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CWA e-Newsletter: August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013

CWA e-Newsletter

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

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Fifty years ago, more than 200,000 people gathered in the nation's capital to demand civil liberty and economic opportunity for all. The march was the largest demonstration for jobs and freedom in the country's history, and it was there that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech.

This Saturday, civil rights, labor and social justice organizations will be rallying once again on the National Mall to honor the historic demonstration. We will be gathering together not as a commemoration, but as a continuation and a call to action. Despite the progress America has made, we still have a long way to go to fulfill the goals of the original march.

Here's the lineup of events:

8 AM – 12:30 PM: Rally Program at the Lincoln Memorial

12:30 PM – 1 PM: March to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

1 PM – 4 PM: Rally Program Continues

Join us and be sure to wear CWA red!


Organizing Update

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North Carolina Home Care Workers Join CWA Local 3607

Workers at Reliable Home Health Care Services in Greensboro, N.C., voted last week to join CWA Local 3607.

CWA Local 3607 President Chris Myrick negotiated card check neutrality with the owner Portia Shipman and successfully gained recognition for 37 certified nursing assistants and home health care workers.

After two weeks, Marilyn Baird, an organizer with The North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, and Ravin St. Julien-Brown, a local organizer, submitted authorization cards with 68 percent of the employees voting to be represented by CWA.


CWA Local 3010 President Rafael Castro-Torres and organizer Lizbenet Vazquez say, "Vote Yes!"

Below: Fired Open Mobile employees demonstrate outside of the call center.


Workers Prepare for Union Election at Puerto Rico Call Center

After suffering years of their employer's unfair disciplinary policies, workers at Puerto Rico's Open Mobile are standing up and demanding a voice in their workplace. They'll be voting on joining CWA on Sept. 4.

"We will continue to help bring justice and dignity to the workplace with the only instrument available to the worker, forming a union and reaching a collectively bargained agreement" said CWA Local 3010 President Rafael Castro-Torres.

Open Mobile is a wireless carrier with a call center in San Juan and 30 company-owned retail stores around the island.

After workers began organizing last June, the company responded with a fierce anti-union campaign, hiring one of the top union busting consultants in Puerto Rico. Among the 12 workers who were fired after being identified as activists, four were members of the organizing committee.

On July 29, CWA Local 3010 organizer, Lizbenet Vázquez, filed a petition for elections with the National Labor Relations Board after achieving a majority in cards. Charges have been presented, as well, to the NLRB for the illegal firings.

"I stand with these workers that have never seen a wage increase, are threatened with termination if they dare use sick-days and are arbitrarily rotated and abused," said Vazquez.

On Aug. 8, all of the fired workers, along with union members from AT&T Mobility, demonstrated in front of Open Mobile's call center in support of the campaign. Next week, on Aug. 30, local AFL-CIO unions, CWA Local 3010 members and the fired activists and their families will be demonstrating for a "yes" vote in the upcoming election.

"This is not the time to be afraid. We are all Open's victims. We need to vote for CWA, we need to vote yes!" said Sandra Guadalupe, one of the fired activists who worked 16 years for Open Mobile.

Minnesota Activists March Against Secret Trade Deal

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Minnesota Activists Protest the TPP

Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis.

Below: CWA President Larry Cohen addresses the crowd.

CWA joined hundreds of labor, fair trade, environmental and community activists in an energetic march through downtown Minneapolis Tuesday to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal that could jeopardize American jobs, wages, consumer safety, health care and environmental standards.

"For all of us that are here from CWA, we're going to take this spirit back to wherever we're from. Across the Plains, across the Southwest, across to the Northwest and loud and clear we have one message: No more Fast Track. We need Fair Trade, not Fast Track," CWA President Larry Cohen told the crowd, referencing a bill in Congress that would force an up-or-down vote on the TPP without amendments.

CWA was holding its District 7 meeting in Minneapolis this week, and the CWA attendees linked up with Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition Director Josh Wise, TakeAction Minnesota Executive Director Dan McGrath, CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer and other coalition allies on the march.

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries will meet this week in Brunei to discuss what could be the largest trade agreement in U.S. history. But the only people at the TPP negotiating table are corporate lobbyists and government officials – not the groups fighting for workers, public health, free speech, environmental regulations and consumer protections. While the draft text of the agreement has never been officially released to the public, leaked documents reveal disconcerting proposals to grant new political powers to multinational corporations, ration lifesaving medicines, extend restrictive intellectual property laws and more.


CWA District 7 Vice President Mary Taylor addresses the Minneapolis meeting.

Below: Protesters point out Verizon's hypocrisy with giant foam fingers.


On the way to the rally, protesters stopped outside of U.S. Bank and Verizon – one of the many corporate "trade advisors" involved in the trade talks – to raise awareness about their support of the TPP. Marchers chanted, "Secrets, secrets are no fun. TPP hurts everyone."

"Democracy does not function unless the people have a spot at the table," said Wise. "The big corporations want to keep this as secret as possible."

At the same time, a number of organizations, including CWA, are calling for the suspension of trade discussions until Vietnam ends its labor rights abuses, which have only worsened since the country entered into the TPP talks. A new report, released by the Worker Rights Consortium titled "Made in Vietnam," examined the manufacturing sector and discovered forced labor, child labor, pregnancy and gender-based discrimination, health and safety hazards, excessive working hours and inadequate wages. Additionally, the report says that advocating for labor rights in Vietnam is more difficult than in China because government policies restrict the establishment of independent organizations.

"We have to say to the White House loud and clear: In 2008 and 2007, when you were in Iowa you told us no more NAFTA, you told us no more bad deals, that we would have good deals. We're still waiting," said Cohen at the rally. "When do we get to have a say on these trade deals? When do we get to see these trade deals? When do the people of this country get to speak up on trade, not just the State Department?"

Rep. Bishop, CWA Push for Vote on Call Center Bill

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With the full support of CWAers, New York Rep. Tim Bishop unveils his call center bill.

Outside a Verizon call center, Long Island CWA members joined New York Rep. Tim Bishop (D) in support of the congressman's legislation to block corporations that send U.S. call-center jobs overseas from obtaining federal grants and loans.

Under Bishop's "U.S. Call Center and Consumer Protection Act of 2013" (H.R. 2909), the Labor Department would track firms that outsource call center jobs and the firms would then be ineligible for any direct or indirect federal money for three years. It would also require overseas call center employees to disclose their location to U.S. customers and give them the option to be transferred to a U.S.-based call center.

Bishop introduced the legislation earlier this month with bipartisan support from cosponsors Dave McKinley (R-W.Va.), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Gene Green (D-TX), Mike Grimm (R-NY) and Mike Michaud (D-ME). Bishop introduced similar call center legislation in 2011, but it was denied a floor vote by GOP House leadership, despite attracting 135 bipartisan cosponsors.

"Outsourcing is a job killer that hampers our economic recovery, and we must take strong measures to discourage it," said Bishop. "Only good corporate citizens who grow jobs in America deserve taxpayer support."

Over the past five years, more than 500,000 U.S. call center jobs have been moved to foreign countries. In 2012, T-Mobile USA closed seven call centers in six states, while sending an increasing number of service calls to facilities in Central America and the Philippines. CWA Local 1108's Michael Gendron said that five years ago, CWA represented 550 call center operators in New York State, but today that number has been more than halved.

"This call center right here in Patchogue used to have twice the number of workers, and outsourcing of these jobs is punishing the middle class on Long Island and across the country," said Gendron. "Also, Americans should have the choice to deal with American operators who must comply with American laws and protect the security of their personal information, so Congressman Bishop's bill is a win-win for American consumers and workers."

Building Our Movement

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CWA Staff Representative Kara Hutchason calls on Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt to close corporate tax loopholes to avoid more deep cuts to vital benefits and services. Grass Roots Organizing, a Missouri nonprofit dedicated to winning economic justice and human rights for all, partnered with community, labor and faith leaders to organize the "Invest in Us!" rally.




At another "Invest in Us!" action, CWA Local 6314 President Ed Stevens protests a Verizon store. Learn more about the campaign at




The striking Canadian Media Guild members at MBS Radio march in the Saint John Pride parade. "We were honored to represent the Guild at the pride parade, and it was an awesome event," said Gary Stackhouse, Guild president at MBS.


UMWA Ratifies Settlement with Patriot Coal

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UMWA members who work at Patriot Coal operations in West Virginia and Kentucky ratified a settlement with the company that significantly improves the terms and conditions of employment ordered by a federal bankruptcy judge last May.

The final vote was 85 percent in favor to 15 percent opposed.

"The membership has made it clear that they are willing to do their part to keep Patriot operating, keep their jobs and ensure that thousands of retirees continue getting the health care they depend on and deserve," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "This has been a difficult and uncertain year for our members. But I believe that in the end, they understood that we had done a lot to improve what the judge had ordered. They also understood all that was at stake and resolved to move forward in a positive way. But as we work to keep Patriot a viable company into the future, we have not forgotten how we got here and who is responsible. With this agreement, we have foiled the schemes of Peabody Energy and Arch Coal by continuing to both provide health care for retirees and maintain union jobs at these mines."

Roberts noted that the settlement with Patriot does not provide enough resources to fulfill the promise of lifetime health care benefits that Peabody and Arch agreed to provide to thousands of retirees from those companies.

Peabody had created Patriot Coal in 2007 and gave that company 11 percent of its assets, 43 percent of its retiree liability and some underwater coal contracts, the UMWA said. The overwhelming majority, some 90 percent, of retirees whose retiree health care will be cut never worked for Patriot. Then, in 2008, Patriot bought Arch-spinoff Magnum Coal, and Arch saddled that company with 12 percent of its assets and 96 percent of its retiree health-care liabilities.

"We are now able to turn our full attention to securing the lifetime health care benefits Peabody and Arch promised these retirees," Roberts said. "If those companies thought our public effort to highlight their poor corporate citizenship was over, they will quickly find out otherwise."

CWA members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their UMWA brothers and sisters through this fight, joining rallies in St. Louis, West Virginia and Kentucky to pressure Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to meet their responsibilities to retired miners and their families. CWA intends on continuing to hold Peabody and Arch accountable.

CWA Launches New Website to Help T-Mobile US Workers Speak Out

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CWA launched an innovative new website,, run by workers for workers. T-Mobile Workers United, or TU, is an alliance of hundreds of call center representatives, retail associates and technicians who are standing up to discuss the issues and challenges they face at the new T-Mobile US, a merger of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS.

The website makes it easier for T-Mobile and MetroPCS employees to connect to a network of their colleagues across the country and gives them the social media tools to support and raise awareness about TU.

Here's what workers are saying online:

  • "With the recent acquisition of MetroPCS (9 million no contract customers and no customer service based in the USA) the winds of change are blowing. T-Mobile USA stopped employees' raises and stopped the phone incentive for employees. We feel if we don't unite soon, more call centers may soon be on the chopping blocks for downsizing." – Roland Ellis (Nashville, TN)

  • "I joined TU because I was tired of the unfair treatment. Sometimes I feel like they think they can do whatever they want and there is nobody governing them or there to tell them they are wrong. And when you try to tell them they are wrong, it gets disrespectful. It becomes the type of environment that shouldn't be a work environment. This is not the streets. You don't get in someone's face and tell them they are wrong. You don't intimidate someone to not voice their opinion or not stand up for themselves." – Adrian Dominguez (New York, NY)

  • "I'm organizing because, basically, I feel a calling for it. I do care about what happens to young people, especially young workers. I'm at the end of my working life so I'm not afraid. And I just feel like people need to step up and make the American labor movement understand what's going on. We're going downhill fast and it really concerns me." – Candace Harrison (Albuquerque, NM)

In 2011, CWA, ver.di, the German union that represents workers at T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom, and a coalition of community and labor groups around the world partnered on an international campaign to win workers a voice and respect at T-Mobile. The company's anti-union campaign has been brutal: Workers who even express interest in organizing have faced harassment, intimidation and surveillance. The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly sent the telecommunications giant warnings for its behavior.

This May, T-Mobile officially merged with MetroPCS, combining T-Mobile's 30,000 employees and 33.2 million customers with MetroPCS's 3,700 workers and 9.3 million customers.

Workers want this new company to succeed, and they believe that justice and respect in the workplace are essential for that success.