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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 3, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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American Agents Approve First Contract

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American Airlines agents, members of the CWA/IBT Passenger Service Association, ratified a first contract by a 73 percent "yes" vote. The Internet and telephone vote was conducted by an independent third-party.

The agreement covers nearly 15,000 airport and home and office-based reservations agents. Details of the agreement are available at Negotiated wage increases for agents will be included in agents' paychecks of December 24.

Ken Grunwald, a bargaining committee member and reservations agent in Raleigh, N.C., said, "For many employees, the ratification of this contract was far more meaningful than I could have ever imagined. Many members called to tearfully explain that the wage increase alone would impact their lives in an overwhelmingly positive way. The day to day lives of employees will be improved dramatically."

"While job security concerns are still out there, we will be stronger if we work together and continue to support and respect each other. As one undivided work group, we will thrive," he said.

Shiela Bachtel is a former TWA worker in St. Louis and an area representative for Local 6001, the union American agents built over their years of organizing to get CWA representation. "I am so excited to be taking this positive step forward to ensure job protection and an industry leading wage for all of us," she said.

Going forward, local leaders and members will continue to build a strong steward network to ensure the enforcement of all contract provisions. American Airlines agents voted for union representation in September 2014; that vote capped a 19-year struggle for a union voice.

At Capitol Hill Briefing, T-Mobile Worker Highlights Culture of Fear

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At a briefing on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and staff, Angela Simler, who works at the T-Mobile call center in Wichita, Kans., described her highly stressful workplace as one where managers keep tabs on everyone, to make sure not only that they are hitting corporate benchmarks, but that they are not discussing job conditions or trying to form a union.

"The fear of unionizing at T-Mobile has been going on too long," Simler said. "The fear of repercussions, of losing their jobs has made a pretty huge impact on organizing, on getting new active members of TU. My goal is to really make sure that T-Mobile employees have a voice, that they are able to have a hand in their future."

The briefing was organized by CWA and convened by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2nd District). Pocan recounted how T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, had promised Congress two decades ago, when it was trying to enter the American wireless market, that it would show the same respect for workers' rights in the U.S. that it does in Germany. DT has broken every promise it made, Pocan said.

As Joshua Coleman, a former Wichita call center employee who now works to help T-Mobile workers get their union voice, pointed out, T-Mobile US's national campaign to block workers' rights includes surveilling workers, arbitrary punishment and summary termination of workers simply for talking to each other about job conditions.

Joshua Coleman, a former Wichita call center employee who now works to help T-Mobile workers get their union voice, and Angela Simler, a T-Mobile Wichita, KS, call center worker, as they were introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) at a Hill briefing.

Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women's Law Center, said a pernicious effect of preventing workers from discussing workplace issues is that individual workers might wrongly blame themselves for what happens on the job. If they are able to talk to each other, they might find out the problems are systemic and affect others, she said.

The National Women's Law Center, the AFL-CIO and seven other leading women's organizations have called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pressure T-Mobile to abandon an employee gag order policy that violates U.S. law and restricts workers' ability to address sexual harassment and other workplace violations. The German government is a major shareholder of T-Mobile parent DT.

"Workers' ability to come together as a group to challenge sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination is really critical to ending that discrimination," Martin said.

Pocan said DT has repeatedly dismissed these concerns even as Members of Congress, labor leaders, and others have appealed to the German giant to live up to its social responsibility commitments and rein in T-Mobile. A group of 25 U.S. Congresswomen also wrote to Merkel, calling on her to take action.

"Companies shouldn't treat their employees like this, whether you work for an American company or a subsidiary of a foreign company operating here in the U.S.," Pocan said at the start of the briefing. "Basic worker rights as defined by the National Labor Relations Act or more broadly by the International Labor Organization must be adhered to. T-Mobile's broken promises and their apparent lack of concern for basic worker rights is why it's important to hear these stories from the workers that are gathered here today."

T-Mobile Worker Activists Talk Strategy for 2016

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Fifteen T-Mobile activist workers, members of TU, met in Washington, DC, this week to talk about organizing at the company and to set goals for 2016.

TU is the joint union formed by CWA and ver.di, the largest union in Germany, to strengthen the voice of T-Mobile workers on both sides of the Atlantic.

T-Mobile US workers have been fighting for a union voice for nearly as long as the corporation, owned by Deutsche Telekom of Germany, has been operating in the U.S. T-Mobile US has responded with a campaign of harassment, intimidation and outright termination of workers. The company has been cited for numerous violations of federal labor law by the National Labor Relations Board.

T-Mobile workers In Germany have mobilized to support workers' rights for their U.S. counterparts. They've demonstrated outside the company's annual meeting, created city-to-city worker partnerships, signed petitions calling for government action and organized actions to push DT to end the double standard that enables T-Mobile US to abuse workers' rights. "We have your back," ver.di members have pledged.

Ado Wilhelm, who retired as ver.di head of mobile communications, and Kornelia Dubbel, a ver.di member and member of the T-Mobile supervisory board, joined the TU activists in Washington this week. CWA President Chris Shelton praised Wilhelm and Dubbel for their commitment to the fight. Wilhelm, Dubbel and other ver.di leaders and activists have traveled to T-Mobile job sites across the U.S. to focus attention on T-Mobile US's abuse of workers' rights.

Ver.di's Ado Wilhelm and Kornelia Dubbel, center, joined T-Mobile US worker activists meeting this week at CWA Headquarters.

The Verizon Grinch Makes an Appearance this Holiday Season

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As shoppers jammed stores on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving, CWA members, friends and families, including a CWA supporter dressed as the Grinch – leafleted and caroled outside Verizon Wireless stores throughout Verizon territory. CWA members and supporters delivered this message: Your policies hurt working families but you will not break our spirit or solidarity.

Members of CWA Local 1103 turn out to protest Verizon's greed with some special caroling on Black Friday. Appearing as the Grinch, left, was the son of Local 1103 Secretary-Treasurer Joe Mayhew.

Verizon continues to demand concessions and givebacks in bargaining from 39,000 CWA and IBEW members, despite earning profits of more than $1 billion a month. It's refusing to bargain fairly over raises, better benefits and better working conditions for newly-organized Verizon Wireless workers, and continues to harass and intimidate wireless workers who want a union voice.

CWA Local 2336 members, with DC Jobs with Justice activists, rally on Black Friday for fairness at Verizon.

In New York, the Grinch joined CWA Local 1103 members at the Hartsdale and Mohegan, NY, Verizon Wireless stores. CWAers from a number of District 1 Locals, including 1101, 1102, 1115 and 1120, held "Black Friday" actions to help spread the word that Verizon needs to bargain fairly with workers.

In District 2-13, active and retired members of CWA Locals 13500 and 13000 held "Black Friday" protests at corporate owned Verizon wireless stores in Philadelphia, Wyomissing, Springfield, Concordville, Wilkes-Barre, Limerick and other locations. CWAers in Pittsburgh rallied outside the call center.

Members of Local 13101 caroled outside stores in Dover and Wilmington, Del., while Locals 2201 and 2204 hit Richmond and Roanoke, Va. In Maryland, CWA Locals 2101 in Baltimore and 2100 in Chase held actions, and DC CWAers, members of Local 2336, were joined by activists from DC Jobs with Justice.

Organizing for Power

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CWA Local 1040's Peggy Johns.

Nearly 700 CWA New Jersey shop stewards and activists gathered in Atlantic City for a two-day session of intensive training on how CWAers are fighting to protect public workers' retirement security and strengthen our union. CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor told participants, "We should never be ashamed of the benefits we fought for."

Stewards practiced their organizing skills and honored CWA Local 1040's Peggy Johns. Johns signed up more than 100 non-members at her worksite in just eight months.

Final Week to Make Your Vote Count: CWA ePoll Closes Next Week

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CWA's presidential ePoll closes on December 10. If you haven't had a chance to vote yet, click here.

Members are weighing in on whether CWA should make a presidential endorsement before the primaries begin next year and which candidates they support.

Voting is easy. Members provide information to verify their membership status, then take the poll. There's information about all the candidates on the site, including their positions on issues important to CWA families.

NJ Lotto Privatization Is a Loser

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's gamble to privatize the state's lottery operations is backfiring.

The contractor, Northstar New Jersey, continues to fall short on its promises to boost sales and payments to the state. This fiscal year, the state lottery contributed $960 million to state programs – less than the nearly $1.037 billion budgeted. That's tens of millions of dollars that would have funded public education and programs for the disabled and military veterans.

And just two years into the 15-year contract, skeptical state lawmakers hauled lottery officials before the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee this week to question Northstar's handling of the lottery's marketing and sales operations.

"I don't think we're really getting the bang for the buck," said State Sen. Bob Gordon.

While CWA currently represents some lottery employees, 64 union workers' jobs were eliminated in the 2013 privatization.

At the hearing, Seth Hahn, CWA's New Jersey political director, pointed out that Northstar was the only bidder on the lottery contract. Its failures are the result of "politically-connected firms shoveling large sums of money to powerful operatives close to the governor," he said.

This contract, he stressed, is "everything that is wrong with politics in New Jersey."

"It involved…an up-front payment designed to protect the state from losses that instead turned into a one-shot gimmick to plug an election year budget hole, and now there is a shortfall of money going to vital services in New Jersey while private companies still get their cut, despite under-performing the public employees they replaced," Hahn said.

CWA Stands with Democracy Initiative Partners for Fair Elections in Washington, DC

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CWA joined with Democracy Initiative partners this week to support legislation in the Washington, DC, City Council to give candidates supported by small donors a better shot at competing for office.

The bill, introduced by D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, will provide a limited match to small-donor contributions, empowering community-based campaigns against politicians who rely on super PACs and corporate giving.

"The reality is that these super PACs are being rejected by voters across the country on a regular basis. They are being told we don't want big money in politics," Grosso said.

D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, backed by Councilmember Brianna Nadeau and members of the the D.C. Fair Elections Coalition, speaks about the need to get big money out of politics.

Councilmember Brianne Nadeau – who co-introduced the legislation with Grosso, Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Charles Allen – told those at the hearing, "Democracy is about everyone having a voice in this process, not just people who have deep pockets, not just corporations."

CWA President Chris Shelton has made it clear that we must join other groups in fighting for a voice for working families. "We can only achieve our top priorities if we stop letting the 1 percent pollute our politics, and to do that, we must get big money out and voters in," he said.

CWA is a founding member of the D.C. Fair Elections Coalition and the Democracy Initiative, an organization of civil rights groups, unions, environmental groups, faith groups and others, committed to building a broad movement to strengthen our democracy.