CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 16, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 16, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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CWA: Secret "Fast Track" Process and Legislation Shows Disdain for U.S. Workers, Communities

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Washington, D.C. – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) issued the following statement on the introduction of "fast track," also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), in the U.S. Senate:

The "Fast Track," or TPA, legislation introduced today, and in fact, the entire process surrounding its inception, continues the lack of transparency and disdain for U.S. workers and communities that has been the hallmark of the past five years of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

If this Fast Track bill were to be approved, Senators and Representatives would be agreeing to rubber stamp not only the TPP, which has been negotiated in almost total secrecy, but any other trade deal proposed over the next few years. President Obama has had Fast Track authority for the Colombia, Panama and Korea trade deals. This proposed legislation provides Fast Track for the next president.

"We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around TPA. We've had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. TPA pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

The proposed Fast Track bill fails all the tests that Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress "to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course," as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless.

The U.S. is the only nation among the 12 TPP countries that requires elected representatives to give up their constitutional responsibility to review and amend major trade deals through a Fast Track process. We call on Congress to reject this flawed legislation.


Congress Buffeted by Overwhelming Opposition to "Fast Track," TPP

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In the anxious days before they see an actual "fast track" bill, members of Congress are finding it hard to explain to constituents why they would vote for "fast track" authority and give up their Congressional responsibility over trade deals like the proposed TPP.

"Fast track," if approved, will be used first to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal being negotiated between the U.S. and nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. The leaders are struggling to cope with intense opposition from their constituents to "fast track" and TPP.

U.S. Reps. Norma Torres and Pete Aguilar, Democrats from California, came to a town hall meeting at Inland Empire, professing to about 100 community members that they are open-minded and do not want to prejudge "fast track" or TPP by taking a stand. But the constituents were not having that explanation. "We voted for you and we want you to stand with us on this," they demanded. "Don't sell us out to corporate interests."

Along with community members, represented at the town hall were CWA Locals 9400 and 9588 and other groups like Unite HERE, AFSCME, UFCW, Food & Water Watch, Citizens Trade, and Sierra Club.

The town hall focused on efforts by Big Business and others to use "fast track" to foist TPP on the unsuspecting public. Congressional approval of "fast track" for trade deals would expedite approval process for trade bills, starting with TPP. Members of Congress, in an up-or-down vote, essentially strip themselves of their rights to debate and amend the 1,200-plus page TPP bill. Members of Congress, including a majority of Democrats and dozens of Republicans, have been publicly declaring their opposition to "fast track" authority.

So far, TPP is being negotiated in such extreme secrecy that members of Congress don't know what's in it. The only thing they have to go on is what has happened to workers and the environment in trade deals over the past two decades. And the record is not good.

TPP will send more U.S. jobs overseas, raise prescription drug prices, and allow multinational corporations to challenge any U.S. law or regulation that affects "expected future profits" in a secret, overseas court. Unions, environmental, progressive and community groups and others have been participating in public discussions on the devastating effects of "fast track" and TPP on good jobs and our communities.

Aguilar and Torres left the town hall promising to come back to the community before making up their minds about "fast track."

Activists Tell Rep. David Price at Raleigh, NC News Conference to Reject "Fast Track," TPP

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Today, in Raleigh, NC, about 20 activists representing CWA, National Organization for Women, Witness for Peace Southeast, Workers' Right Project at NC Justice Center, and Food & Water Watch turned out for a Solidarity Press Conference to call on U.S. Rep. David Price to oppose "fast track" legislation and stand up for good jobs and consumer rights. Participants marched from the press conference at Nash Square to Rep. Price's District office to deliver letters from constituents opposing "fast track" and TPP.

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Florida Activists Rally to Encourage Sen. Nelson to Vote No on "Fast Track" for TPP

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In Florida, CWAers and coalition partner activists held a rally in front of Sen. Bill Nelson's District office. The activists provided more than 100 letters urging the senator to vote no on "fast track" for TPP.

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In California, Activists Tell Bera to Oppose "Fast Track," TPP

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Last week, Faith Whitmore, District office director for Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA 7th District), met with a contingent of about 30 activists who came to remind the Congressman to support them in the fight against "fast track" and TPP.

Below: CWAers, the Citizens Trade Campaign, The Sierra Club, National Lawyers Guild, American Postal Workers Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Service Employees International Union, Democratic Party of Sacramento County, Democratic Veterans Club of Sacramento, retirees, and others joined the.

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...And, Later, Carried the Same Message to Rep. Matsui

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They also marched to meet with Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA 6th District) in Sacramento.

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Colorado Activists Tell Rep. Polis to Oppose "Fast Track," TPP

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Activists "drop in and hang out" at the Boulder office of Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd District). They read from the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights while they waited.

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San Antonio Teach-in on "Fast Track"

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As many as 60 people turned out last week for a teach-in on what would happen to jobs and the environment if Congress approves "fast track" for TPP. Coalition activists are working to convince Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th District), Joaquín Castro (D-TX 20th District) and Marc Veasey (D-TX 33rd District) to reject "fast track" for TPP.


A Massive Rally on the Hill against "Fast Track" for TPP

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More than 1,200 union activists, environmentalists and progressive leaders rallied on Capitol Hill yesterday to urge Congress to reject "fast track" authorization and the proposed trade bill it is being written for, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"We're not against good trade deals; we make motors for Siemens that are shipped all over," said Nick South of IUE-CWA 84765, who visited members of the Ohio delegation to urge a vote against "fast track," "but this is a bad trade deal."

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) heard him loud and clear and couldn't agree more. Brown is a member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that will consider theTrade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill; Brown strongly opposes "fast track."

"They are corporate handouts, they're worker sellouts every time they pass one of these deals," Brown told the crowd. "I've never seen a trade agreement that is more secretive than this one."

Many of those in attendance had come from the 2015 BlueGreen Alliance Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference and had been busy visiting their Congress members to tell them to vote against this "fast track" bill.

South was accompanied on his visits to the delegation by fellow IUE-CWA 84765 members Lee Larkins and Vic Henderson, the Local's Vice President. Henderson said he warned the Congress members they spoke with that their constituents back home do not support "fast track" or TPP and would remember come election time if they voted for it.

The rally – organized by the United Steelworkers and supported by all the AFL-CIO member unions who have been mobilizing against the TPP – featured Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brown, Al Franklin (D-MN), and Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN 5th District) and Tim Ryan (D-OH 13th District). Speakers talked about the important role labor unions had in building the American middle class.

"Are you ready to fight any more trade deals that say 'we're going to help the rich get richer and leave everybody else behind?" Warren asked.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke to more than 1,200 activists – unions, environmentalists and other progressives – at a rally yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Below: IUE-CWA 84765 members (L to R) Lee Larkings, Vic Henderson and Nick South attended the Blue Green Alliance Conference and lobbied their Congress members against "fast track" before attending yesterday's rally.

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Ohio Democrats and Guadalupe, AZ, Unanimously Reject "Fast Track," TPP

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The Ohio Democratic Party passed a resolution over the weekend telling the state's Congressional delegation to vote no on "fast track" for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bill, the latest group to oppose up-or-down approval of trade bills without opportunity to amend.

The dean of the delegation, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), is a friend of labor and a staunch opponent of "fast track." Brown has participated in town hall meetings and rallies in Ohio to oppose "fast track" and stand up for good jobs and consumer protections for Ohioans.

That same week, the Bellingham, WA, City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on Congress to oppose "fast track" for the TPP. The Seattle City Council followed suit a week later. Now, a week does not go by that some community or political entity somewhere in America is not registering opposition to "fast track" for TPP.

Last week, the Guadalupe, AZ, Town Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing "fast track" and TPP. The same week, the Westchester, NY, County Board of Legislators wrote a letter to Rep. Eliot Engle telling him of their concerns about "fast track" and TPP and requesting that he "oppose 'fast-track' for TPP and all trade deals that will have a negative impact on how the people of Westchester County choose to govern themselves."


Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

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"Congress must address the secrecy, and the views of the privileged advisers, that shaped the agreement. Otherwise, 'fast' will be little more than a euphemism for 'avoid the public, and benefit the fortunate few,'" writes Margot E. Kaminski, an assistant professor of law at Ohio State University and a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, in The New York Times.

Kaminski has testified in a lawsuit challenging the government's decision to classify the documents as national security information. She says:

National security secrecy may be appropriate to protect us from our enemies; it should not be used to protect our politicians from us. For an administration that paints itself as dedicated to transparency and public input, the insistence on extensive secrecy in trade is disappointing and disingenuous. And the secrecy of trade negotiations does not just hide information from the public. It creates a funnel where powerful interests congregate, absent the checks, balances and necessary hurdles of the democratic process.

Read the full op-ed here.


CWA Activist Writes to Newspaper, Urges Rejection of "Fast Track," TPP

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CWA Local 4034 Activist Shelly Lubbinge went to the heart of the matter in a Letter to the Editor on Sunday, April 12 urging Congress to say "No" to "fast track" and the proposed TPP trade deal.

"Congress is set to vote on a massive outsourcing trade bill, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), very soon which includes Fast-Track authority," said Lubbinge of Chippewa Lake, MI, who is working on getting Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI 3rd District) to vote against the bill. "Fast-Track is a power move by multinational corporations that gives little or no oversight to Congress. It essentially ties the hands of Congress from making sure those deals work for all of us."

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Organizing Update

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Two New Units Join CWA In Districts 4 and 7

The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts employees voted overwhelmingly to join CWA Local 4340. The workers wanted a voice in the workplace to address job security, unjust discipline, inequity in pay scale and more.

Local 4340 Vice President Dave Passalacqua led the campaign and worked with the organizing committee, including Jeff Cardenas, Christina Fatica, Dan Sanchez, Dave Nader, Laura Smith and Don McGoun. Local legal counsel Chuck DeGross assisted. Local 4340 currently represents clerks working in the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office.

The mail-ballot vote result was 57 votes for CWA and 9 against, out of a unit of 90 people. The vote count was held Tuesday at the Ohio State Employment Relations Board. The final certification of the unit will occur at the next SERB board meeting on May 7.

And, Last Week in District 7

The employees of New Partners Teleservices gained a voice in the workplace by joining CWA. The unit of 93 workers, set to expand to 120, gained voluntary recognition through card check. A majority of the workforce signed up in one day.

This predominantly young workforce were excited and ready to engage as active CWA members, including a total of 18 workers who volunteered as Steward/Mobilizers. Staff Representative Al Piker and Local 7202 Secretary-Treasurer Matt Louks worked on the campaign.


Bargaining Update

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AT&T Midwest, Legacy T

CWA workers at AT&T Midwest and Legacy T are working without contracts as negotiations continue for new contracts. The agreements had been extended through noon EDT on April 14, but the contracts are not now in effect.

Some progress is being made. Employment security and opportunity are the key issues, as well as fair wage increases and a fair minimum wage, and retirement and health security.

The contracts cover about 13,000 District 4 AT&T Midwest workers and about 4,500 Legacy T workers, members of Telecommunications and Technologies.

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CWAers in Dallas hold a solidarity rally to show their support for CWA members at AT&T Midwest and Legacy T, who are bargaining new contracts.

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Telecommunications & Technologies members of CWA Locals 4050/4909 in Detroit hold a candlelight vigil as they count down to contract expiration.

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In Wisconsin, members of CWA Local 4630 build community support for their fair contract fight.


Don't Miss Tonight's CWA Telephone Town Hall Call

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CWA activists will be sharing their strategies for persuading our elected office holders to take a stand against "fast track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mark Lowry, president of ATU Local 843, will explain how bus drivers helped influenced city councils in Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., to pass resolutions opposing "fast track." John O'Malley, legislative political director of CWA Local 1120, will talk about targeting Sen. Chuck Schumer, who will succeed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he retires. And Derrick Osobase, CWA's Texas state campaign coordinator, will describe how a broad coalition is moving Rep. Joaquin Castro closer and closer to saying, "No Fast Track!"

When you get the call tonight, just around 7:30 PM EDT, pick up the phone. You won't want to miss tonight's call. To listen online, go to www.cwa-union.org/cwalisten.