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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 17, 2015

December 17, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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CWA Endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States

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No time for politics as usual: Sander's campaign to fight for America's middle class, supported decisively by CWA members in grassroots endorsement process

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks with CWA Executive Board members.

Citing the need for a candidate who will break with politics-as-usual and fight for America's working people, CWA voted today to endorse U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the 2016 race for President of the United States. With 700,000 members, CWA is one of the largest unions in the U.S.

"CWA members have made a clear choice and a bold stand in endorsing Bernie Sanders for President," CWA President Chris Shelton said. "I am proud of our democratic process, proud of CWA members, and proud to support the candidate whose vision for America puts working families first. Our politics and economy have favored Wall Street, the wealthy and powerful for too long. CWA members, like voters across America, are saying we can no longer afford business as usual. Bernie has called for a political revolution – and that is just what Americans need today."

The decision followed a 3-month democratic process, including hundreds of worksite meetings and online voting by tens of thousands of CWA members on which candidate to endorse. CWA's 700,000 members represent a cross-section of America's workers, working in industries spanning telecommunications, airlines, media and broadcast journalism, health care, public service, and manufacturing.

CWA President Chris Shelton at the media conference announcing CWA members' decisive vote for Bernie Sanders.

The top issues motivating the endorsement of Senator Sanders – taking on the big banks and Wall Street, providing our children with debt-free higher education, getting big money out of politics, restoring worker rights, stopping job-killing trade deals, affordable health care, and retirement security – reflect the priorities cited by our members and all working Americans nationwide ahead of the 2016 election.

In accepting the endorsement, Sanders spoke about the erosion of the earning power of the working class and the disappearance of the middle class in this country.

"So, my pledge to you is, working with CWA, working with the unions throughout our country, working with the middle class and working families, we're going to create an economy that works for the middle class and working people of America, not just the billionaire class," Sanders said.

CWA's Executive Board voted unanimously this morning to formalize members' endorsement of Sanders. Shelton sent an e-mail to leaders of CWA locals notifying them of the results of the membership vote and the endorsement. Sanders met with the union's 21-member executive board, then attended a news conference with President Shelton who announced CWA's endorsement of Sanders for President of the United States.

"Bernie Sanders stands with working families against corporate greed, against Wall Street and the big banks, against politics as usual," Shelton said. "He stands against the flood of money in politics that's corrupting our democracy and attacking the right to vote. He knows that we have to take on the rich and powerful special interests to turn around this economy and end the 40 years of stagnant wages that working families have endured.

"He's the candidate who can do it, and we are going to help him. When CWA endorses a candidate it is just the beginning. Our 700,000 members are fired up, and we are going to work overtime to elect Bernie Sanders as the next President of the United States."

CWA members' endorsement of Sanders mirrors the deep desire among voters for an economy and political system that responds to ordinary Americans. In November, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 69% of voters in both parties "feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than working to help everyday people get ahead."

CWA members have played a significant role in driving turnout in past elections. In 2012, tens of thousands of CWA member volunteers worked on national and state campaigns and for critical ballot initiatives. CWA had ground operations in 38 states, and CWA member-activists played a major role in Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

CWA has more than 300,000 active and retired members in the states that will hold primaries between now and April 1. In California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, where CWA has its largest numbers of members, activists are engaged in worksite actions, staffing phone banks, and signing up new contributors to CWA's political program ahead of the 2016 election.


CWA President Chris Shelton will be on MSNBC's "Hardball" tonight with host Chris Matthews, to talk about why CWA members are ready to do everything they can to elect Bernie Sanders as president of the United States. Tune in at 7 pm ET, Shelton's segment starts at 7:25, ET.

NLRB Seeks Rare Injunction Against Cablevision for Illegally Firing Union Activist

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The National Labor Relations Board has gone to Federal Court to ask a judge to issue an injunction against Cablevision for illegally firing Dorothea Perry, a union activist at a call center in Nassau County.

The move for injunction is rare for the NLRB as the agency seeks injunctions in less than 1% of its cases, demonstrating the severity of the violations under consideration.

Cablevision and CEO James Dolan have a history of breaking federal labor law. Last year, a Federal Administrative Law Judge ruled that Cablevision and Dolan broke multiple labor laws in an attempt to stop workers in Brooklyn and the Bronx from unionizing. CWA represents 300 Cablevision employees in Brooklyn.

In the current case, the NLRB claims that Cablevision illegally fired Dorothea Perry for her union activity. The filing described how after 11 years working for the company, with performance reviews describing her as an "exceptional" employee, Perry was abruptly fired after becoming the "point person" for a union organizing drive.

In the earlier case, in December 2014, the Administrative Law Judge found Cablevision guilty of nine violations of Federal labor law, including illegally firing 22 workers and spying on workers in Brooklyn and the Bronx, illegally intimidating, harassing and essentially bribing workers during a union representation election. The violations were part of an illegal, anti-union campaign Cablevision ran after its 300 Brooklyn technicians – the overwhelming majority of whom are African American and people of color – voted to become the first union workers at the company.

The Federal Communications Commission, the New York State Public Service Commission, the New York City Franchise Concession Review Committee and the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority are all reviewing the proposed sale of Cablevision to the Dutch company Altice. Violation of labor law by any party to the sale is an important part of determining whether it is in "the public interest" to approve the sale. These labor law violations will become part of the record in those proceedings.

CWA Activists and Allies Elect Houston's Mayor

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Sylvester Turner won election as mayor of Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, with a lot of grassroots help from CWA activists and other allies in the runoff election.

Turner, a longtime state lawmaker, won 51 percent of the runoff vote to defeat Bill King, a businessman who got 49 percent of the vote. Turner takes office in January 2016.

CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, left, with Houston Mayor-Elect Sylvester Turner.

"As we demonstrated in this election, it is not enough for us to go out and vote," CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said. "We needed to get everyone who is able to vote out to the polls to vote on Election Day. As political observers have been telling us, our efforts in this race made a critical difference and may have even supplied the margin of victory. We do this because the person who governs this city, one of the nation's fastest growing cities, will make a difference in the lives of workers and in the lives of people in Houston."

Cummings spent the last two weeks of the campaign talking to the public on African-American radio stations about the importance of electing a worker-friendly mayor. CWA and our labor partners joined together to create and run the biggest volunteer program ever attempted in a Texas municipal election. CWA, AFSCME, and AFT focused on over 100,000 voters in Harris County. Our activists and volunteers knocked on over 65,000 doors in the general election and another 100,000 in the runoff. Turner won the election by 4,000 votes (or 2%), proof that a labor and economic agenda resonated with voters.

CWA's field program knocked on over 10,000 doors during the general election. CWA Boot Campers led the worksite engagement by going into the field to have direct conversations about issues in the race, resulting in volunteer recruitment for block walks, phone banks, and opportunities to join the Political Action Fund.

Beyond the activists who did heroic work, CWA Locals 6186, 6201, 6215, and 6222 allowed space and time for their activists to participate in the unprecedented win.

Bargaining Update

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United Flight Attendants Launch Worldwide Protest Today as Holiday Travel Begins

At airports across the world, including Guam International Airport (GUM), Flight Attendants protested United Airlines stalling tactics at the bargaining table.

As the holiday travel season begins, United Airlines Flight Attendants are picketing airport bases around the world today calling on the airline to complete its merger with Continental Airlines as it promised to do five years ago.

United management is still dragging its feet negotiating a fair contract with 24,000 Flight Attendants, represented by AFA-CWA, despite enjoying historic profits.

"With a busy holiday travel season underway, passengers flying United suffer under the inefficiency of its fractured three-part operation," AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson said. "It's been five years, and now five holiday seasons since United Airlines initiated the merger. United Flight Attendants are still without a joint contract and work another holiday season without sharing in the profits they help create. A joint contract provides Flight Attendants, the airline and its passengers with the stability of a fully operational airline."

Flight Attendants at London's Heathrow Airport show solidarity with other United Airlines Flight Attendants around the world as they fight for a fair contract.

The protests, which include Flight Attendants from all U.S. airlines, the Air Line Pilots Association, passengers and many other unions, are taking place at airports in Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Frankfurt, Germany; Guam; Hong Kong; Honolulu; Houston, TX; Las Vegas, NV; London, England; Los Angeles, CA; Orange, CA; Tokyo, Japan; Newark, NJ; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, DC.

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NewsGuild Reaches Groundbreaking Contract Settlement with The Nation Magazine

The NewsGuild of New York has reached a groundbreaking, new six-year contract with The Nation. The contract will provide employees four months of paid parental leave regardless of gender, a nearly unheard of benefit in the news industry, and a 25 percent pay increase over the life of the agreement.

Editors and other Guild members at The Nation magazine voted on Dec. 16 to ratify a new contract that includes a groundbreaking four months of parental leave and raises pay by 25 percent over six years.

"Kudos to The Nation for taking such a progressive stance and working with us to trailblaze a path for other media organizations to follow. Journalists are parents too, and it's important that they have the opportunity to be with family during this joyous period, without worrying about repercussions from their employer," said Peter Szekely, president of The NewsGuild of New York.

NewsGuild members at The Nation voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement yesterday.

Read more about the contract at the NewsGuild website.


Waterloo City Workers Win Pay Raises

In Iowa, Waterloo City Council members voted on Monday to approve three-year labor contracts with seven unions including CWA. The agreement covering CWA members was ratified and became effective July 1. Read more here.


New Flyer Workers to Vote on New Agreement


CWA and New Flyer of America have reached a tentative five-year agreement for workers at the company's Crookston, MN, facility. This Sunday, Dec. 19, workers will hold a ratification vote. The current contract expires on Dec. 31. Read more here.


Verizon Workers Mobilizing for a Fair Contract

Over 200 CWA Local 1108 members – joined by supporters and elected officials – rallied for fairness at Verizon and collected over 10 boxes of toys for less fortunate children. Supporters included Suffolk County, NY Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory; Suffolk County, NY Majority Leader Rob Calarco; Suffolk County, NY Legislators Kate Browning and Bridget Fleming; Babylon Town, NY Supervisor Rich Schaffer; Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; and New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia; Long Island Federation of Labor Executive Director Roger Clayman; and Long Island Jobs with Justice Director Anita Halasz.


CWA Local 2201 members (left to right): Joanne Goodrich, Diane Clayton, Erica Pryor-Davis, Michelle Camp, Donna Kimble, Christine Young rally for a fair contract at the Verizon Park Central work site in Richmond, VA, on Friday.


Mason Pinto, 6, son of CWA Local 1120 LPAT leader Rob Pinto, has a very specific wish of Santa this Christmas. He is asking Santa to get Verizon Wireless to reinstate Bianca Cunningham, a leader who helped organize 65 Verizon Wireless workers in Brooklyn. Cunningham was fired for her union activities.


CWA Local 2204 Radford members (from left to right): Richard Hanks, Dennis Jones, Jimmy Johnson and James Wampler stand up to Verizon. Technicians and directory assistance operators who work at this location hold informational picket mobilizations at least three days every week.


Tabitha Wimmer (left) and Christina Gravely (right), Radford work location directory assistance operators, mobilize after work as Rosie the Riveter showing why a fair Contract is important to them.

Customs Bill Fails to Address Currency Manipulation & Human Trafficking

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In a letter to members of Congress, CWA expressed strong opposition to the customs reauthorization bill moving forward in Congress, noting that the bill "is littered with troubling provisions that will actually hinder efforts to formulate a better trade policy that benefits American workers."

The House is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

In particular, the letter notes that the legislation fails to sufficiently address concerns about job-killing currency manipulation and strips out stronger currency language originally in the Senate bill in favor of language that is "simply lip service" on the issue and would lack true enforcement.

The letter highlights a troubling provision regarding human trafficking, language that will "make it much easier for countries with atrocious records of human trafficking, such as Thailand, to join trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership before we have seen sustained evidence that their governments are improving their efforts."

The customs bill is another reminder of why the push for the TPP trade deal is a bad deal for American workers and key progressive priorities. Earlier this year, "fast track" trade authority passed Congress without much room to spare – just five votes in the House would have flipped the outcome.

In order to pass fast track and keep the prospects alive for the TPP, House Republican leadership made a series of concessions and promises to right-wing Members of Congress by adding an array of harmful provisions to this separate customs reauthorization bill. Even after the conference committee with the Senate, these troubling provisions remain in the legislation.

COOL Ruling & Repeal Effort is Another Reminder How TPP Could Undermine U.S. Laws

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Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) like to claim that "No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws." But recent World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings against the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules for beef and pork demonstrate that this claim is wrong.

With the TPP already facing a difficult road ahead in Congress, its potential to threaten democratically-enacted U.S. laws is another reminder why the TPP is a bad deal for American workers and priorities.

"Our trade policy should advance American values and strengthen democratic governance. Unfortunately, the TPP would do the opposite," CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson said.

As mandated by Congress, COOL requires beef and pork sold domestically to tell consumers its country of origin. In May, the WTO issued a ruling against COOL and last week weighed in again to rule that Canada and Mexico may impose "retaliatory tariffs" against the U.S. totaling approximately $1 billion on imported American products. In response to the WTO rulings, the House of Representatives has passed legislation repealing COOL and the Senate may soon do the same – Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts recently stated, "I will continue to look for all legislative opportunities to repeal COOL."

The WTO rulings against COOL – and the subsequent repeal effort in Congress – are directly relevant to the ongoing debate over the TPP. The controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the TPP could provide a new mechanism to challenge U.S. laws and regulations.

As Lori Wallach recently assessed at Huffington Post: "The TPP would make the situation much worse. It includes constraints on food safety that extend beyond the WTO, roll back the environmental standards included even in George W. Bush's trade pacts and would empower individual foreign corporations to directly launch attacks on public interest policies."

This is not how it should be.

"International tribunals and trade pacts should not be able to undercut and overturn U.S. laws and protections," Larson said. "As the COOL example shows, there is a real and well-founded worry that corporations could use the ISDS provision of the TPP to challenge democratically-enacted labor, consumer, and environmental laws. Our trade policy should advance American values and strengthen democratic governance. Unfortunately, the TPP would do the opposite."

15,000 Petitions to End T-Mobile Employee Gag Order Policy Delivered to German Embassy

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The AFL-CIO, National Women's Law Center and CWA delivered 15,000 petition signatures to the German Embassy on Tuesday, urging the German government to use its shareholder power to press T-Mobile to abandon a company policy that silences workers who speak out against sexual harassment.

"No one should have to decide between keeping their job and staying safe," said AFL-CIO Secretary Treasury Liz Shuler. "But that unfortunate choice is put to working women under T-Mobile's current practice of silencing workers who come forward with sexual harassment claims. Today, we are calling on the German government as a major stakeholder to hold T-Mobile accountable and demand they protect workers' rights and women's equality."

"U.S. workers have a basic right to speak out and challenge sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace without fear of facing retaliation or losing their jobs," said Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women's Law Center. "By threatening employees who talk publicly about sexual harassment or other workplace abuses, T-Mobile's gag order policy violates this right. Indeed, T-Mobile's policy threatens workers to remain silent or risk their job. We hope that the German government, as a major shareholder of T-Mobile's parent company, will urge T-Mobile to quickly reform its practices to respect workers' voices and obey the law."

Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women's Law Center, left, and AFL-CIO Secretary Treasury Liz Shuler, deliver petition signatures to Herman Nehls, the German Embassy's counselor on labor, health and social affairs.

The German state owns about 32 percent of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's German parent company. In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found T-Mobile guilty of violating the rights of Angela Agganis, a former T-Mobile customer service representative. Agganis had reported unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from her supervisor, and T-Mobile responded by pressuring her into signing a non-disclosure agreement and threatening to fire Agganis if she discussed the situation with her coworkers. Not wanting to be silenced, she resigned and contacted her union, TU. Together they went to the NLRB.

But T-Mobile only had to withdraw its employee gag order policies at its call center centers in Maine and South Carolina. Because the rest of T-Mobile's 46,000 employees still don't know these non-disclosure agreements violate U.S. labor law, Agganis created two petitions to intensify pressure on the company to make nationwide reforms. Since then, union members, workers' rights activists and community allies have delivered petition signatures to T-Mobile's corporate headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., and the German parliament in Berlin, Germany.

"I know I did the right thing. If my struggles can help just one person – prevent one person from having to go through what I did – it's worth it," Agganis said.

Organizing Update

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Ski Patrol Organizing Victory

About 200 ski patrol workers in Utah have come together for a voice in the workplace and voted to join CWA Local 7781, CWA District 7 Administrative Director Al Kogler reported.

The Park City, Utah, Combined Ski Patrol unit is made up of the former Canyons group (80 workers), which had CWA representation for about 15 years, and the Park City Mountain Resort group (115 workers), recently purchased by Vail Resorts. The employer went out of its way to make it difficult for the workers to organize.

In early October, Vail Resorts denied that integration of the two groups was imminent during negotiations with the Canyons group, only to come back about a week later and inform them that the integration was now complete. In order to stack the deck even further, the employer doubled the historical size of the Park City group this year and created a new mountain safety division. Vail then cut off negotiations because they claimed CWA no longer had a majority.

Ski patrol workers in Utah overcame heavy-handed tactics by their employer and came together to win representation by CWA Local 7781.

Despite a heavy handed anti-union campaign including a visit from Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz, a Jackson Lewis attorney from Chicago, these amazing workers worked tirelessly to keep their CWA voice. Cody Evans, Pete Earle, Lauren Edwards, Robbie Young and Mark Guffey led the team.

CWA Local 7781 ( United Professional Ski Patrols of America) now represents about 400 workers in Park City, UT; Steamboat Springs, CO; Crested Butte, CO; and Telluride, CO. Please visit one of these CWA-represented resorts on your next visit to the Rockies for a ski vacation.