CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 19, 2013 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 19, 2013

CWA e-Newsletter

Want to be in next week's CWA Newsletter? Send your stories and photos to blog@cwa-union.org or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at www.resistancegrowing.org.

CWA Town Hall Call TONIGHT

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Tonight, Richard Cordray – the first-ever director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that's on the side of consumers when it comes to predatory lending and other bad practices by the big banks and other financial institutions – is joining CWA President Larry Cohen on CWA's Town Hall Call at 7:30 p.m. ET.

We'll also be hearing from Alex Shalom, a bank teller who is organizing to improve conditions for financial services workers in New York City, and Deborah Castillo, a CWA member from St. Louis who is fighting to stop illegal and unfair home foreclosures.

Be sure to tune in! You may listen to the call online at cwa-union.org/cwalisten.


Bargaining Update

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University of California

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UPTE members rally for fairness for all UC workers.

UPTE-CWA Local 9119 and the University of California have reached tentative agreement on a contract for the system's 15,000 researchers, technical employees and health care professionals. A ratification vote is planned for next week.

The proposed contract includes cost-of-living increases plus step increases over four years, and it preserves UC's quality retirement system on a single-tier for UPTE-represented workers through an additional contribution from employees.

"The historic agreement is a commitment to preserving the University of California as the world's premiere academic institution," said UPTE President Jelger Kalmijn. "Our bargaining team made a responsible proposal to contribute an additional 1 percent to the pension fund in exchange for the UC agreeing to keep all members on a single plan, and UC has agreed."

UC management had initially proposed a two-tier pension system that would have dramatically reduced benefits for current and future employees. UPTE-represented workers poured out onto picket lines, wrote letters and even went on strike in solidarity with other hospital workers last spring to make it clear they rejected UC's plan.

"We hope this ground-breaking agreement sets a new pattern for labor negotiations and brings to an end the years of attempted management take-backs despite healthy bottom-lines at UC's research and medical facilities," said Kalmijn. "A four-year agreement will provide new UC president Janet Napolitano with a period of labor peace," he added, in which he hopes "we can work together to remedy much of the damage that was done by difficult budget times and the acrimonious employment strategies of her predecessor."

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Airline Bargaining

Spirit Airlines Flight Attendants have reached a tentative agreement for a five-year contract. The agreement was reached with the assistance of the National Mediation Board.

AFA-CWA also has reached a tentative agreement with Alaska Airlines management on a five year agreement that would cover over 3,100 Flight Attendants. The tentative agreement, reached with the assistance of the National Mediation Board, contains wage increases and improved job security and protections.

AFA-CWA International President Veda Shook said, "While the airline industry is now making record profits, contract bargaining continues to be a grueling experience. Too often we are forced to spend sometimes years bargaining just to hang on to current contract language. At both Spirit and Alaska, through strong mobilization and effective strategies at the bargaining tables, our AFA leaders were able to negotiate for improvements in their existing agreements."

Spirit and Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants will vote on the tentative agreements throughout January, following road shows conducted by AFA-CWA leaders.


Get Ready to Fight 'Fast Track' in January

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Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators may have missed their year-end deadline to wrap up the deal, but "fast track" remains a serious threat.

Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee, which have jurisdiction over trade deals, have agreed on speeding the TPP through Congress using "fast track" – also known as Trade Promotion Authority – which would limit lawmakers to an up-or-down vote on the TPP without any amendments. Since they've run out of time this year, Congress is expected to introduce a "fast track" bill in the beginning of January.

This is dangerous. Despite loud protests about the lack of transparency in the TPP negotiating process, the public and many members of Congress still don't even know what's in this massive trade deal covering 12 Pacific Rim countries. More than 600 corporate advisors can read and comment on the negotiating texts, while labor, environmental, public health, consumer and open Internet groups are left relying on leaks to glean important information about the agreement.

What we do know is terrifying: The TPP would give corporations new powers to attack important workers' rights, environmental and public health protections. It would offshore millions of American jobs and erode wages here at home. It would decrease access to life-saving medicines and flood the U.S. marketplace with unsafe food.

We can't let this secretive free trade deal rush through Congress unchecked. Now is the time to urge our lawmakers to oppose "fast track" before it's too late. Learn more at www.stopthetpp.com.


Senate, House Pass Budget Deal Without Extending Jobless Benefits

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The budget agreement passed by both the House and Senate stops some of the senseless cuts required by sequestration and, at least for two years, means there won't be a government shutdown over the issue.

Of course, it doesn't change the possibility of a government shutdown over the debt limit, something Republican senators and House members have said is still possible.

It's good that negotiations worked and that some of the extreme cuts, especially to domestic programs, made under sequestration won't go into effect, like cuts in Head Start funding that pushed 57,000 children out of that program. Unfortunately, many other program cuts won't be restored.

It's shameful that under this budget deal, 1.3 million Americans will lose their emergency unemployment insurance benefits starting on December 28, because Congress couldn't see fit to extend them past the end of the year. Workers in every state but North Carolina are eligible for extended benefits because of still-too-high unemployment rates.

After a worker's state benefits run out – after 26 weeks – federal extended unemployment benefits can provide an additional 47 weeks of support. But because Congress didn't act, after 26 weeks, the safety net is shredded.

These jobless workers are among the 4.1 million long-term unemployed, workers who have been searching for jobs in a dismal environment. Two-thirds of the long-term unemployed are ages 26-55, one-third have children, one-half have at least some college education, and one in ten are college graduates.

The Republican take on benefits like unemployment benefits or food stamps is that we "harm" the poor or the unemployed by providing them with a safety net. Sen. Rand Paul says it's a "disservice" to the unemployed. Other Republicans say getting food stamps prevents recipients from "dreaming."

It's not a "disservice," however, when corporations and the 1 percent get their handouts.

Senate Democrats have said they will push for an extension of unemployment benefits early next year when Congress reconvenes.

There are many reasons to keep this safety net for jobless workers. One is that these dollars are immediately spent in our economy. It's a very effective fiscal stimulus tool. And it's the right thing to do. We need to keep up the pressure on Congress and the administration to have these benefits restored.


New Jersey DREAM Act to Become Law

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Members of the New Jersey DREAM Act coalition worked for more than a year for a measure that moves the state closer to providing equality and opportunity for undocumented students.

A coalition of CWA activists, students, the faith group PICO, immigration advocacy groups, SEIU and the American Civil Liberties Union convinced the New Jersey state legislature to stand tough on legislation to allow undocumented immigrants who attended and graduated from a New Jersey high school to be eligible for in-state rates at public higher educational institutions, including in-county rates at community colleges.

As a result, these young students, who grew up in the state, now will be able to attend college and other higher education programs at in-state tuition rates.

Governor Chris Christie had wanted to weaken the bill even more but finally agreed to a compromise. Christie did veto provisions that would have granted those students eligibility for state financial aid programs. Christie campaigned for re-election last year and claimed he supported "tuition equality." Over the past few weeks he has been raising objections to the bill.

Hetty Rosenstein, CWA's New Jersey state director, said, "CWA has worked with students, immigration rights advocates, the ACLU, other unions, and the religious community for more than a year to get this done. Through direct action and intense public pressure, we ran a campaign that will force Chris Christie to do what he never wanted to do: sign a bill that will bring us closer to equality and opportunity for undocumented students."

Christie was expected to sign the bill today.


Supreme Court Takes Pass on Neutrality in Organizing Campaigns

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The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed a case dealing with the right of unions and employers to negotiate neutrality agreements for union organizing campaigns.

The case, Mulhall v. UNITE HERE Local 355, was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and stemmed from a neutrality agreement in place at a Florida casino, Mardi Gras Gaming.

The Supreme Court heard arguments, but determined that the case should be returned to the lower court, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court's decision to dismiss the case means that neutrality agreements can continue to be negotiated, though they may be challenged in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, where a challenge to them was upheld.


AT&T Announces Plan to Sell Connecticut Holdings to Frontier

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AT&T said it plans to sell its wireline operations in Connecticut to Frontier Communications for $2 billion. The sale must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and other state regulators.

The current contract covering 2,800 CWA members at AT&T East will remain in force and workers will continue to have the protections and benefits of that agreement.

CWA represents workers at Frontier Communications in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and other states.


31 Mechanic Instructors Vote to Join CWA

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Celebrating after the NLRB vote count are Dominic Torres (who was illegally fired) with his 5 year-old daughter Deanna, Angelo Cerniglia and Local 1106 Secretary-Treasurer Frank Tallarine.

In an NLRB election this week, 31 instructors at Lincoln Technical Institute in New York voted 24-3 to join CWA Local 1106.

The instructors formed a very strong inside committee, and 17 people wore red CWA wrist bands every day. The campaign run by the union busting law firm Jackson Lewis LLP was no match for this group, who stood strong despite illegal terminations of three union supporters, constant threats and promises of raises at the last minute.

CWA Local 1106 Secretary-Treasurer Frank Tallarine was instrumental to this win.


Building Our Movement

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'We are People, Not Robots!'

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Outside Amazon's global headquarters in Seattle, CWA activists protested unfair working conditions and wages at Amazon's warehouses in Germany. CWA activists joined Amazon's German workers, who are represented by the union ver.di, in saying, "We are people, not robots!" Amazon workers across Germany have been holding a series of rolling strikes in the middle of the busy Christmas season to push the company to negotiate with their union, ver.di. Check out more photos at GeekWire.

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Exposing Deutsche Telekom as a "Black Book Telecom"

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ver.di's Lothar Schröder, CWA President Larry Cohen and Alan Tate of UNI talk with reporters in Bonn, Germany about Deutsche Telekom's violations of workers' and human rights in subsidiaries outside Germany. They also released the results of a survey conducted among 1,800 T-Mobile workers from seven countries. Among the findings: 46 percent of T-Mobile workers have experienced bullying in the form of verbal aggression, denigration of professional abilities or demoralizing jokes.

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USAS Members Taking a Stand Against T-Mobile

Students from the University of Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 68, took over a local T-Mobile US store to stand with T-Mobile workers and deliver a holiday message to the company: respect workers' rights. Watch the video here.

This fall, USAS began a national campaign to support T-Mobile US workers who want a union voice and to put their universities on notice that they should cut their contracts with T-Mobile because of the company's attack on workers who want union representation.


Immigration Activists Tell GOP: See You in 2014

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CWAers rally outside the U.S. Capitol.

Below: Activists march down to the National Mall to join Fast4Families.

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This isn't the end. Immigration reform advocates are telling their elected representatives that, "We will be back in 2014" – an election year.

In California, labor, community and faith groups came together to keep immigration reform alive by putting pressure on GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy. CWAers marched, rallied and engaged the congressman's Bakersfield constituents for the past 11 days.

"His office staff actually locked the door, turned off the lights and ducked and covered behind their desks in hopes that we would leave," said CWA Local 9416's Rob England, who attempted to deliver a petition. "They act like they're scared of us. Like we're violent. Like we're threatening to them. But the reality is that they just don't want to talk. All we want to do, Mr. McCarthy, is talk to you. We want to talk to you so you can tell us why you refuse to bring this to a vote. At this point we don't even care if you vote for it. Just bring it up for a vote. This is a democracy. All you are doing right now is stealing our democracy."

Check out videos of the 11 days activists laid siege to McCarthy's office here. 

And in case you missed it last week, take a look at our photos of CWA activists filling the halls of Congress. On Dec. 12, we joined 1,500 immigration reform advocates in occupying more than 100 congressional offices, calling on House Republicans to support reform with a path to citizenship.


Senate Rules Reform Update

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Since the Senate returned from its Thanksgiving recess, it has confirmed 13 presidential nominees, all of whom would have been blocked by Republican obstruction had Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not moved to change the rules for confirmation of executive-office appointments and federal judicial nominees.

Among those confirmed: Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, two justices to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and Jeh Johnson to head Homeland Security,

Reid has promised that the Senate will move forward on 11 additional nominations before it recesses for the year, although last week Republicans tried to slow down the Senate's process by demanding that the 30-hour rule for debate on nominations be maintained. That resulted in an all-night "talk-a-thon," but it didn't derail any of the nominees.

CWA, working with the Fix the Senate Now coalition and the Democracy Initiative, was a driving force in helping break Senate gridlock and allow the president's nominations to receive an up-or-down vote.


Mark Your Calendar: CWA Customer Service Professionals Conference

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CWA's Customer Service Professionals Conference will be held Feb. 12-14, 2014, in Orlando, Fla.

This year's conference will be an exciting one. In addition to the first day, CWA-only session, CWAers will join with call center activists from UNI Global Union, which is holding its meeting in conjunction with ours, for another two full days of sessions.

That means lots of opportunity to talk with union customer service workers from different sectors and different countries, and to brainstorm what works and what doesn't for improving the conditions and professionalism of customer service.

Sign up now here. There is a $75 registration fee. Participants will be responsible for making their own travel arrangements and hotel reservations at the Double Tree by Hilton in Orlando, Fla.