- Judge Orders Christie to Pay Up in Pension Lawsuit
- Is It Really China or Us?
- Congressional Recess = Meetings on Fast Track
- Reich Rallies Troops at AFL-CIO Executive Council Meeting
- AFL-CIO: Today's Trade Policies are Undermining Working People
- AFA-CWA's Nelson Elected to AFL-CIO Executive Council
- Bargaining Update
- Organizing Update
- Workers Take Fight to Wisconsin Capitol
A state judge ruled Monday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie broke the law when he cut $1.57 billion from a promised payment to public workers' pension system. Now the administration must work with state lawmakers to fulfill its original commitment.
In this CWA video, Dennis Siegel, a psychologist for the New Jersey Departments of Human Services and Corrections for 27 years, and Grace Bethea, with the New Jersey Network for 37 years, among others, tell their stories. They worked years paying into their pension expecting the state to put in its share. Gov. Chris Christie pulled the rug out from under these public servants by reneging on the state's contractual obligation to fund it. A judge just told Christie that he violated the state Constitution.
"In short, the court cannot allow the state to 'simply walk away from its financial obligations,' especially when those obligations were the state's own creation," Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson wrote in her decision.
CWA sued to stop Christie, saying he violated a 2011 law that was meant to shore up the pension system. Christie and state legislators had raised workers' pension contributions, increased the age of retirement and eliminated cost-of-living adjustments. In return, the state would begin to make bigger payments each year into the pension system to make up for years of skipped and almost non-existent payments. But while workers held up their end of the bargain, Christie reneged.
CWA was joined in the lawsuit by the Professional Firefighters Association of NJ (PFANJ), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFTPE) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
"It was a good day for the tens of thousands of pensioners – social workers, child protective services workers, nurses, environmentalists, unemployment clerks, roads workers, research scientists, teachers and others – who made their pension payments during a lifetime of service," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ state director. "It's unconscionable that these hard-earned pensions are in peril, and we can't let that happen. It's not only a legal requirement for Governor Christie to make the pension payments, it's also a moral requirement. Will another three hundred thousand seniors live in poverty simply because Christie cares more about what plays to right-wing audiences in Iowa than doing right by New Jerseyans?"
Read CWA President Larry Cohen's response to the U.S Trade Representative's claim that if we don't negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, China will set the rules.
Fighting Fast Track: Is It Really China or Us?
If we don't set the rules, China will, President Obama warned in his State of the Union Address, which was otherwise mostly a welcome call to action against economic inequality. President Obama stressed that Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were about China or us. This week U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman flew to Dallas to attend a constituent meeting with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and said the same thing.
But is this an economic argument or an argument from the National Security Council and the State Department? Are U.S. working women and men again being called out to sacrifice, despite 30 years of no wage increases and millions of lost jobs, our cities hollowed out by the flight of once-good-paying manufacturing jobs to countries with pay that's 90 percent lower, no rights for workers or environmental regulation? Or do the president and the USTR really believe they are making an economic argument – that U.S. workers will be better served competing with Vietnam's 75-cents-an-hour average pay?
If it really is China or us, why don't we address currency manipulation and prevent Japan and other TPP nations from following China's example of controlling exchange rates so that our exports can't compete?
And if it is really China or us, why does the USTR insist on guaranteeing multinational corporations profits when they invest abroad? Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are certainly not interested in one-way lawsuits by multi-billion-dollar corporations if they enact any legislation that threatens those corporate profits! Investor-State Dispute Settlement cases from old free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA have already forced mostly poorer nations to pay tens of millions of dollars in settlements and arbitration awards, and 500 cases are pending now.
In fact, our trade framework is an unholy alliance between the geopolitical concerns of the State Department and the business interests of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable. U.S. workers and those who care about the environment, global health care, human rights, consumer safety, balanced trade and manufacturing renewal are left out. We've heard nearly identical promises from Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama regarding previous deals with China, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Korea.
Those deals and others like them have led to the U.S. accumulating more than $10 trillion in trade deficits over the past 20 years, far more than the rest of the world combined. Those deals have emptied small and large cities from Trenton to St. Louis of millions of jobs that would have provided a decent income to urban America. Instead our cities are burned out and in the case of Detroit and others, bankrupt.
At the Dallas meeting, Froman said that the labor and environmental chapters of the TPP were a big improvement for American workers and environmentalists. That is true for those who compare the text to older agreements. But the enforcement of these chapters is exactly the same. It's the same story as I saw firsthand in Honduras, where our joint complaint was filed three years ago or Guatemala where Froman finally intervened six years after similar complaints about the destruction of human rights, failure to pay even the pitiful minimum wage or enforce any labor regulations.
In fact, enforcement of virtually all of the TPP, except for the secret arbitration of profit obstacles for foreign corporations, is done by the USTR. In addition to the differences in speed for citizen complaints, there are no reparations, and there has never been any meaningful enforcement for U.S. workers or environmentalists in 20 years of these trade deals aside from some litigation against China for unfair competition, and with little result.
Next week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will likely drop the same old Fast Track that we have seen the past 21 years. Fast Track guarantees a quick vote with little debate and no amendments in the House and Senate for the TPP and likely any other trade deal for years to come – well into the next president's term of office. Hopefully some senators will stand up and shout about it, but likely Fast Track gets rammed through that body. The fight is in the House where 80 percent or more of Democrats are likely to vote "no," and right now they're joined by enough Republicans to stop it. But Boehner Trade will only be stopped for sure if millions of Americans stand up and shout "NO." We are mobilizing like never before to say we have had enough. The coalition against Fast Track is massive.
We say to our president and his allies on the TPP, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), that no other government has Fast Track. This is not what democracy looks like – secret trade deals rammed through in record time that guarantee fat corporate profits, but likely result in net job loss and wage competition that leads to pay stagnation in the U.S. for years to come. We have had enough of corporate lawsuits against nations that attempt to stop the destruction of their environment or promote public safety.
This time, talk about American workers once again competing and winning in the world economy with their hands tied behind their backs, while stock prices zoom and CEO pay rises, will not confuse us. Our voices will be heard and Fast Track will be stopped!
CWA activists and allies met with their members of Congress and staffs, and organized town hall meetings to push back against legislators who won't commit to stopping 'Fast Track' authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This week, CWAers and partners from the Sierra Club, PICO, Citizens Fair Trade, SEIU, UAW, and other unions met with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30), who brought U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman along.
CWA and allies took on Froman, challenging his misstatements, and pressed Johnson to oppose "Fast Track."
CWA D6 Vice President Claude Cummings, who attended the meeting, followed up with this piece in the Dallas News. Cummings challenged Froman on his claims that the TPP will set new labor and environmental standards. In fact, TPP will push more U.S. jobs offshore and will make "buy American" provisions illegal.
Cohen Takes 'No Fast Track' Fight to Media
CWA President Larry Cohen is spreading the "No Fast Track" message. Listen to his interview with radio host Ed Schultz. (Cohen's segment starts at 9:56 into the broadcast.)
Queens, NY Town Hall
Nearly 300 people attend a town hall in Queens, featuring Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, to urge Rep. Joseph Crowley to oppose Fast Track. "The Trans-Pacific Partnership risks fueling growing income inequality throughout the world while putting life-saving medication prices out of the reach of citizens in the affected countries. Today's trade agreements affect far more than just trade and are the wrong model to embrace. Congress has to step up to stop this bad deal," Stiglitz said.
Westchester Labor Roundtable
The Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body met with Rep. Nita Lowey, Democrat from New York's 17th district, for a Labor Roundtable. The big topic of discussion: Stopping Fast Track for bad trade deals, especially the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 Pacific Rim nations, including bad actors like Vietnam and Brunei.
Indianapolis Town Hall
Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind) joined CWA activists and partners Sierra Club, Jobs with Justice, Soil and Water Conservation, UAW and others at a town hall meeting to focus on the critical need to reject "Fast Track" authority for the TPP.
Missouri Town Hall
CWA, Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, Interfaith Committee on Latin America, Jobs with Justice, and the American Postal Workers Union held a town hall meeting and called on Rep. William "Lacy" Clay (D-MO) to vote against Fast Track authority for the TPP.
Los Angeles Press Conference
Coalition allies held a press conference in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, the ruler of one of the countries involved in the TPP negotiations. Last year, Brunei adopted a new law that called for the stoning of LGBTQ persons and women accused of adultery. Organizations at the rally included CWA, Unite Here, IBEW, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Citizens Trade, 1 Billion Rising, Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women and The Wall/Las Memorias Project.
San Diego Rally
CWA Local 9509 member and political committee chair, Salomon Espinoza, demands that Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Susan Davis (D-CA) vote "no" on Fast Track. CWA, Citizens Trade, IBEW, Sierra Club, San Diego Labor Council, Machinists and others rallied in downtown San Diego in front of the Federal Building to raise awareness about the dangers of the TPP.
The AFL-CIO hosted an Anti-Fast Track Town Hall in Atlanta, featuring Robert Reich, Pres. Clinton's Labor Secretary, who supported NAFTA but has changed his views on these trade deals and opposes TPP.
Meeting a Texas Member of Congress
On Friday, CWAers, Texas Organizing Project, and Sierra Club members met with Rep. Marc Veasey, Democrat of Texas's 33rd District (seated), calling him to reject Fast Track for bad trade deals, especially the TPP. Veasey committed to Vote No on Fast Track and said he has serious concerns about the TPP and how it could harm his constituents. Texas Organizing Project, along with Sierra Club, has mobilized their members around the TTP fight. Our own CWA activists are working daily in their workplaces educating fellow members, asking them to join PAF and write letters and make calls to Members of Congress.
Former Labor Sec. Robert Reich fired up a big crowd attending a rally in Atlanta on Tuesday, held in conjunction with the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting.
"I used to believe in trade agreements," he said. "That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains. Recent trade agreements have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders. They get better access to foreign markets and billions of consumers. But those deals haven't been wins for most Americans."
After Reich spoke, one national union president after another rose and committed to fighting Fast Track and TPP in specific Congressional Districts and with financial resources. The overflow crowd from dozens of unions rose and chanted "No Fast Track," energized by the presidents' commitments.
The AFL-CIO called for a new direction for U.S. "trade promotion authority," also known as "Fast Track," one that ensures that Congress approves trading partners before negotiations begin, includes objectives that benefit all, not just multinational corporations and gives Congress the ability to strip out provisions that fail to meet these objectives.
"Today, the trade policies of the United States are undermining the interests of working people," the AFL-CIO Executive Council said in a statement. "Because 'trade' agreements include provisions on environmental policy, labor rights, foreign investment, food safety, anti-trust policy and more, these decisions should not be made behind closed doors – away from the eyes of the people and their elected representatives."
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson was elected Monday to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
"This is a great opportunity to represent AFA's 50,000 Flight Attendants in the broader labor movement, and to bring our creativity and successes to the work of the AFL-CIO and its affiliates," Nelson said. "Unions are the answer to the attacks on the middle class. With grassroots organizing and renewed interest in collective bargaining now spreading across the country, this is an exciting time to join the Executive Council."
Nelson, a United Airlines Flight Attendant since 1996 who has served as AFA-CWA International President since June 2014, is one of five new members elected to four-year terms on the 55-member council. CWA President Larry Cohen serves on the Executive Council.
FairPoint Workers Ratify Contracts
CWA and IBEW members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont ratified tentative agreements with FairPoint Communications, and returned to work on Feb. 25 after enduring 18 weeks on the picket line.
"This agreement is a win for our members and for future FairPoint employees," said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400. "We went on strike last October because we are committed to keeping good, middle-class jobs in New England. Our members walked the lines for more than four months, not just for themselves, but for future generations. Our success will benefit FairPoint workers – and New England's working families – for years to come."
The contracts provide improvements in health care, protections from outsourcing and elimination of two-tier wages.
FairPoint workers received widespread support from their communities and from thousands of workers around the world, in solidarity and support. Lawmakers in all three states joined the picket lines.
AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico
CWAers nationwide are showing their support for members of CWA Local 3010 at AT&T Mobility in Puerto Rico who are in tough bargaining for a new contract.
CWA activists from Independent Telecom locals, at headquarters to work on union building and mobilization training, give a shout out to Mobility members. From left, Carson Turnquist, Local 7270, Frontier; Steve Kotel, Local 4671, CenturyLink; and John Douglas, Local 6171, Windstream.
CWA bargaining teams are ready for the start of negotiations with AT&T Midwest and AT&T Legacy that begin next week, Wednesday, March 4. CWA D4 Vice President Linda Hinton will open negotiations in Chicago; CWA represents about 13,000 workers at AT&T Midwest. Laura Unger, assistant to T/T vice president Bill Bates, will open negotiations in Washington, D.C. That contract covers about 4,800 Legacy workers. Contracts expire on Apr. 11. Keep up with the latest at www.cwaatatt.com.
Perseverance: One Day Longer, One Day Stronger!
Cablevision workers in Brooklyn, who finally got a contract that they ratified overwhelmingly after three years of holding strong, want other workers to know, they can do it too. Watch their video here.
AT&T Mobility Workers in Utah Join CWA
A majority of 18 AT&T Mobility workers in Salt Lake City, Utah, indicated that they wanted a CWA voice, and now have representation by CWA Local 7704.
Another Cricket Unit Joins CWA
Four Cricket technicians in Nevada have been certified by the American Arbitration Association. All four signed authorization and membership cards and will become members of CWA Local 9413.
Thousands of CWAers and union activists rallied at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, as the state legislature and Gov. Scott Walker (R) stepped up their assault on workers' rights.
The Republican-controlled legislature called a special session to jam "right to work for less" legislation through. Mark Frey, president of CWA Local 4630, testified at the state senate's public hearing but the session was cut short by Republican members looking to stop testimony and move to a vote. The Senate approved the anti-worker bill by a 17-15 vote. It now goes to the Assembly and then to the governor, who has said he "absolutely" will sign the bill.