On Monday, Kitsy Higgins, a striking CWA member at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, met with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, at his invitation, for a conversation on the importance and timeliness of passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Higgins, who works in advertisements for the paper, shared that for the last 172 days she and her coworkers have been on strike because the newspaper's owner, Block Communications, refused to keep affordable healthcare for workers and instead made a proposal to replace it with a plan that would cost $16,000 more in deductibles.
“As a mother, who cares for two sons full-time, it felt like such an unreasonable ask from a company whose owners are multi-millionaires. For them, a $16,000 deductible is a drop in the bucket. But, for a working family like mine, one major health incident could cause a financial strain,” said Higgins. "The PRO Act would protect our right to strike so that we can stand up and defend our basic rights and ability to make a living,” she added.
Kitsy Higgins, a striking CWA member at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was joined by her kids in a meeting with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California to discuss the importance of passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.
National Audubon Society
Workers at the National Audubon Society, members of The Bird Union (CWA Local 1180), held a rally outside the nonprofit’s headquarters on Wednesday to demand that Audubon bargain in good faith and stand by its renewed commitments towards creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace. Audubon workers, who have been bargaining for over a year to reach a first contract, were joined at the rally by activists and local elected officials, including NYC City Comptroller Brad Lander and Councilmembers Carmen De La Rose and Julie Menin.
The workers demanded an end to the nonprofit’s continued aggressive anti-worker behavior and stalling of contract negotiations. Since negotiations began in 2021, Audubon has only agreed to seven of the workers’ proposals, out of a total 29. In addition to failing to adequately address the workplace challenges that the workers have consistently been raising, Audubon’s leadership decided to unilaterally cut workers' healthcare benefits amid contract negotiations. In response, CWA filed three Unfair Labor Practice charges on behalf of the workers against the National Audubon Society with the National Labor Relations Board.
Despite that, Audubon management continues to push back on proposals put forth by the workers to build a more fair and inclusive workplace, including one that would ensure a staff person experiencing bias during a grievance process wouldn’t be overseen by the perceived perpetrator. The day of action was the workers’ latest effort to rebuke the organization’s racist legacy. Although Audubon’s board of directors voted to keep the name of John James Audubon, a notorious white supremacist and enslaver, Audubon workers officially changed their union name to “The Bird Union” earlier this month to demonstrate their commitment to antiracism. Read more here.
Workers at the National Audubon Society, members of The Bird Union/CWA Local 1180, and their supporters held a rally outside the nonprofit’s headquarters on Wednesday to demand that Audubon bargain in good faith and stand by its renewed commitments towards creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
CWA Local 4485 members at Windstream Communications in Ohio reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement last Friday. The new three-year contract includes raises to base wages, increased meal allowances and pay for employees assigned as trainers, and improved time-off language for construction technicians who are required to travel outside of exchanges covered by the contract. The bargaining team also successfully negotiated the removal of the lower pay Field Technician job title, which upgraded members to the higher wage Customer Service Technician title. In addition, the workers were able to keep their healthcare, retirement, and other benefits intact. Details of the tentative agreement have been shared with the members and a ratification vote will be held in the coming weeks.
Worker Power Update
Protecting Frontline Workers from Abusive Passengers
Several AFA-CWA Flight Attendants joined law makers, other union members, and supporters on Wednesday at a press conference announcing the introduction of the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, new legislation that includes real consequences for those convicted of assault against crew members, ground service service agents, or passengers. The new bipartisan legislation would create a system-wide no-fly list for abusive passengers to hold offenders accountable. “Strong penalties are needed to curb violent and unacceptable behavior onboard. Bad behavior shouldn’t fly, we urge Congress to pass this bill immediately,” said Cher Taylor from AFA-CWA Local 23087 who spoke at the press conference and shared her own painful experience with a violent passenger.
“Front line workers, who are vital to our air travel, including tens of thousands of CWA-represented Flight Attendants and ground service agents working across airports in the nation do not deserve the uninterrupted level of violence they have been experiencing at the hands of unruly passengers, who often get away with it,” said CWA President Chris Shelton in a press release. “We applaud our elected leaders for answering our call for meaningful federal action to effectively address the increase in physical, verbal, mental, and emotional abuse these essential workers constantly experience. We will continue to work with lawmakers to ensure the passage of this legislation into law, which is critical to the safety of workers and passengers and the health of the entire airline industry.”
CWA Members in Ohio Fight Against Harmful Legislation
CWA members, other union members, and community members in Ohio are mobilizing to block multiple undemocratic and anti-worker pieces of legislation. Last Wednesday, CWA Local officers, activists, and staff from across the state attended hearings on HJR 1, a bill that would change Ohio's constitution to make it harder for citizens to exercise their voice at the ballot box, and SB 83, a higher education overhaul which would bar public employees, including CWA members, from going on strike at Ohio's public colleges and universities. The activists flooded the hearing room in opposition to these harmful bills that would give special interests, lobbyists, and anti-worker politicians more power to pursue their agenda.
CWA Endorses Cherelle Parker for Mayor of Philadelphia
CWA has endorsed Cherelle Parker for Mayor of Philadelphia. Parker is a former State House and City Council member with a proven track record of advocating for working families. “Throughout her career in public service, Cherelle Parker has stood with CWA members and fought alongside us at the Statehouse, in the City Council, and on the picket line. We are proud to endorse her for Mayor of Philadelphia,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President of CWA District 2-13, in an announcement on Monday. “Like us, she understands that union membership is the best way for working people to boost their wages and improve their working conditions, and that good, family-supporting union jobs are the backbone of Philadelphia’s economy.”
Apple has escalated its anti-union campaign, firing five workers at its Country Club Plaza store in Kansas City, Mo. On Tuesday, CWA filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to contest those illegal terminations and the ongoing intimidation of workers at Apple’s Memorial City store in Houston.
Some of the fired Kansas City workers were forced to sign a “Release of All Claims'' in exchange for a meager severance package. The NLRB ruled last month that employers cannot require broad severance agreements that prevent former employees from speaking out against the union-busting and other issues they experienced on the job.
Read more here.
CWA Member Honored for Women’s History Month
The AFL-CIO featured TNG-CWA Local 34071 Member Grace Catania as part of its yearly Women’s History Month celebration this month honoring women leaders who are making history across the labor movement. She is an immigrant and moved to the United States at age 20, moments before martial law was imposed in response to the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Having arrived in the United States with no connections except an older uncle, Catania had to make her own way. She studied English and landed a union job as a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
In 1994, she began a career as a per diem court interpreter while continuing to work in retail. She and her peers worked against classification as contractors and were finally recognized as employees when they won union recognition with the Chicago Newspaper Guild Local 34071 in 2004. Soon after, the union successfully bargained a first contract and better working conditions.
Since then, Catania has served as interpreters’ unit steward, unit chair, and contract bargaining team member. She became active in her local and rose through the ranks to become the president. She also has served as a member and chair of the CWA National Women’s Committee. In addition, she was part of the Illinois Legislative Political Action Team and lobbied at the state and national levels. She has participated in many marches and actions, and actively supported other units in the local. Catania is proud of her three children and seven grandchildren, and lives in the suburbs of Chicago.