- Hedge Fund Takeover of Local News Fails Thanks to CWA Efforts
- Tower Climbers Release Report Exposing Safety Hazards and Mobilize for Bill of Rights to Improve Conditions
- Bargaining Update
- Worker Power Update
- CWA Next Generation Young Activists Forum Brings Together Members from Every District and Sector
- Colorado Public Defenders Push for Equitable Wage Increases
- Envoy Air Stewards Training
Hedge Fund Takeover of Local News Fails Thanks to CWA Efforts
In a major victory for journalists and media workers, local news broadcaster TEGNA terminated its proposed sale to hedge fund Standard General after funding for the deal expired.
“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stood up for media workers by scrutinizing a hedge fund’s attempt to take over and destroy more local news in the U.S.,” said CWA President Chris Shelton. “CWA thanks FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and her staff for finally doing what we have asked regulators to do for decades: protect American jobs and hold Wall Street firms accountable.”
NewsGuild-CWA and NABET-CWA members and leaders have been raising questions about how many jobs would be cut as a result of the takeover, which was announced in February 2022. Last summer, those CWA sectors joined the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry and Common Cause in filing petitions to oppose the takeover and fighting to save local news jobs, prevent a hedge fund takeover of local news, and safeguard the public’s right to weigh in on large broadcast transactions affecting local news and U.S. democracy.
“Standard General and Apollo had multiple opportunities to provide more documents and failed to answer questions raised during this process, which extended the time for the deal to be reviewed,” said NABET-CWA President Charlie Braico. “In the end, their failure to provide adequate answers led to the need for further scrutiny in front of a judge and their poor planning in regard to their financing timeline led to the deal’s demise.“
“This is a major victory for our union members, who have been fighting the hedge fund takeover of local news for more than a decade,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “For too long, hedge funds like Standard General, Alden Global Capital, and Chatham Asset Management have taken over local newsrooms, taken on massive amounts of debt, and cut jobs and local news coverage to service that debt.”
Tower Climbers Release Report Exposing Safety Hazards and Mobilize for Bill of Rights to Improve Conditions
After releasing results of a safety survey which found that more than 65% of wireless tower technicians have been on a job site where someone has been injured and 4% where someone has been killed, members of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA launched a petition earlier this month calling on the nation’s top telecom corporations to commit to improving safety standards and work conditions.
CWA President Chris Shelton shared the survey results with the CEOs of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish, American Tower, SBA, and Crown Castle, calling out wireless carriers and tower owners for shirking the responsibility of ensuring worker safety through layers of contracting, and asking them to commit to a Tower Technicians’ Bill of Rights.
Workers followed up on President Shelton’s letters by traveling to the Verizon and Crown Castle shareholders meetings to rally for changes and demand meetings with executives to discuss their rights on the job and the need for improved working conditions and safety standards. Both Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown agreed to meet with the workers.
“I have one of the most interesting jobs in America, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. I’ve worked in extreme wind, at night when it’s hard to see two feet in front of me, and in freezing temperatures, all while hundreds of feet up in the air,” said Ryan Dupal, a tower technician of 10 years and member of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA. “Despite the essential work that I do, my safety and well-being is of little concern to the major telecom companies who profit off of my work. By hiring workers like me through contractors, telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon are attempting to avoid responsibility for what happens to us on the job. That’s why tower technicians across the nation are organizing together to demand the safety standards, working conditions and fair wages that we deserve.”
Tower Climbers Union/CWA members rallied for safer working conditions at the Crown Castle shareholders meeting in Houston, Texas, (top) and the Verizon shareholders meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Verizon Wireless workers in Oswego, Ill., ratified their first contract last week, becoming the first Verizon Wireless workers in the midwest to win the protections of a union contract.
Earlier this month, AFA-CWA Flight Attendants, along with representatives from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), held an industry-wide bargaining summit to strategize in order to make the most of this moment of increased worker power to improve their jobs.
Flight Attendants at Alaska, Air Wisconsin, ATI, Avelo, Omni, United, and American are currently in contract negotiations. Flight pay is always a top issue – but especially following the volatility of COVID, Flight Attendants across the industry are prioritizing quality of life, work rules, and pay for all of their time at work.
Flight Attendants from AFA-CWA and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants met to strategize in order to make the most of this moment of increased worker power to improve their jobs.
Worker Power Update
Minnesota Bans Captive Audience Meetings, Enacts Other Labor Reforms
Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a labor reform legislation package that had previously been passed by the Minnesota House and Senate.
The package includes one of CWA’s top priorities: a ban on mandatory anti-union “captive audience” meetings that employers use to prevent workers from forming unions. That part of the legislation, which was co-sponsored by State Representative and AFA-CWA Local 27048 member Kaela Berg, makes it illegal to retaliate against workers who decline to participate in meetings that are designed to intimidate workers and weaken their organizing efforts.
CWA members in Minnesota mobilized in support of the ban and held a town hall in April to educate members and the community about and build support for this critical pro-worker legislation. Michalea Arellano and Kaylie Johnson, who are organizing unions with CWA Local 7200, testified at the Senate and House hearings on the bill, respectively. CWAers’ activism in the midterm elections, which gave control of the House, Senate, and Governorship in Minnesota to pro-worker Democrats, laid the groundwork for this victory.
Other provisions in the reform package include a paid sick leave mandate, a ban on non-compete agreements, and requirements that companies disclose quotas and performance metrics that could result in workers being fired if they aren’t met.
CWA-endorsed Mayoral Candidate Wins Philadelphia Primary
CWA-endorsed candidate Cherelle Parker won the Democratic mayoral primary last week in a tightly contested election.
In the March endorsement announcement, CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney said that Parker had stood with and fought alongside CWA members “at the Statehouse, in the City Council, and on the picket line.” He also noted that 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.”
Accepting the endorsement, Parker said, "Together, with the support of CWA, we will ensure that Philadelphia is the safest, cleanest, and greenest city in America, and that we provide economic opportunity for everyone, especially through strong unions and strong union membership."
CWA Next Generation Young Activists Forum Brings Together Members from Every District and Sector
Last week, dozens of young workers and mentors from every CWA district and sector gathered in Cleveland, Ohio, for the CWA Next Generation Young Activists Forum, the first in-person event for Next Gen in more than three years. The Forum included panel discussions about recent major organizing wins and strategies for building a more inclusive union, as well as interactive workshops on the one percent agenda and how to have effective conversations to build worker power.
Each of the young workers who attended the Forum worked with a Next Gen Lead Activist on a plan of action for the coming year to support key CWA goals: spreading digital equity through the Broadband Brigade, defending democracy, improving digital organizing efforts, and confronting racial and gender bias.
Speakers, including CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens, CWA Telecommunications and Technology Vice President and Next Gen Director Lisa Bolton, CWA District 4 Vice President Linda L. Hinton, and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, shared their own stories and calls to action.
Secretary-Treasurer Steffens cited the explosion of organizing within CWA and across the United States led by young workers. She noted that now is one of the best times in history to be a union activist, and although “none of us can say for sure exactly what sparked this organizing moment...we know that the courage and convictions of young workers are playing a huge role.”
Vice President Bolton told attendees, “We can bring about real change if we stick together and keep fighting for our future. Ultimately, that future, and our movement’s success, depends on young people like you.”
Vice President Hinton celebrated the participants’ “unwavering passion, enthusiasm, and commitment to a better future for workers” and said, “Together we will craft a world with fair wages, safe working conditions, and equality for all.”
In one of the Forum’s highlights, U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL-10) spoke live via video from his office on Capitol Hill. He praised young CWA activists for being among those who are fighting for a better world. “You see how all fights are intertwined with labor and the fight for working class people,” said Frost. “What we know to be true is that everybody deserves to have a union, everybody deserves to organize in the workplace, everybody deserves a thriveable wage, everybody deserves healthcare, and when we work together, organize, and elect good candidates...that’s how we’re going to get that world.”
Colorado Public Defenders Push for Equitable Wage Increases
Last year, when workers in Colorado’s public defender system formed their union as part of CWA Local 7799, they hoped to address concerns about insufficient pay and have a meaningful seat at the table. Now they are mobilizing to ensure that upcoming pay increases are distributed equitably.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has authorized $16.1 million to improve salaries for workers in the Office of the State Public Defender, but workers are concerned that the salary plans submitted to the legislature by the Office of the State Public Defender leave the most underpaid workers far behind while well-paid managers and top officials receive an additional boost. More than 500 employees have signed a petition demanding that the funds be used to bring all staff up to or above market average salary.
“It’s great to say raises are on the way, but people need to know what is going to work for their budget in July, August, going forward,” Defenders Union of Colorado-CWA Local 7799 member James Hardy told the Denver Post. “And we don’t know. The response to all this has been, 'You’ll find out when you find out.'”
Envoy Air Stewards Training
CWA Local 4299 passenger service agents from Envoy Air in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Fort Wayne participated in stewards training earlier this month. After the training, participants were excited to return to their airports and put their new knowledge and skills to use. With members at 20 airports throughout CWA District 4, the work of recruiting and developing stewards never stops for Local 4299!