CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 4, 2014 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 4, 2014

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.

Emergency Meeting on Fighting Fast Track for TPP

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Rep. Rosa DeLauro sounded the alarm yesterday at an emergency meeting at CWA Headquarters called by the Citizens Trade Campaign: A bill calling on Congress to give up its right to review the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is sure to come early next year.

"I have never voted for fast track; I don't care if it was for a Democrat or a Republican," a defiant DeLauro (D-CT) told activists gathered at CWA yesterday. "I didn't come to Washington to say, here, you take it. I don't want the responsibility."

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At CWA headquarters, Reps. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) rally activists in the fight to stop fast track authorizing legislation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was equally adamant he would fight fast track. "I have a fundamental aversion to simply handing over congressional authority," he said.

The latest round of TPP negotiations is scheduled for next week, from December 7-12, when all the 12 Pacific Rim nations seeking to be in the partnership will be in Washington, D.C.

"We've seen this movie before and it doesn't have a happy ending," DeLauro said. "NAFTA pitted good American jobs against Mexico's $10-a-day wages. TPP puts us with Vietnam where we're looking at minimum wage that is more like 52 cents an hour. We know that we're going to watch more American jobs vanish."

The TPP, if approved by Congress, will result in increased outsourcing and job losses, especially in the service and manufacturing sectors. The flight of call center jobs is a prime example. After watching scores of call centers close across the U.S. over the last decade, taking thousands of family supporting jobs and moving them to low wage nations, Americans are resisting opening up the job loss spigot even more via the TPP.

DeLauro said she was inspired by the dozens of groups who make up the Citizens Trade Campaign that were represented in the room yesterday, groups such as Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the National Family Farm Coalition.

"This is our moment and we have to win and we can win this," she said. "This is where the strength and the energy is and we need to play off the energy of one another in trying to get this done because you are the engine, you're the glue that puts this coalition together and you make it move forward for all of us, for all the organizations coming together around this issue."


AFA-CWA Gains Ground in Fight to Deny Norwegian Air a Run-around U.S. Labor Laws

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As the U.S. Department of Transportation deliberates on an application by Norwegian Air for a permit to run flights in and out of U.S. airports, a coalition of U.S. and European unions, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, is making headway pressuring the DOT to protect jobs and deny NAI what it wants.

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AFA-CWA activists lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill and urge them to oppose the Norwegian Air deal that will harm flight attendant and airline industry jobs.

Below: Click on the photo to read the full text of the letter sent to Secretary Foxx.

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The transportation unions object to the scheme by NAI to operate as an Irish carrier under Ireland's regulatory laws but not serve or base planes in Ireland. It also wants to use low-cost contract workers from a Singaporean company. Employees of NAI's parent company are based in Norway, belong to a union and, as a result, are better paid and have benefits.

AFA International President Sara Nelson said this is a scheme to get around labor laws embedded in the U.S.-E.U. Open Skies agreement as well as Norwegian labor law.

"Norwegian Air is not offering competition, it is practicing manipulation. The U.S./E.U. Open Skies Agreement prohibits undercutting labor standards for a reason," Nelson said.

Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood wrote an Op-Ed in The Hill newspaper discussing his serious concerns about the NAI application and the need for enforcement of carefully negotiated labor standards between the U.S. and European partners. "We spent many hours negotiating this provision with Europe and its importance to this application should not be overlooked," he wrote.

AFA-CWA is an advocate for strong international labor standards. Trade deals have a huge impact on the future of U.S. airline passenger service, aviation jobs and the competitiveness of our nation's air carriers. And NAI isn't the only problem. Right now, trade negotiators are discussing the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement that could change our current aviation traffic rights agreement with the European Union, likely weakening foreign ownership and control laws.

If the DOT allows NAI to set up a "flag of convenience" business model, it will open the door to every other airline to do the same and lead to the destruction of the U.S. aviation industry, good U.S. jobs and all of the safety standards our unions have achieved.

On November 19, 35 AFA-CWA activists from 11 airlines visited their members of Congress, urging them to protect Flight Attendant jobs. The AFA-CWA members started the day with the signatures of about 50 members of Congress who agreed to sign on to the bipartisan letter being circulated by Representatives Chris Collins of New York and Albio Sires of New Jersey to DOT Secretary Foxx, urging him to deny the NAI application. When they left, the letter had 188 signatures. Read the letter here.


We Need Trade Policies That Export Our Values, Not Our Jobs

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This week, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs released its annual report on goods and services produced using child and/or forced labor around the world. This year's report includes products from Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam – each one a negotiating partner in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Congress has, repeatedly and in a bipartisan fashion, called on the Obama Administration to address human and labor rights in the ongoing TPP negotiations, but since the negotiations continue to be held in secret there is no indication, outside of generic statements that fail to provide any details or concrete plans, that the U.S. is prepared to back up their rhetorical opposition to child and forced labor with real action.

With the Obama Administration continuing to push for fast-track trade promotion authority, Congress has the opportunity to do what President Obama's negotiators have not – ensure our trade policies export our values instead of our jobs.

"Trade and access to the U.S. market for countries like Vietnam and Malaysia shouldn't be determined by foreign policy. Real enforcement of workers' and human rights should be an enforceable condition of our trade deals, not an afterthought," said CWA Senior Director George Kohl. "That's why unions, environmentalists and consumers are fighting back against TPP and a fast track process that would again ensure environmental and workers protections won't be enforced. Working families and their communities around the world deserve better."


Stand Up for Our Jobs, Environment and Public Health!

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On Monday, trade negotiators will be meeting in Washington, DC, for another round of closed-door talks aimed at finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a massive corporate power grab that threatens our economy, environment and public health.

Join labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, human rights and community organizations as we rally to drag the TPP out of the shadows.

Will you be there?

What: Rally outside of the TPP negotiations
Where: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, 600 17th St. NW, Washington, DC
When: Monday, Dec. 8 at noon


Senate HELP Committee Approves NLRB Nomination

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By a 12-10 party line vote, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the nomination of Lauren McFarren as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Her nomination now moves to the full Senate, which has about a week to act before it recesses for the year.

McFarren currently serves as chief counsel to the HELP committee, now chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is retiring after this session. She was named by the Obama administration to replace Nancy Schiffer, whose term ends Dec. 16. Without a successor to Schiffer, there would be just four Board members, two Democrats and two Republicans, making it unlikely that the NLRB would reach any decisions on important workplace issues.

The Senate rules change for nominations, made a year ago, means that Executive Branch and most judicial appointments can be confirmed by a vote of 51 Senators, not the 60 that had been needed to move a nomination to final vote.

That rule change will only be in effect through the end of this session.


Help Striking FairPoint Workers, Donate to IBEW-CWA Solidarity Fund

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About 1,800 members of CWA and the IBEW have been on strike at FairPoint Communications locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont since October 17. The 215 CWA members are covered by the CWA's Members' Relief Fund, however, the 1,500 striking IBEW members have no strike fund.

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FairPoint unilaterally imposed a contract that ended restrictions on subcontracting and outsourcing, froze pensions, increased health care costs for active workers and cut retiree health care, added a two-tier wage plan with big pay cuts for new hires and other cuts that forced workers to strike.

"The IBEW has no strike fund so it is imperative that we approach our members to try and help support both CWA and IBEW members who had the courage to strike. We must ensure that these valiant union members cannot be starved or frozen back to work," said Chris Shelton, CWA D1 Vice President.

For more information and to contribute, check out this FairPoint Solidarity Fund Flyer.


Nationwide Walmart Thanksgiving Protests

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CWAers from California to Washington, D.C., joined Walmart employees and activists in about 1,600 actions at Walmart stores over the Thanksgiving weekend. Protestors want Walmart to stop hurting families and commit to raise pay to a minimum of $15 an hour and consistent, full-time work.

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Among those participating from CWA 9423 are Monica Alvarado, Jason Hall, Della Marquez (kneeling), Louie Rocha, Marian Steinwinder, and Sara Steffens with daughter Junie.

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From CWA Local 9400 are Caleb Lewis, Salvador Tejeda, Tom Runnion, and Scott Christensen.

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CWA Members joined other activists outside a Walmart store in Washington, DC.


Did UPS Break the Law by Refusing To Accommodate a Pregnant Worker?

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The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case that will affect the health and economic security of women and families across the nation.

Peggy Young worked for United Parcel Service in Maryland as an air driver, a job that requires lifting packages as heavy as 70 lbs. When Young's health care providers recommended that, because of her pregnancy, she seek accommodations restricting lifting to a maximum of 20 lbs., UPS not only objected, it took her job away.

Instead of offering her light duty like others with physical restrictions, the corporation informed Peggy she did not qualify for light duty. Furthermore, she was told she could not continue in her air driver job, was put on unpaid leave and lost her medical benefits for the remainder of her pregnancy – when she needed them the most.

Peggy sued UPS and the case is now before the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the first day of the court hearing, CWA joined a coalition of women and family groups to #StandWithPeggy in a day of action. Young's case is also drawing strange bedfellows such as Right to Choose and Anti-Abortion groups that are rallying to her support.


Retail Workers 'Bill of Rights' Adopted in San Francisco

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Most retail workers in San Francisco now will get advance notice of their schedules, call-in pay and opportunities for more work hours under the "Retail Workers Bill of Rights," unanimously passed by the Board of Supervisors. For now, the protections will cover workers in retail stores, restaurants and hotel chains with more than 11 locations.

Retail workers have suffered a lot of abuse as employers look to cut hours and staff by requiring workers to be "on call" but providing little notice as to when they must report to work. Too many employers provide just part-time hours and erratic scheduling. Some workers get less than 24 hours' notice for a shift.

The new law also looks to improve conditions for part-time workers by requiring that employers expand the hours of current workers before adding new employees.

Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), have introduced a bill to help working families nationwide better balance their work lives and other responsibilities. The "Schedules That Work" Act, H.R. 5159, establishes federal guidelines to make sure that employers provide fair, flexible and reliable schedules for workers.

"This bill is all about people and fairness. It includes a 'circuit breaker' for collective bargaining, so that unions can continue to improve on working conditions," Miller said. "It's a way to ensure that workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities," he said.

In many CWA sectors, like passenger service agents, workers, without too much difficulty, can swap shifts in order to make a child's doctor appointment or meet some other obligation. But in most non-union workplaces, like T-Mobile, for example, swapping is banned.

The bill will require employers to provide at least two weeks' notice on schedules and to pay employees if they are sent home before the end of their shifts or if they are called in but not given any work. Workers also would have the right to requires more flexible or predictable schedules.


Organizing Update

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Another Cricket Unit Part of the CWA Family

All four Cricket technicians in upstate New York have signed cards to join CWA, and the AAA certified the results today. Organizer Mary Clinton worked on this campaign, as did Local 1122 EVP John Mudie.

Cricket, a prepaid wireless provider with 1,000 workers at 170 locations, merged with AT&T Mobility; meaning CWA's organizing rights agreement with Mobility now applies to Cricket workers nationwide. Starting at the beginning of this month, a majority of Cricket mobile retail workers in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have joined CWA.


2015 CWA Joe Beirne Foundation Scholarship – Application Reminder

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Applications for the CWA Joe Beirne Foundation's annual scholarship offerings for the 2015-2016 school year are now being accepted through April 30, 2015.

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The Foundation's Board of Directors has approved the awarding of fifteen (15) partial college scholarships of up to $3,000 each, and the winners also will receive second-year scholarships for the same amount, contingent upon satisfactory academic achievement. Eligible for the scholarships are CWA members, their spouses, children and grandchildren, including the dependents of retired, laid-off, or deceased members. Applicants must be high school graduates or high school students who will graduate during the year in which they apply. Undergraduate and graduate students returning to school may also apply.

Applications will be available solely online for completion and submission to the Foundation's website. Click here to download the poster that you can distribute to members and post on local websites to encourage participation. The winners will be chosen by lottery drawing. More information about the program can be found here.

This valuable scholarship program is made possible by the funding of CWA locals. For those locals not yet participating in funding the Beirne scholarships, financial arrangements can be made to accommodate your local's needs. For more information and assistance, please call 202.434.1187.


Next CWA Telephone Town Hall Call on Dec. 18

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Sign up now for the next CWA town hall call on Thursday, Dec. 18, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour. You'll want to hear the latest on the fight against fast track authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Register at http://cwa-union.org/cwacall and pick up the phone when you get the call.