CWA e-Newsletter: Jan. 9, 2014
- CWA: Fast Track is the Wrong Track for Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Here's How We Stop Fast Track
- Mark Your Calendar: CWA Town Hall Call on January 23
- NAFTA at 20
- Senate Moves Forward on Extending Emergency Jobless Benefits
- 'Way Past Time' at Olean General
- Bargaining Update
- Growing Income Inequality Means Danger Ahead for Middle-Class Workers
- Court Guts Workers' Right to Sue Their Bosses
Today, Senator Max Baucus and Representative Dave Camp introduced fast track authorizing legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Read the response by CWA President Larry Cohen:
"Fast track is the wrong track when it comes to a trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will affect our laws, our jobs, our food and our environment. Fast track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority, forces Congress to give up its Constitutional right to amend and improve this trade deal, which now is reportedly more than 1,000 pages long.
"For nearly four years, the U.S. Trade Representative and TPP negotiators have purposely restricted participation and information, keeping members of Congress and citizen groups, unions, environmental and consumer organizations in the dark. There has been no opportunity for public interest groups to meaningfully participate in the negotiations, and under fast track authority, there will be no opportunity for our elected representatives to amend the deal and make it better for Americans.
"Fixing any one problem with fast track at this late date is not the solution. As important as workers' rights, environmental standards, consumer issues, job loss or currency manipulation might be, fast track authorization should be rejected, not tinkered with. None of us who focus on those issues had any input into this fast track legislation and this in itself is as serious as the glaring deficiencies.
"If the Baucus-Camp fast track authorization proposal passes, Congress will have given away its Constitutional right to amend without ever having read and vetted all potential ramifications of the final trade bill.
"Some 600 corporate advisors have been actively involved in shaping the pact and had access to the text. The rest of us have only pieced together the impact of this deal on ordinary Americans from leaked chapters. More U.S. jobs would be shifted overseas and U.S. workers would suffer lower wages as companies look to countries like Vietnam, where the average hourly wage is 75 cents and the minimum wage is 28 cents an hour.
"Since the American people and their elected representatives had no input during the negotiations, Congress must retain its right to amend and improve the trade deal for ordinary Americans. Fast track authority has been voted down before by Congress, and trade deals have been approved without fast track authorization. Congress must reject fast track authorization or at least start over to craft an inclusive fast track process.
"We mark 20 years of NAFTA by fighting harder than ever for fair trade, transparency and participation from the start by all who should be involved not just multinational corporations and appointed officials who claim to represent national security interests."
Local 1103's community coalition opposing fast track legislation is taking off in Westchester.
Below: Members of Local 3122 get the TPP message in Miami. In another action, members of Local 3104 in Fort Lauderdale leafleted worksites there.
CWA activists and allies are ready to battle the introduction of "fast track" authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. Under fast track legislation, members of Congress would give up their right to amend the TPP and make it better for Americans. The fast track authorization vote would take place before members of Congress even see the final 1,000-page trade deal.
Call your Senators and Representative at 1-866-937-4359 and tell them Congress must reject fast track authorization for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ready to join the CWA rapid response team? Sign up here.
Need more information? Go to www.cwa-union.org/tpp.
On the job, members of Local 1103 use break time to call their members of Congress with the "no fast track" message.
Members of CWA Local 1103 in Westchester, NY already are pushing hard, mobilizing members and building support from community allies to make sure Congress hears us loud and clear.
All week, members of the local's Legislative Political Action Team are visiting work sites, encouraging CWAers to call their members of Congress with this message: No more trade deals that hurt workers. CWAers also met with activists from MoveOn, WesPac, Concerned Families of Westchester, Citizens Trade Campaign and other groups who agreed to make phone calls, write letters to the local newspaper, and join our Day of Action on Jan. 22. More community meetings are planned.
Make sure you're a part of the fight against fast track authorization for TPP.
This month's half-hour town hall call will be held on January 23, at 7:30 pm ET. This call will be all about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, with CWA and United Auto Workers members, along with UAW President Bob King and CWA President Larry Cohen.
Register at http://cwa-union.org/cwacall.
In 1993, the United States, Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Two decades later, working Americans have only seen a string of broken promises.
Arguing for NAFTA, President Clinton ensured the American people that NAFTA would "create 200,000 jobs in this country by 1995 alone." But, the U.S. actually saw some 700,000 jobs move to Mexico.
Clinton also said NAFTA would be the first agreement that had "any teeth in what another country had to do with its own workers and its own labor standards." But U.S. employer threats made during organizing campaigns to close plants if workers voted for a union rose from 29 percent in the mid-1980s to 50 percent in the two years following the adoption of NAFTA to 57 percent during the mid-2000s. Today, employers are more likely to use coercive tactics in their anti-union campaigns than they were before the adoption of NAFTA in 1993.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the State Department have all documented worsening conditions and eroded standards for workers both in the U.S. and Mexico. In our own country, we still have hundreds of thousands of children working on American farms. Migrant workers have few protections and families struggle with weak or non-existent laws on paid leave.
Meanwhile U.S. wages aren't getting better. They're actually getting worse. As corporations rushed to take advantage of Mexico's low wages, Americans have witnessed downward pressure on their wages at home.
In 1993, the United States had a $1.66 billion trade surplus in goods with Mexico. Yet by 1995, just one year after the implementation of NAFTA, the country had a $15.8 billion deficit. In 2012, the deficit had grown to $62 billion.
Be sure to check out the rest of CWA's Broken Promises report here (pdf). It outlines what happened over the last 20 years and what it means for future trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Public Citizen also has a fantastic report on how NAFTA has contributed to job losses, record income inequality and scores of corporate attacks on environmental and health laws. Check it out here.
This week Democrats are pushing to extend federal emergency jobless benefits that expired Dec. 28. The Senate voted 60-37 to move forward on consideration of the measure that would provide for a three-month extension for the nation's long-term unemployed.
CWA President Larry Cohen said, "We commend the Senate for today's vote to proceed on consideration of extending emergency benefits to 1.3 million Americans, and applaud Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid for making this issue the top priority as the Senate returned to work this week. Not only is this a moral issue, but it's an economic one as well. These dollars flow back into the economy, and the Congressional Budget Office has calculated that every dollar spent on unemployment benefits yields $1.60 for our economy."
It's time for the Senate to finish its work and the House of Representatives to take action to extend this critical safety net for millions of Americans.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does an excellent job of putting the nation's long-term unemployment benefits crisis into perspective.
The emergency federal unemployment program started in 2008 – in the middle of the Great Recession – to provide up to 47 weeks of benefits for jobless Americans still looking for work after their state unemployment benefits run out. When Congress failed to renew the program last month, it left 1.3 million Americans without that vital lifeline:
This chart shows how many people lost benefits when Congress failed to extend emergency benefits.
This chart shows what would happen if federal emergency benefits, the safety net for jobless workers, had been extended, especially where unemployment remains high.
This chart shows what the country looks like today for unemployed people. Unless Congress acts, benefits are limited to 26 weeks or less in every state, no matter how high a state's unemployment rate remains.
By Ann Converso, LPAT coordinator for CWA's Healthcare Coordinating Council
At a small hospital in southwestern New York, 120 technical workers seeking to organize with CWA Local 1168 have battled a fierce anti-union campaign.
Workers at Olean General Hospital.
The group, which includes licensed practical nurses (LPNs), respiratory therapists, operating room techs, and the like, began its union drive last spring. As their symbol of solidarity, the worker committee chose an hourglass – to symbolize the message "It's time. It's way past time."
They had not received a raise in more than three years, respiratory therapist Sue DiPaolo said. Workers were also frustrated with management's changing their shifts with just a few hours' notice, no lunch breaks, no extra pay for working overtime (they would be made to come in late the next day or leave early the next day), and very long hours in the OR with no time off in between cases.
In the lead-up to the union authorization vote, hospital administrators sent anti-union emails to all employees and held "town hall" meetings. Supervisors cornered workers for mandatory one-on-ones. The CEO made regular rounds to all areas – a sight never seen before. "It was very clear that management did not want another union at the hospital," said LPN Joelle Hyson.
On Election Day, managers and the lawyer from the union-busting firm Jackson Lewis escorted union observers in and out of the hospital as if they were criminals. Security guards hired from an outside firm questioned everyone who entered the hospital all day. Every manager (even those with no employees eligible to vote) was required to be in the hospital that day and attend the vote count.
After all these efforts at intimidation, the vote was too close to call; 18 challenged ballots will determine the outcome. Those challenges will be decided by the NLRB soon.
This article originally appeared in Labor Notes. Read the full version here.
The Jersey Journal
N.Y. Newspaper Guild President Bill O'Meara and Local Guild Representative Bob Daraio protest outside Jersey Journal offices.
In New Jersey, employees of The Jersey Journal protested Monday outside of the paper's new office building during its grand opening in Secaucus and demanded executives negotiate a fair contract that will raise wages and provide reasonable benefits. The Journal has been in a contract dispute with its employees and their union, the Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003, since January 2013. Read more at Broadcast Union News.
A number safety net programs established in the 1960s – Social Security, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid, education and training programs, and other support to help families succeed – worked.
Today, these programs and the people who rely on them face a harsh assault by some Republicans. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) has said that government assistance like food stamps and medical care is a form of slavery. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) believes that anti-poverty programs have "wrecked families and communities" and wants people to "dream again." According to a Ryan supporter, "You don't dream when you've got food stamps."
Middle-class families may think they're not in danger of losing the limited safety net that's in place to help us over tough economic times. They're wrong. A new article on AlterNet finds that "middle-class Americans are increasingly in danger of learning about poverty firsthand." Check it out here.
Craig Becker, general counsel to the AFL-CIO and a former member of the NLRB, writes in Politico Magazine:
"Unnoticed except by employment lawyers, the United States Court of Appeals in New Orleans last month issued what might be the most important workers' rights opinions in decades. The decision permits employers to require workers, as a condition of keeping their jobs, to agree to arbitrate all workplace disputes and to do so as individuals, standing alone against their employer. The ruling could spell the end of employment class actions that were instrumental to breaching the barriers of both race and sex discrimination after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and remain critical to enforcement of minimum wage and other labor standards laws."
He notes that that if the court's holding becomes law, "all but the most sought-after employees, baseball stars and skilled computer programmers, and those represented by unions, will have to yield their rights. The result will be a right-less workplace."