January 23, 2014
- Don't Miss CWA's Town Hall Call TONIGHT
- Here's How We Say No to Fast Track and the TPP
- 10 Days to Stop Fast Track
- Bargaining Update
- PA Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional
- Citizens United Decision Proves To Be Destructive to Our Democracy
- U.S. Regulators Should Make Clear that SoftBank-T-Mobile US Deal is Non-Starter
- More Media Coverage of the Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Fast Track
- Oxfam: World's Richest 85 People Are Now Worth As Much As Poorest 3.5 Billion
- Apply Now for a Union Plus Scholarship
On CWA's 30-minute town hall call tonight, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka will join CWA President Larry Cohen on our fight to stop "fast track" authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This week, we will also hear from CWA activists who, with Sierra Club, Common Cause, and other allies, have been meeting with their members of Congress to tell them NO on fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Listen online at www.cwa-union.org/cwalisten.
This week, CWA activists joined with Sierra Club, Green Peace, Food and Water Watch, Common Cause and other allies in meetings with members of Congress in their home districts and other actions. We rallied in Albany, Newburgh, Buffalo and Hauppauge, NY; Fresno, Calif.; Orlando, Fl.; Chicago and Jonquil Park, Ill., and more. Learn more about what you can do to help stop "fast track" at www.cwa-union.org/tpp. Some of the highlights:
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-W) rallied with CWA and Sierra Club activists in Madison, spotlighting the strong opposition to "fast track" authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. Pocan was one of 151 Democratic members of Congress signing a letter to President Obama opposing fast track. Read more about the rally at Madison's Channel 3000. Also, in a speech on the floor of the House last week, Pocan thanked CWA for our work on behalf of working and middle class families. Watch it here.
At New York City Hall, activists from the New York City AFL-CIO and State AFL-CIO, CWA, Citizens Trade Campaign New York, Working Families Party, MoveOn.org, Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Carpenters and others rallied in the middle of a huge snow storm, to show strong opposition to "fast track" authority and the TPP. Speakers included CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton and Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D), Jerrald Nadler (D) and Mike Grimm (R), all of whom oppose "fast track" authority. Check out this video.
In San Diego, CWAers and allies rallied outside the office of Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) to let her know that we will hold our elected officials accountable for a vote that would send our jobs offshore, degrade our environment and threaten our ability to set our own laws.
In Minnesota, members of CWA's Legislative Political Action Team meet with Sen. Amy Klochubar (D-Minn.).
CWA Local 4108 members braved sub-zero temps and blowing snow to let Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) know that they are opposed to fast track and the TPP.
IUE-CWA and CWA Local 4322 members had a meetings at the offices of Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
At the MLK parade in downtown Orlando, CWA Local 3108 marched with Central Florida Jobs with Justice, the Student Labor Action Project and Our Walmart. Activists leafleted the crowd with "NO on Fast Track" flyers.
In Buffalo, CWA Local 1122 joined with Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), Coalition for Economic Justice, WNY Area Labor Federation, Citizen Action and several other labor and community organizations to call on all congressional leaders to stop the fast track bill. Read more about the event at WIVB.
In Albany, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) rallied with IUE-CWA Local 81359, CWA Local 1118, MoveOn.org and more to raise awareness about how the TPP will hurt working families.
CWA Local 2276 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Childress and CWA Local 2276 Member LPAT Worksite Coordinator Derek Lilly joined Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and local small businesses to rally against the TPP.
CWA members in Texas carried this banner in an annual Martin Luther King Day March.
CWA Local 9003 organized a rally outside office of Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) to pressure him to take a stand against fast track and the TPP.
CWA has joined an unprecedented network of advocacy organizations, labor unions, tech companies and environmental groups to launch ten days of coordinated action targeting the controversial "fast track" legislation, which is designed to speed the Trans-Pacific Partnership toward ratification without a full Congressional debate. The "10 Days to Stop Fast Track" campaign will run January 22 to 31.
"Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "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."
We'll be organizing in-person protests, a national "Call Congress" day, in-district meetings and a State of the Union Twitter-storm. Check our recent Reddit "Ask Me Anything" chat here.
Participating groups include Reddit, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Fight for the Future, Imgur, BoingBoing, Corporate Accountability International, the Machinists Union IAMAW, Electronic Frontier Foundation, MoveOn, Rainforest Action Network, United Students for Fair Trade, Organic Consumers Association, Popular Resistance, ThoughtWorks, Sea Shepherd, Citizens Trade Campaign, 350.org, Demand Progress, Progressive Democrats of America, OpenMedia, GMO Action Alliance, Free Press, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, Jobs with Justice, and more than 30 other groups.
Read why these organizations are opposing fast track at www.StopFastTrack.com.
Cablevision techs are standing strong in their contract fight.
More than 50 Cablevision techs, members of CWA Local 1109, marked Dr. Martin Luther King Day at an event in Harlem, organized by the National Action Network and Rev. Al Sharpton. Mayor Bill de Blasio; Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; Reps. Charles Rangel, Jose Serrano and Jerry Nadler; NYC elected officials and others also attended.
On the way, the techs stopped at a Cablevision garage for a surprise picket.
An NLRB hearing in New York City, now concluded, investigated charges that Cablevision has engaged in "bad-faith bargaining" with zero intent on ever reaching an agreement with Brooklyn technicians, personal threats by CEO James Dolan to deny Bronx workers job opportunities and training if they voted for the union, and raises of $2 to $9 an hour given to all Cablevision workers except the unionized Brooklyn techs to discourage other workers from joining CWA.
The 22 Brooklyn techs who were illegally fired last Jan. 30 were rehired last spring, thanks to tremendous community and political mobilization and support.
Frontier West Virginia
CWA and Frontier Communications have agreed to a contract extension through April 5 while negotiations continue. The current contract expired on Aug. 2. The contract covers about 1,600 Frontier employees in West Virginia.
A Pennsylvania judge last Friday struck down the state's controversial 2012 law mandating that voters show a photo ID at the polls. The ruling was a big win for voting rights advocates.
"We applaud the work of our Democracy Initiative partners, the NAACP and the Advancement Project, in defending voting rights," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "The Pennsylvania law was clearly intended to make voting harder – if not impossible – for many citizens. Sadly, Republican leaders in Pennsylvania have championed the law for holding down voting and improving the prospects in elections for their candidates. We will continue to support voting rights in all states, as critical to a functioning democracy."
The law passed just in time for the 2012 presidential election, but has been temporarily blocked since last October pending a full trial. Many voters had found it difficult to obtain a state-approved ID to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on poor, disabled and elderly Pennsylvanians.
Judge Bernard McGinley of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania wrote, "Hundreds of thousands of electors in Pennsylvania lack compliant ID. Enforcement of the voter ID Law as to these electors has the effect of disenfranchising them through no fault of their own. Inescapably, the Voter ID law infringes upon qualified electors' right to vote."
He added, "In contrast to the hundreds of thousands who lack compliant photo ID, only 17,000 photo IDs for voting purposes have been issued." In addition, the state "wholly failed to show any evidence of in-person voter fraud," McGinley wrote.
The plaintiffs in the case included disenfranchised voters, NAACP, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and Philadelphia's Homeless Advocacy Project.
"This decision helped end our three-year long fight to protect the rights of voters in Pennsylvania," said Jotaka Eaddy, the NAACP's voting rights director. "This court recognizes that unnecessary barriers to the ballot box are counter to the principle this nation holds most dear – that all citizens should have free and unfettered access to the ballot box."
The Democracy Initiative continues to fight the rise in voter suppression and disenfranchisement across the country. Learn more at http://www.democracyforus.org/.
Jan. 21 was the fourth anniversary of the disastrous Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that determined that corporations are people when it comes to political spending and can force their political views on their workers.
Marking the anniversary, CWA President Larry Cohen said, "Citizens United opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money in elections, but in a lesser known but equally destructive move, it overturned laws prohibiting employers from forcing their employees to listen to their political views – legalizing the one-sided tactics that have long been a hallmark of anti-union campaigns. For decades workplace rights have been attacked. Now our political rights can be threatened as well."
During the 2012 election cycle, candidates, parties and outside groups spent $7 billion.
Right now, we're waiting for the Supreme Court's decision in another case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which is challenging caps on the total amount that a wealthy donor can directly give to all PACs, campaigns and parties combined – what's known as "aggregate contribution limits." If the court strikes down contribution limits, one affluent donor would be able to give more than $3.6 million in direct contributions.
What's the impact of all this money? It's a growing conviction by Americans that their votes don't count, that our political process is controlled by the biggest bankroll, and that money, not the public interest, sets policies and priorities in government. All this big money gives a big voice to the wealthy and corporations, at the expense of the rest of us. It threatens the democratic voice that is the foundation of our country. Our representatives spend more than half their time raising money, providing unprecedented access to special-interest lobbyist and elites who can afford $5,000-a-plate breakfasts, ski trips, pheasant hunts and luxury golf tournaments.
"That's why we are building a political movement for democracy that makes it clear that money is not speech and the corporations are not people. In our 21st century democracy, the rights of all of us to participate effectively in our democracy must be cherished," Cohen said.
The Democracy Initiative is working to get big money out of politics. Learn more at http://www.democracyforus.org/.
CWA released this statement on news reports that SoftBank, which owns nearly 80 percent of Sprint, is engaged in direct talks with Deutsche Telekom to buy T-Mobile US:
SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son is working hard to find a path to buy T-Mobile US.
Clearly such a deal raises deep concerns about what is in the best interests of U.S. consumers and workers at T-Mobile.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission insisted that four national wireless carriers were necessary for competition when they opposed AT&T's proposed bid for T-Mobile in 2011.
At that time, the Justice Department called T-Mobile an "aggressive competitor" that benefits consumers by ensuring that the other three carriers would be forced to compete on price. Since that time, T-Mobile has been strengthened by spectrum from AT&T and Verizon, as well as its acquisition of Metro PCS.
It would be irresponsible now for regulators to endorse the bid by SoftBank, a company that brings much less to the table for consumers and workers than the AT&T bid.
SoftBank owns nearly 80 percent of Sprint. Sprint is already junk rated and carries a heavy debt load. Yet news reports indicate that Sprint likely would take on any additional debt, which could be $20 billion or more, related to this new deal.
Sprint already outsourced 100 percent of its network management to Ericsson, which in turn offshores much of that work to India. It also offshores 70 percent of its call center calls. The synergies that investors look for would mean that T-Mobile US workers, who already were hit with the closing of seven call centers in 2012 as that work was offshored by T-Mobile US, would likely see more jobs disappear in a SoftBank-Deutsche Telekom deal. It is about time that concern for jobs is more than lip service from regulators.
The financial sector will benefit from this deal, but it would result in job loss for American workers and likely higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. Regulators need to make clear that this deal is a non-starter.
MSNBC Host Ed Schultz devoted his entire program to the need to stop "fast track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You can watch the entire town hall with members of Congress, all of whom stand with CWA in opposing "fast track." Watch the two segments here and here.
Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America, injected a refreshing dose of reality to the proceedings. Cutting through blather about "leveling the playing field," Cohen looked Baucus in the eye and demanded answers to a few pointed questions.
After 20 years of NAFTA, Cohen demanded, when are we going to start to actually measure the results? "No other nation has trade deficits like ours," said Cohen. Since 1993, the year before NAFTA, our trade deficit in goods was $132 billion or 1.9 percent of GDP. By 2012, our trade deficit ballooned to $741 billion or 4.6 percent of GDP, Cohen detailed in his written testimony.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) turned the conversation at the Fast Track hearing in a completely new direction by asking David Cote if he thought trade agreements should be used to attack consumer and environmental laws democratically enacted around the globe. Brown referenced the so-called "investor-state" provisions that have been included in U.S. trade agreements that allow corporations to directly sue governments for cash damages outside of domestic court systems and in friendly trade tribunals if they believe consumer, health, or environmental regulations harm their products.
Brown pointed to a new case in Australia, where U.S. firm Phillip Morris is suing Australia over a new plain packaging rule for cigarettes designed to reduce cigarette smoking among teens and other new users. Phillip Morris battled the rule in Australian courts and lost, so is taking it to a corporate-friendly trade tribunal. The rulings of these tribunals are binding, and there is no appeal.
And read a transcript of Cohen's full testimony here.
The data used for the graphs was taken from The World Top Incomes Database.
A new report by the non-profit organization Oxfam found that the combined wealth of the world's richest 85 people, or $110 trillion dollars, equals that of the poorest half of the world, some 3.5 billion people.
Worldwide, the top 1 percent controls nearly half the world's wealth. In the United States, the wealthiest 1 percent have captured 95 percent of all economic growth since the financial crisis of 2009, while the bottom 90 percent of people have gotten poorer.
And the wealth gap in the U.S. is greater than almost every other developed country, according to the OECD.
Oxfam is a non-profit group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in 17 countries that works with communities and partners to fight poverty and to restore human rights.
The deadline to apply for a Union Plus scholarship is quickly approaching. There are nine days left for CWA members, retirees or family members to submit an application for a Union Plus scholarship. The scholarship awards range from $500 to $4,000. Union Plus provides $150,000 in scholarships annually.
Applications, including essays and a reference letter, must be submitted by Friday, January 31, 2014 at 12 pm EST.
For more information about eligibility and how to apply, or to learn more about the Union Plus Scholarship, click here.