CWA e-Newsletter: Jan. 8, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Jan. 8, 2015

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.

On Capitol Hill: ‘Big Tent’ News Conference Shows Big Opposition to Fast Track, TPP

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An amazing line-up of Members of Congress, union activists, environmental leaders, people of faith, small business and community leaders stood together on Capitol Hill today to show the broad and growing opposition to Fast Track authority for trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“America will never see a raise for American working families if we continue to make trade deals like we have in 20 years since NAFTA,” CWA President Larry Cohen said. “80% of Americans have had no raise in 30 years. . . . We have to stop trade deals that only move in one direction.”

Watch President Cohen's remarks.

More than 18 congressional representatives and leaders from the NAACP, Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, Consumers Union, the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby NETWORK, and other groups joined the event, calling for the defeat of Fast Track.

NETWORK’s Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell, popularly known as the leader of "Nuns On The Bus," said the effects of our past trade deals have been coming home to roost. She pointed out that children from Central America swarmed the U.S. borders last year directly because the Central American Free Trade Agreement disrupted the economies in rural areas of those countries.

"I'm here today to oppose fast track because we know from Catholic sisters in Central America, my sisters in Mexico, that these trade agreements create a huge imbalance and disequilibrium, especially in rural communities," she said.

An alliance of Big Business and White House negotiators are scrambling to push fast track authority through Congress. Why Fast Track enables supporters to push through trade deals which no one in Congress has read with a majority vote. In the Senate, nearly all others bills require 60 votes and most of our issues have been blocked by this super majority requirement. Yet fast track only requires a simple majority of the House and Senate.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is leading Democratic House members in the fight against Fast Track, said she is not going to stand for a bill that allows bad trade deals to be crammed down the throats of Americans without Congress examining them. American workers, she said, have suffered great harm under the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals like it and their representatives in Congress have the Constitutional duty to consider carefully the consequences of future deals.

“This coalition exists because trade deals affect everything. We need to be able to scrutinize the text of these deals page by page, line by line, word by word. . . . We need to read this bill as we would any piece of legislation, let alone legislation with such far reaching implications,” DeLauro said.

CWA is part of a 100- group coalition that is fighting back against Fast Track, and the next 100 days are critical. Fast Track authorizing legislation is expected to come before Congress in March.

CWA President Larry Cohen speaking today at a news conference called by a coalition opposing Fast Track and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. An alliance of Big Business and White House negotiators are scrambling to push fast track authority through Congress.

Cohen said the road forward is daunting but winnable if the coalition functions as one.

“We're prepared in every district to work as a coalition, not silo-ed as labor, or farmers, or consumers, or environmentalists, but together to talk about what the global economy should be and how it could work for all of us,” he said. “We are humble about what we face but we are tens of millions of Americans and we are committed that we are not going to have another raw deal on trade. We're going to come to the 21st Century and negotiate trade deals that work for tens and millions of Americans, not just for hundreds of corporations.”

CWAers and activists from coalition members will participate in National Call-In week, beginning Jan. 26, to let members of Congress know that Fast Track must be stopped. Check out www.stopthetpp.org for more information.


Now or Never: Fight Back Against Fast Track

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Read President Cohen’s latest HuffPost blog on fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

An unholy coalition of President Obama, Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are working together to pass Fast Track authorization for the largest trade giveaway ever, the Trans Pacific Partnership, in the next 100 days.

The president will focus on Fast Track, now known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), in his State of the Union address. McConnell will continue to announce that he will work with the White House. And make no mistake about it, the version of Fast Track or TPA that will pass the House will be Boehner Trade, acceptable to the Republican majority and its Speaker.

Overwhelmingly, House Democrats will fight back. More than three-quarters of the House Democrats have written to the president opposing Fast Track and the TPP for a multitude of reasons:

  1. Vietnam is the leading partner, with 90 million people, an average wage of 75 cents an hour, no worker rights or environmental or consumer protections and a command economy where the government and its allied organizations control virtually everything.
  2. Like NAFTA, TPP has much more to do with protecting the investment of multinational corporations, particularly those based in the US. Those investment issues dwarf lowering trade barriers. These are the very corporations that have moved millions of jobs out of the US because every trade deal since NAFTA has allowed them to sue nations that adopt legislation that limits future profits, not simply safeguards their initial investment. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) virtually unchanged is in the TPP, and the WH defends it and brags about it to corporate audiences. Currently, multinationals have 500 pending secret arbitration lawsuits against governments regarding environmental protection, workers' rights, health and consumer issues, to name a few.
  3. Brunei, with strict Islamic law, is another of the 12 nations in TPP. Republican conservatives are horrified by the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities there. Most of us would include homophobia, misogyny and other gross human rights violations as reason enough to avoid a major economic partnership.
  4. Currency manipulation, by central banks and controlled economies, has been a major concern of House and Senate Democrats. It is now virtually certain this will not be addressed at all in TPP.

Except for corporate management and their large shareholders, the rest of us will lose big if Fast Track is adopted, making TPP a certainty. Passing Fast Track means a guaranteed vote in the House and Senate on TPP within a short period of time and with no amendments allowed on a 2000 page Trade treaty that has been negotiated in almost total secrecy. In the Senate it means passage by a majority, not the 60 votes required on almost everything else that has blocked President Obama's core agenda for six years, even when the House overwhelmingly supported real change from 2009-2011.

There is no point in speculating further on why the WH is collaborating with Boehner and others who have ruined the Hope and Change that the President ran on in 2008. Candidate Obama clearly stated his rejection of the Clinton and Bush trade deals, yet now he is promoting a TPP that is far more ruinous for our jobs and wage levels than its predecessors. Pay for tens of millions of Americans has been stagnant due to job export and direct pay comparisons with poorer nations, with no limits on the ability of GE or IBM, Microsoft or Amazon to export the tradable jobs or cut the pay of those that remain.
Time for action, not more talk!

  1. Virtually all Americans oppose Fast Track but we need to be organizing, shouting and fighting back, particularly with 75 swing House Democrats and Republicans. At least 190 House Democrats and Republicans will vote "No." These 75 are key.
  2. Starting with the State of the Union address, in two weeks, we will face an avalanche from the president, Republican leaders and Big Business. We must mobilize now and like never before!
  3. Our coalition includes virtually every environmental group, labor union, and consumer organization. The WH says Walmart sells cheap goods thanks to these trade deals but most consumer groups know that TPP means less labeling and less safety for imports, and that when wages fall consumers are priced out. Immigrant rights activists know how NAFTA and CAFTA have devastated their home communities in Mexico and Central America. Community organizations and faith groups realize that the loss of millions of factory jobs has devastated most of our cities.
  4. But these broad coalitions, including conservatives who do not believe nations should trade their sovereignty for secret corporate tribunals, must mobilize now. We need Days of Action in the key communities in the swing districts. We need massive mobilization days in Washington. We need millions of emails reminding the president of what he said when he campaigned, versus the reality of this TPP, which is nothing different and in many ways is worse than NAFTA and other trade deals. We need to shout to the president, "Don't roll your own caucus for Boehner Trade."
  5. Organizations like my own need to commit real time and resources to this fight and not back up out of loyalty to President Obama. We have stood with him on nearly every issue but not this one. He needs to stand with us and the Democrats in Congress.

We are under attack!
What do we do?
We Stand Up and Fight Back!
Now!


Cohen Talks on MSNBC

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In the 24 states where Republicans control both the governor’s seat and the legislature, the New Year is bringing new plans to attack workers’ rights and working families.

 

CWA President Larry Cohen talked about this all-out attack with MSNBC host Ed Schultz.

Cohen stressed that unions must be on offense, and talk about economic issues that all working Americans care about. “If the right to work fight is only about union dues, it’s a losing issue for working people. But if it means raising wages and having rights on the job and we link it to broader issues, it’s a winning issue.

“We need more offense, more initiatives on our part, like state minimum wage referenda and the right of workers in retail and banking, for example, to swap schedules. We need more efforts at the municipal level to talk about justice on the job,” he said.

That’s how we’ll counter efforts in Kentucky, for example, where rightwing front groups are pushing anti-union ordinances and county-level right-to-work laws.


Focus on Bargaining

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United Airlines bargaining is a big part of CWA contract negotiations this year. Thanks to Flight Attendants and other airline workers, United Airlines emerged from bankruptcy and has posted corporate profits of 161.2 percent since 2009. AFA-CWA Flight Attendants are putting United on notice: it’s our turn.

24,000 Flight Attendants at United Airlines
Contract Goal: July 2015 [No contract expiration under the Railway Labor Act]

United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2002, cutting thousands of jobs across the country. Flight Attendants endured wage cuts, health care cost shifting, work rule changes and termination of their pensions. AFA-CWA members fought back and doubled the amount the company would contribute to the 401k, from 3 percent to 6 percent, for a new retirement plan as the airline exited bankruptcy.

The airline has fully recovered from its bankruptcy and in October 2010 merged with Continental and Continental Micronesia. Flight Attendants are bargaining for a single contract at the new United that would finally merge the operation and allow all 24,000 to access the benefits of the merger and share in the airline’s profitability.

[Editor’s note: Information written about United Airlines bargaining and included in the Winter 2014 CWA News was not accurate. This summary provides the correct overview of AFA-CWA bargaining with United Airlines.]  


Organizing Update

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Hundreds of Cricket Employees in Two Districts Join CWA
 
Just before the New Year dawned, 341 more Cricket employees voted to join with the rest of the retail Cricket employees in District 6 of the Communications Workers of America and become part of the CWA-AT&T Mobility family.

From Dec. 1 to Dec. 19, activists from eight District 6 locals worked together mailing out information, visiting 39 stores, many of them more than once, and educating and moving workers about CWA. And on Dec. 30, 209 out of 341 of Texas Cricket/ATTM retail employees voted to be represented by CWA.

Cricket is a prepaid wireless provider with 1,000 workers at 170 locations around the nation. When the company merged with AT&T Mobility, Cricket workers were covered by CWA's organizing rights agreement. In addition to Texas retail store and tech workers, Cricket mobile retail workers in New York, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas also have joined CWA.

Here are the names of those who worked on the campaign: Rudy Elizondo of CWA Local 6110; Jason Peavler, Adriana Guzman, Janell Zberbier, Golson McIntosh, and Steve Galindo of Local 6132; Kristie Veit, Stacey Gilmore, Andrew Ita of Local 6137; John Marshall, Aissia Triston, Sylvia Sanchez, Corina Gomez, Diana Lutz, Jesse Espinosa, Michelle Appaluccio, Ken Aden, and Judy Peace of Local 6143; Randy Agee and Jennifer Wiley of Local 6206; Steve Flores, Evelyn Smith, Martha Hernandez, Joe Stine, Nancy Barrios, Rudy Ortega, Joe Lozano Jr, Val Crabbe-Givens, Julian Goode, and Carlos Ortiz-Roman of Local 6222; Phillip Ramirez, Rudy Corona, Eddie Salinas, Edgar Gomez, Adrian Guzman, Albert Limas, Tara Schussler, Edward Rodriguez, and Aris Chapa of Local 6229; Carmen Mata, Mory Martinez, Jason Parrott, Special assignment Organizer Yolanda Anderson and Staff Representatives Charlie Torres and Stephanie Collier of Local 6733.


It’s Time to Call the Chamber Out!

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to drown us out. It’s time we speak up!

Join us on the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to rally against the biggest secret spender of the 2014 elections, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports policies that attack our jobs, democracy and the environment.

Hundreds of activists will be coming together to remind the public that last year the Chamber spent $31 million on electing its favorite candidates, making 2014 the most expensive midterm in history.

Will you be there?

What: Demonstration outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Where: Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.
When: Jan. 21 at noon


Christie’s Pension Scheme Under Fire

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is feeling the heat.

Just a week into 2015 and the governor’s inexcusable treatment of the state’s retirees is facing more backlash.

First up: A state appeals court ruled that New Jersey’s Division of Pensions and Benefits “overstepped its authority” when it raised retirees’ prescription copays.

The judges said the division should have maintained the status quo while labor and public employer representatives resolved dispute over revised copays for 2013. Now Hetty Rosenstein, CWA’s New Jersey area director and a plaintiff in the suit, is lobbying for retirees to be reimbursed.

Then, along comes a report disputing Christie’s frequent claims that New Jersey’s public employee pensions are “exorbitant.” New Jersey Policy Perspective found that the state actually ranks 95th in pension generosity among the country’s 100 largest plans—making it one of the least giving nationwide.

Retirees have zero automatic protection against inflation, and employees pay more into the system than public workers in other state systems. New Jersey also uses a “very low” multiplier to calculate pension benefits, even as the state continues to be one of the highest-cost places to live. The real problem, the study concludes, is the “state’s persistent failure to make annual required contribution payments.”

What’s next? Two lawsuits could determine where this fight goes next. Trustees of New Jersey’s largest pension funds have filed a lawsuit against Christie for failing to pay his legally obligated $2.4 billion payment to the pension fund.

Unions representing public workers, including CWA, have also filed their own lawsuit saying that Christie's action violated the state and federal constitutions.


Applications Open for 2015 - 2016 Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship

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SUNY Empire State College is now accepting applications for the Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship for the coming academic year. The Bahr online scholarship supports the educational goals of union members and other workers by enhancing access to higher education through distance learning. Students who receive the scholarship will study online through Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning (www.esc.edu/cdl).

The scholarship, created in the name of president emeritus of the Communications Workers of America and college alumnus Morton Bahr, honors his far-seeing vision and commitment to educational opportunity. Since its inception in 2001, the Bahr scholarship has helped 66 students continue their education through distance learning. Union workers, family members and/or domestic partners interested in working toward a degree at Empire State College are eligible.

The deadline for applications is May 15, 2015, and award decisions will be announced by the end of June for fall enrollment. Scholarship awards fully cover tuition, fees and special services for part-time study.  New Bahr Scholar candidates are responsible for the cost of course materials.

Students in the program will be eligible for scholarship funding as long as they maintain satisfactory academic progress and enroll in four to eight credits in at least two terms per year. Once enrolled as a Bahr scholar, students also must apply for other federal, state, corporate or union financial aid for which they may be eligible.

Application Process

See a link to the application here. To submit one online or to download the form, visit www.esc.edu/bahr. To have an application mailed, candidates should send e-mail to special.programs@esc.edu or call 800 847-3000 ext 2492.


Next CWA Telephone Town Hall Call is Jan 15

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The next CWA town hall call is Thursday, Jan. 15, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour.

We’ll be talking about the big coalition – more than 100 groups – that together is fighting back against Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Sign up for the call at http://cwa-union.org/cwacall.