audience meetings, billed as ‘programming meetings’, was where this was turned onto every employee in our unit right before the vote,” said Michaela Arellano, a worker and organizing committee member at M Health Fairview who testified in support of the bill at a committee hearing last Tuesday. Arellano and her colleagues are organizing to form a union at their workplace with support from CWA and SEIU. In lieu of national legislation to ban captive audience meetings, advancing such legislation on the state level will have a significant impact in curbing anti-union tactics and increase workers’ ability to organize freely.
Michaela Arellano, a worker and organizing committee member at M Health Fairview, testified at the Minnesota State Capitol in support of legislation to ban mandatory anti-union “captive audience” meetings.
CWAers Build Support for Pro-Worker Candidates in Upcoming Local Elections
In Wisconsin, the election for the open Supreme Court seat is coming up fast on April 7. CWA members, along with a coalition of other pro-labor and pro-democracy activists, are continuing to mobilize to build support for Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a CWA-endorsed candidate who won her primary election last month. This is a critical election that will determine how the court will rule on issues like worker protections, voting rights, and even how legislative district maps are drawn. Every vote counts to fight back against the anti-labor groups who are spending millions of dollars on this race. Click here to register for upcoming phone banking opportunities and to help turn out the vote.
In Chicago, CWA members are mobilizing to build support for mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson, who recently received CWA’s official endorsement ahead of the election on April 4. Johnson is an experienced union organizer, teacher, and county commissioner with a proven track record of supporting workers and communities over corporations. He supports making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share in taxes and is committed to fight for good jobs, fully funded public schools, affordable housing, public transit, and more.
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens Highlights the Power of Organizing at “Labor Spring” Forum
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens joined Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Secretary Treasurer Elissa McBride, and other speakers at a workers’ rights forum hosted by the Workers’ Rights Institute of Georgetown Law as part of Labor Spring 2023, a nationwide series of more than 60 labor teach-ins and events on campuses and in communities nationwide.
Union leaders, organizers, lawmakers, and union member activists discussed workers’ rights and labor law in this moment of sweeping organizing and activity among the nation’s working people, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Participants learned about how already vulnerable workers (especially workers of color) have been made more vulnerable since the pandemic through inadequate wages and safety protections, abusive monitoring causing a proliferation of workplace injuries, surveillance of union activity, unlawful termination, and laws and policies on captive audience speeches designed to coerce, intimidate, and silence of workers’ voices.
Learn more about Labor Spring at www.laborspring.org.