CWA e-Newsletter: Aug. 6, 2015
- Bargaining Updates
- Appeals Court Strikes Down Texas Restrictive Photo ID Law
- "America's Journey for Justice" Kicked Off in Selma Aug. 1
- Report: Unseemly Politics Played Role in State Department Upgrade of Malaysia on Human Rights
- TPP Negotiators Again Fail to Clinch Deal
- 20 House Democrats Demand Action on T-Mobile Labor Law Violations
- NLRB Judge Finds T-Mobile US Guilty of More Labor Law Violations
- Organizing Update
- Executive Board Meets in DC
Stand Up to Verizon
Some 39,000 CWA and IBEW members at Verizon from Massachusetts to Virginia are working without contracts, which expired Aug. 1.
When negotiations began on June 22, Verizon made outrageous demands, looking to completely eliminate job security and contract out and outsource more work, shift more health care costs to workers, slash retirement security, eliminate disability protections and more.
CWA negotiators for Districts 1 and 2-13 have told Verizon that it's time for the company to get serious and get off these demands for givebacks.
"Despite our best efforts, Verizon refuses to engage in serious bargaining towards a fair contract," said Dennis Trainor, CWA District 1 Vice President. "Verizon has earned $1 billion a month in profits over the last 18 months, but continues to insist on eliminating our job security and driving down our standard of living. We're not going to take it, and we're going to keep the fight going while we're on the job."
CWA Local 1103 members and supporters in Port Chester, N.Y., including local elected officials, held a "contract countdown" last Saturday night.
"The company has barely moved off its initial June 22nd proposal that made outrageous demands of our members. If this company is serious about reaching an agreement, it needs to start bargaining constructively and now. Right now there isn't even anyone across the table from us who's got the power to make any decisions," said Ed Mooney, CWA District 2-13 Vice President.
More than 11,000 CWA Verizon members and supporters listened to the town hall call on Aug. 2 that included reports from Mooney, Trainor and bargaining committee members, questions from Verizon members and an outline of next steps from CWA President Chris Shelton.
CWA activists in the Verizon footprint are getting statements of support from state, local and national elected officials, and are calling on community allies and retirees to "stand up to Verizon" with us.
Left: CWA Local 13000 members mobilize in Philadelphia. Right: CWA Local 2204 members and retirees stay mobilized at the Luck Avenue work site in Roanoke, Va.
Countdown to Contracts at AT&T Southeast
With contracts covering CWAers at AT&T Southeast, AT&T Utility Operations and BellSouth Billing set to expire this Saturday, Aug. 8, after midnight, AT&T members have sent an overwhelming message of solidarity and determination to the company in this fight. By a 96 percent vote, members voted to authorize CWA to call a strike if a fair contract can't be reached.
AT&T is a very profitable company, posting a net profit of $6.5 billion in 2014. But at the bargaining table, it still demands givebacks. The company has made a substandard health care proposal, is demanding givebacks in job security, wants to hire more temporary workers and continues to insist on excessive forced overtime.
The contracts cover more than 28,000 workers in nine states. CWA members at YP Holdings are bargaining separately; that contract also expires Aug. 8.
Left: As the deadline looms, CWA Local 3112 members in West Palm, FL, held an informational picket. Right: CWA Local 3907 activists at the Greer Street work center in Mobile, AL, wrote: "Dear AT&T, Since we helped you make BILLIONS of dollars in profit, how about giving your workers a share by offering a contract that's fair?"
CWA Reaches Tentative National Agreement with the American Red Cross
CWA and the American Red Cross have reached the first-ever national tentative settlement covering some 4,000 workers at American Red Cross operations in 24 states, a positive step forward for Red Cross workers and the public. Union members will vote on the tentative settlement with a ratification deadline of Oct. 2.
CWA represents Red Cross health care workers in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
Covered by the tentative national agreement are members of CWA, AFSCME, the Teamsters, Service Employees, American Federation of Teachers, United Auto Workers, Food and Commercial Workers and United Steelworkers.
Frontier Communications and CWA Reach Agreement in Texas and Missouri
CWA District 6 and Frontier Communications have reached agreement as part of the company's acquisition of Verizon's wireline assets in Texas and Missouri that is due to be finalized in 2016.
Frontier has agreed to honor and extend the current collective bargaining agreement covering 2,000 CWAers for two years beyond the 2016 expiration with annual wage increases. It also will add 60 new jobs, maintain job security and guaranteed workforce size, and is committed to a 100 percent U.S.-based workforce.
CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said, "We have reached an agreement with Frontier that is in the best interests of telecommunications workers and consumers. We hope to build on this partnership going forward."
Texas voters scored a major victory yesterday when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found the state's restrictive photo ID requirement violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling means Texas's ID law, the strictest in the country, was found to be invalid.
CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said the Texas decision marks the third federal court ruling that is calling for an end to political efforts to turn back the clock and block citizens – especially people of color, the elderly and poorer Americans – from exercising their right to vote.
"So many people struggled, suffered and shed blood to win this right," Cummings said. "The court is saying, 'let the people vote; stop putting obstacles in their way.' That's what our democracy should be about."
The Court sent the case back down to the district court for further consideration of the claim that the law intentionally discriminates against minority voters.
In October 2014, following a lengthy trial, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down Texas's strict photo ID law on the grounds that the Texas legislature enacted the law with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters. According to Judge Ramos's ruling, the ID requirement denied African Americans and Latinos the same opportunity as white voters to cast a ballot, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and imposed unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote.
She also found approximately 608,470 registered voters do not have the kind of photo ID required under Texas's law.
Texas appealed the ruling, and the law was allowed to stand and disenfranchise voters during the November 2014 election while the appeal was pending. The ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Ramos's decision that the law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Texas is not the only state with a major lawsuit challenging voting restrictions. In North Carolina, a trial just wrapped up that will determine the fate of several voting restrictions passed in an omnibus bill in 2013. Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new laws in place making it harder to vote, and 15 states will have new rules in effect for the first time in a presidential election in 2016.
On Aug. 1, members of the NAACP, CWA and many other allies began the "America's Journey for Justice" march that will cover more than 860 miles and feature teach-ins in almost 40 locations between Selma, AL, and Washington, DC. Along the way, marchers are making it clear: "Our lives, our votes, our jobs, our schools matter."
The tour will conclude with a huge rally and an Advocacy Day on Wednesday, Sept. 16, in the nation's Capital; CWAers will be there in force. CWAers and other supporters from Roanoke, Va., through the Democracy Initiative, will be among those making the trip, to keep public attention on Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and his efforts to keep voting rights restoration legislation from ever getting to the House floor.
"Voting rights are under attack across the country," said Angie Wells, CWA North Carolina Legislative and Political Coordinator, who attended the opening ceremony in Selma and participated in the first 14 miles of the march. "It was an overwhelming feeling to follow in the footsteps of civil rights leaders in the march from Selma to Montgomery. CWA is at the forefront in the fight for voting right and social justice."
The first day of the Journey for Justice included a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the March 7, 1965, events which came to be known as "Bloody Sunday" after civil rights activists were viciously attacked by police.
"We must enact a policy agenda that honors civil rights and social justice – this is our fight," CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said at the start of the march. "Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Now, extremism and attacks on voting rights and registration have made it much more difficult for millions of Americans to vote," he said.
Left: CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings addresses participants at the march kickoff. Right: CWA members join allies and walk the opening miles of America's Journey for Justice march.
Marchers will participate in teach-ins, rallies and other actions as the Journey winds its way to Washington.
When the Journey marches through Charlotte, NC, on August 26, CWA will host a teach-in on voting rights featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP and the unstoppable force behind the Moral Monday Movement; Chris Kennedy of the CWA Human Rights Department; and Tova Wang, CWA's Director of Democracy Programs.
RELATED: Read Linda Sutton's reflections on how CWA shaped her commitment to voting rights.
The U.S. State Department's upgrade of Malaysia from the ranks of the world's worst human rights offenders happened despite objections from the agency's own human rights experts, according to Reuters in a report out this week.
In its latest "Trafficking in Persons Report," the U.S. State Department's annual assessment of countries' efforts to combat human trafficking, the agency upgraded Malaysia from the lowest Tier 3 category to Tier 2 status. A bipartisan group of 160 members of Congress had also strongly urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry not to upgrade Malaysia but to no avail.
CWAers, allies and other activists protest the TPP in front of a U.S. Senate office building.
The action came despite reports that Malaysia has not made progress on this issue, made the country eligible to participate in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The Fast Track Authority on trade deals that Congress granted the Obama administration in May included a provision barring negotiating with Tier 3 countries, or "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards [in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act]."
Reuters' report, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, that "the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries."
The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today to grill State Department officials about the upgrade.
Another last ditch effort to come to agreement on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal failed last week in Maui, Hawaii.
While the lack of a deal this year pushes the TPP into presidential year politics as an issue, it is good news for workers and the environment considering the TPP's threats to jobs, wages, safe food, affordable medicines and more.
Many of the 28 House Democrats who voted to give the Obama administration Fast Track authority on trade deals set specific conditions for that support, including strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards, and no rolling back of past patent rule reforms relating to access to medicines. The U.S., for instance, is insisting on lengthening times for drugs patents, a position other countries reject.
The TPP figures to face even more intense scrutiny when these members of Congress and the public see specific TPP terms that threaten their interests. Issues like investor-state dispute resolution, medicine patents, and market access issues like sugar, dairy, and rules-of-origin on manufactured goods like autos remain deadlocked at the bargaining table.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports this week that the State Department's improbable upgrade of Malaysia from the ranks of the world's worst human rights offenders happened despite objections from the agency's own human rights experts ( see previous story).
RELATED: When Trade Theories Confront The Real World, The Real World Wins by Dave Johnson | AUGUST 5, 2015
Twenty House Democrats sent a sharply-worded letter to Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges demanding that the company take "swift and immediate action" to address multiple workers' rights violations at its American subsidiary T-Mobile US.
The letter, led by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2nd District), follows the German telecommunications giant's inadequate response to lawmakers' concerns over the treatment of its U.S. workforce. Members of Congress first reached out to Höttges after an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found T-Mobile guilty of committing 11 nationwide violations of US labor law.
On Friday, they wrote, "We were therefore surprised when you replied that 'Deutsche Telekom has no indications that T-Mobile US is not treating its workers in a legal, fair and respectful manner,' and did not provide us with any additional information. Particularly, given that T-Mobile only appealed two of the 11 counts on which it was found guilty, it is not clear to us how there could possibly be 'no indication' that workers have not been treated in a legal manner. Indeed, since that ALJ ruling, at least four additional complaints have been filed with the NLRB regarding T-Mobile. Though those cases are still pending, the sheer volume of new cases raises concerns about the possibility that these violations of American labor law are ongoing."
CWA President Chris Shelton has been using every opportunity to get members of Congress to weigh in on T-Mobile's systematic campaign to block workers from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively. Most recently, lawmakers have started to add their names to a petition urging the German Bundestag, or parliament, to use its shareholder power to pressure Deutsche Telekom into enforcing international labor standards at its locations abroad.
Nearly five months ago, an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found T-Mobile US guilty of multiple violations of U.S. labor law. Yet, instead of rectifying its illegal corporate policies, the company continues to break the law.
On Monday, another ALJ found that T-Mobile illegally prohibits its employees from discussing the terms and conditions of employment with their co-workers and others. At locations in at least South Carolina and Maine, the company had been requiring employees to sign a confidentiality agreement whenever it conducted an internal investigation.
This practice was exposed as particularly egregious in Maine, where a customer service representative filed a sexual harassment complaint with the human resources department. T-Mobile forced her to sign the form and agree not to discuss the complaint with anyone. The employee was told explicitly that if she discussed the situation with her co-workers she could face discipline and termination.
T-Mobile refuses to own up to its lawbreaking. In March, an ALJ ruled that T-Mobile's nationwide policies violated labor laws and workers' rights by blocking employees from even talking to each other about problems at work. The company has not appealed nine of the 11 violations, but has taken no action to rescind its illegal policies and inform all 46,000 employees about policy changes, as the ALJ ordered.
Retail Cricket Workers Join CWA in New Mexico and Pennsylvania
Thirty-five Cricket Retail employees in New Mexico are now members of three CWA locals – 7001, 7011 and 7037 – with a strong majority indicating their support for CWA representation.
CWA District 7 Administrative Director Al Kogler said CWA Organizers Glenda Winternheimer and Amber Diaz helped the workers in their fight for a voice in the workplace.
In Pennsylvania, 48 retail Cricket employees across the state have voted to join CWA, District 2-13 Administrative Director Marge Krueger said. Local 13000 Organizer James Lynch led the effort to assist the workers' campaign by forming organizing committees across the state.
CWA's Executive Board met in Washington, DC, on Aug 5-6 and discussed issues including organizing, bargaining underway throughout CWA, legislative and political action and more. Vice President Jim Clark, who heads the IUE-CWA Industrial Division, was not able to attend. Click here for a complete list of Board members.