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CWA e-Newsletter: Jan. 16, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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CWA: 'We Can't Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials'

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CWA President Larry Cohen testifies on trade agreements before the Senate Finance Committee. Photo © 2014 Jay Mallin.

In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee's hearing on "Advancing Congress's Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority," Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Watch his full testimony here.

Last week, legislation calling for "fast track" authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

"Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others," Cohen said.


Public interest activists send a message to lawmakers at the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

"Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations. The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam's is a record of non-existent workers' rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor," he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to "fast track" authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues and concerns raised by a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups and fair trade advocates.

"We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

"It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies." Cohen said.

Cohen said Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation:

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.


CWA President Larry Cohen was the only witness speaking in opposition to fast track..

2. Document the net effect on employment, don't look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers' standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers' weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers' rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.

Putting a Stop to 'Fast Track'

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A young CWA District 4 activist tells us why Vietnam's inclusion in the TPP is bad news.

CWA Local 9408 activists and allies rally against fast track.

CWA activists across the country are raising awareness about why Congress must say vote no on a "fast track" bill that asks for lawmakers to give up their right to amend the Trans-Pacific Partnership and improve the massive trade deal for American workers.

In California, CWA Local 9408 organized a rally of about 30 people outside the Fresno office of Democratic Rep. Jim Costa. Costa was not among the more than 150 House Democrats who signed a letter telling President Obama that they oppose fast-track approval. The Fresno Bee reported, "Stan Santos, a local representative of the CWA, said Costa has agreed to meet with the labor representatives when he returns from Washington to the district later this month."

Inspired by Expose the TPP, our activists are writing out the reasons why they oppose the TPP on their hands.


Richard Shorter, Vice President of IUE-CWA Local 162 in Roanoke, Va., says, "NAFTA anyone?"


Carl Kennebrew, President of IUE-CWA Local 755 in Dayton, OH, writes "Loss of Jobs."


Cortney Phillips of IUE-CWA Local 320 in Syracuse, NY, tells us, "Stop the corporate power grab."

REMEMBER: January 22 will be a national day of action to tell Congress "NO" ON FAST TRACK.

Organizing Update

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After a long year of campaigning, CWA Local 9110, Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, has welcomed the Mesquite Police Officers Association (POA) as their new affiliate.

CWA District 9 Staff Representative Don Ruiz reports that Mesquite POA Vice President, Jordan Bundy, had contacted a number of CWA Local 9110 leaders, from Elko POA in Northern Nevada to Boulder City Police Protective Association in Southern Nevada. And he heard testimonials that the Local has been beyond responsive to their members' needs, which is something that their previous representatives did not provide.

The 28 members voted overwhelmingly to join CWA.

CWA Local 1109 Members Rescue 10-Year-Old Boy

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Two Verizon splicers rescued a 10-year-old boy who had fallen into an open Brooklyn manhole and injured his leg. Mike Kroski and Tom Prestia, both members of CWA Local 1109, just happened to be driving by on their way to a job site, when they came upon a crowd gathered around the manhole.

The New York Post reported:

"We pulled over. We asked the officer how we could help out and first suggested throwing a rope down to the kid. The cop didn't think he would be able to climb up the rope so we went and got our collapsible ladder and put it down there and the kid climbed right up," Kroski, himself a father of two, said.

The sewer manhole cover was broken and inside the hole, witnesses said.

"He looked fine, it was at least a 15 foot drop. He had some bruises on his leg but that's about it; very lucky. I was at the right place at the right time," Kroski added.

Kroski's partner who helped out said, "Anytime you do something like this it feels good."

Mark Your Calendar: CWA Town Hall Call on January 23

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This month's half-hour town hall call will be held on January 23, at 7:30 pm ET. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will be joining CWA President Larry Cohen to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership and why Congress must vote no on "fast track" authorization.

Register at