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CWA e-Newsletter: June 12, 2014

June 12, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

Want to be in next week's CWA Newsletter? Send your stories and photos to or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at

Maine Guild Member Wins Emmy

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Amelia Kunhardt, a video editor at the Portland Press Herald and a member of the News Guild of Maine, TNG-CWA Local 31128, has won a coveted regional Emmy award.

Kunhardt won a Boston/New England regional Emmy award on Saturday night for "Three Shots on Roy Road," a 13 1/2-minute video about a young man shot by a state trooper.

"The other finalists were TV stations," Kunhardt says, referring to the "Societal Concerns" category she'd entered. "I thought we had a really powerful story, but technically we're not like television. We do things differently. When they called our name, I was pleasantly shocked."

Kunhardt previously won an Emmy at the Guild-represented Quincy Patriot Ledger for a 2012 health story about a man who lost 100 pounds, and knows of a few others awarded to newspapers. She expects those numbers to grow.

"The lines are all being blurred now," she said. "More and more newspapers are entering these contests."

Kunhardt is self-taught in video editing and produces her videos with Final Cut Pro X, the same program taught in the hugely successful CWA/NETT Academy course.

"We're thrilled to have Amelia, a talented photographer and video editor, on our staff and in our union," said Local Guild President Tom Bell, who has also taken CWA/NETT Academy's Final Cut Pro course. "Not only is she doing great work, but she is a mentor to the entire photo department. By example and also by providing guidance, she has elevated the quality of our staff's multimedia productions."

Kunhardt's video accompanied a print story by reporter and Guild member Matt Bryne. Click here to watch "Three Shots on Roy Road."

Unions Sue to Stop Christie's Pension Fund Grab

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This week, CWA and several other unions filed a lawsuit against Governor Chris Christie over his refusal to make promised payments to the pension systems covering state workers. The suit seeks to stop Christie from plundering $900 million from the 2014 budget's appropriated pension payment, along with his plans to slash the legally required $2.24 billion payment for fiscal year 2015 to less than $700 million.

"Governor Chris Christie has broken New Jersey's economy. Now, not only has he broken his word by failing to make promised pension payments, he's breaking the law in the process," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ State Director. "Workers have done their part and are paying more. Governor Christie needs to do his part by following the very law he touted and signed."

The CWA lawsuit was joined by the Professional Firefighters Association of NJ (PFANJ), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFTPE) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU). A hearing on the combined lawsuit is set for June 25.

Christie wants to divert the required payment to the state's pension system to fill the gaps in his troubled budget. And on Monday, the governor said that if he loses the court battle, he doesn't have any other ideas on how to balance New Jersey's finances.

Three years ago, Christie and state legislators pushed through massive cuts to public workers' pension benefits. They raised workers' pension contributions, increased the age of retirement and eliminated cost-of-living adjustments. Christie and the lawmakers who supported the changes pledged that the state would begin to make bigger payments each year to the pension system to make up for the state's almost non-existent contributions over the past 17 years.

Workers have continually made their contributions and held up their end of the bargain. But now the governor is reneging on that promise and putting public workers' pensions at risk. The state estimates that its unfunded pension liability is $52 billion.

8th Grader Wins NY History Competition

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Gabrielle Vance is on a roll.

The 8th grade student won both the New York City and New York State's History competition and will compete next week in the 2014 National History Day Contest.

Gabrielle, whose parent is a NABET/CWAer, is a remarkable young woman and quite the historian.


Gabrielle Vance's exhibit, Mother Jones and the Child Labor Laws, will compete next week in the National History Day Competition.

Starting Sunday, her exhibit Mother Jones and the Child Labor Laws, will compete with presentations by other students from around the nation in the Junior (Grades 6-8) Individual Exhibit category of the annual competition.

Upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, Mother Jones in 1903 organized a "Children's Crusade" march from Kensington, Philadelphia, to the Oyster Bay, New York, home of president Theodore Roosevelt. The march won the children's cause much attention and eventually led to reform of child labor laws not only in the United States, but across the world.

More than half a million schoolchildren, grades 6-12, from around the nation spend the better part of an academic year choosing historical topics, researching them and putting together presentations, beginning the painstaking contests of school against school, then community against community in the state contests to qualify for National History Day.

Part of Gabrielle's research included interviewing CWA President Larry Cohen about her topic, the famed labor organizer Mother Jones, then maintaining periodic e-mail communication, including to update him on her progress in the competition.

In January, she wrote to Cohen:

Thank you for the fantastic quote about Mother Jones. It is such a huge help to my project, and I am so grateful that you took the time.
Gabrielle Vance

And in a March 30, 2014 e-mail, Gabrielle said:

Dear President Cohen,
I came in first place for my project in my category in New York City's National History Competition! I will now move on to the statewide competition next month. I have so enjoyed learning about Mother Jones, her Children's Crusade, and child labor, and wanted to thank you again for all your help. To be able to discuss these issues with you and then to share them with a wider audience has been a great experience, one that I will never forget.
Thank you so much!

President Cohen couldn't be prouder of Gabrielle, telling her so and urging her on. And, soon enough, came news that Gabrielle had won the New York State contest and will be bringing her exhibit to a national audience.

IUE-CWAer Graduates as Morton Bahr Scholar

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Congratulations to Richard Shorter, vice president of IUE-CWA Local 82162 in Roanoke, Va., who graduated last weekend with a bachelor's degree from Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


As a Morton Bahr Scholar, Shorter received a scholarship that covered 100 percent of his tuition in the distance learning program. The program recognizes the dedication of CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr, a 1983 graduate of Empire State, to helping make lifelong and distance learning available to working people.

Learn more about the Morton Bahr Online Scholarship program here.

CWA's First Joint Human Rights Conference – Bonding Over Shared Goals

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As it was ending, participants in this year's CWA Human Rights Conference – the first to combine the women's and civil rights committees – gave event organizers Chris Kennedy and Nancy Biagini standing ovations.

"It was a big hit," Kennedy, director of the CWA Human Rights Department, said. "Most of the comments we got were that it was the best conference CWA has ever had. And Rev. William Barber energized the crowd like nobody can."


Claude Cummings, Jr., told delegates at the 2014 CWA Joint Human Rights Conference to continue the good work of the conference at home, at their locals and affiliate organizations.

Claude Cummings Jr., Vice President of CWA District 6 and chair of the CWA executive board's diversity committee, said it was a great conference. "It was very positive and informative, very well attended. The workshops were just great and Rev. William Barber did a great job talking about us coming together to take our democracy back. All of us," Cummings said.

Over 350 CWAers attended the June 8-11 CWA Joint Human Rights Conference in Las Vegas. They listened to inspiring speakers like CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, who spoke about what it's like being a gay man; Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, who talked about being a Latina and working in the fields; and there was the inimitable Rev. Barber, who was keynote speaker.


Rev. Barber fires up participants.

"We don't need more meetings, we need a movement," Barber told the delegates.

The conference focused on movement building, discrimination, voting rights, social justice, and the importance of working with CWA national strategic partners. Cummings said what is important is the follow up to all the good work that was done at the conference.

"Doing nothing is not an option for us," Cummings said. "My plea to the delegates was that they take the information and not keep it, but share it at their union and their partner organizations."

Also participating were CWA Vice Presidents Linda Hinton, D4; Mary Taylor, D7; and Laura Reynolds, D9.

"Human Rights are rights that should be afforded to every human being. Today we find ourselves fighting to defend our basic rights, making it even more challenging to expand human rights. It will take a fight today, tomorrow and every day. But with the energy, commitment and passion of every one of you here today, I am confident that we will maintain and expand human rights here at home and across the globe," CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins said.


Participants discuss movement building and the importance of working with CWA national strategic partners, among other issues.

Members of the National Committee on Civil Rights and Equity and the National Women's Committee spent months putting the program together.

National Committee on Civil Rights and Equity Members are: Gloria Middleton, Local 1180; Vera Mikell, Local 2205; James Barue Wilson II, Local 3310; Diane Bailey, Local 4310; Josiah Garcia, Local 6127; Paul Castaneda, Local 7019; Frank Arce, Local 9400; Robert Barrow, AFA-CWA Local 26052; Carl Kennebrew, IUE-CWA Local 84755; Dorethea Brown-Maxey, NABET-CWA Local 54043; and Kendall Bell, CWA Local 81381.

National Women's Committee members are: Karen Cusson, Local 1400; Esther Pond, Local 3806; Grace Catania, TNG-CWA Local 34071; Virginia Anderson-Dunbar, Local 6300; Lisa Hicks, Local 7500; Pandy Allen, Local 9003; Sandra Morrow, AFA-CWA Local 29018; Vicky Hurley, IUE-CWA Local 82161; Martha Waggoner, TNG-CWA Local 31222; and Ellen Vidal, Local 1088.

For this first conference, the women's committee designed four workshops and the civil rights committee designed four others and the two committees collaborated to design a workshop on unity. Everyone wanted to ensure that women's workshops not overshadow civil rights, and vice versa. Both committees were surprised to see the synergy that was created by working together.

Other events included the roll out of the CWA app; Kennedy said several people signed up for the app and took pictures of the conference with it.

AFA-CWA Applauds Congress For Taking Action Against Norwegian Air Outsourcing Scheme

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An amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations, passed by the House of Representatives, will help ensure that U.S. airlines and aviation crew are afforded a level playing field for transatlantic flying, AFA-CWA said.

The measure, introduced by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), requires that the Transportation Department follow the standards outlined in the U.S.-EU "Open Skies" agreement.

Currently, Norwegian Air International is threatening to undercut labor standards in both the U.S. and Europe by side stepping worker protections and evading international labor laws, resulting in unfair competition for airlines covered under the Open Skies agreement.

The Transportation Department is reviewing Norwegian Air's application for a foreign air carrier permit now.

"Our union is focused on stopping any scheme like Norwegian Air International from severely undercutting our airlines, threatening our jobs, and setting a harmful precedent that would undermine U.S. labor and safety rules. Together with aviation workers from across the industry, we will continue to push back against attempts to dodge laws and regulations that protect good jobs and the safest aviation system in the world," said AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson.

Eyes Wide Shut: Judge Slams Teachers, Deals Blow to Students

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A Superior Court judge in California has struck down teacher tenure, layoff, seniority and other employment-related provisions as unconstitutional, opening the door to retaliation against educators and a move to privatize public education. The decision won't go into effect while it is being appealed.

Vergara v. State of California was brought by corporate special interests who want to blame teachers, not inequitable funding or other factors that do affect children's ability to learn.

The lawsuit is being challenged by the American Federation of Teachers and an affiliate of the National Education Association; both are CWA partners in the Democracy Initiative.

NEA pointed out that "this lawsuit was never about helping students, but is yet another attempt by millionaires and corporate special interests to undermine the teaching profession and push their own ideological agenda on public schools and students while working to privatize public education. Research shows experience enhances teacher effectiveness and increases student productivity at all grade levels, and that ultimately contributes to better outcomes for students. Yet, today's ruling hurts students and serves only to undermine the ability of school districts to recruit and retain high quality teachers."

The American Federation of Teachers noted that the court, while focusing on teachers, "did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children."

"This is a terrible decision because it undermines academic independence and supports a right-wing and corporate political agenda that wants to replace teachers with computer programs and standardized data," said Jelger Kalmijn, president of UPTE-CWA Local 9119.

UPTE represents adjunct faculty and other workers in the University of California system. While adjunct faculty don't have tenure or job security at this time, this ruling, if upheld, would limit bargaining for job security and other hiring and employment provisions, he said.

Bargaining Update

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CWA's Telecommunications and Technologies bargaining team reached a tentative four-year agreement with Alcatel-Lucent, now a French-owned company, covering about 1,000 workers nationwide. Read the details here.

Bring T-Mobile's Human Rights Abuses Out of the Shadows

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Last week, Amber Diaz, a former T-Mobile employee who lost her job because of her union activity, stepped up to the microphone at T-Mobile's annual shareholders to speak out against her unjust firing. She asked T-Mobile's Board of Directors to commit to ending these kinds of human rights violations.


T-Mobile US made Amber Diaz a fierce workers' rights activist when they fired her rather than honor her collective bargaining rights. Now Diaz is fighting T-Mobile to win bargaining rights for her former coworkers.

They said, "No."

Watch the video of her bold stand here.

But TU activists like Amber aren't going away. Now they're asking the public to tell T-Mobile that they won't tolerate this inaction and that T-Mobile must do right by their workers, investors and consumers.

Click here to sign the petition.

"When we keep up the pressure and continue to fight, we can make change at T-Mobile," Diaz said. "I will not give up the fight – and I hope you will fight with me."

CWA: AT&T/DirecTV Merger Can Benefit Workers, Consumers

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CWA had this comment as AT&T submitted its public interest filing at the FCC on the proposed merger with DirecTV:

CWA believes that the proposed AT&T/DirecTV merger can provide real benefits to workers and consumers. We are confident that regulators will move forward to ensure that the public interest potential of this merger is realized.

By combining DirecTV's nationwide video service with AT&T's broadband and wireless service, the merged company can improve broadband speed and services, and make even more content available for millions of customers. AT&T/DirecTV will be a stronger competitor to the cable industry throughout the U.S., another plus for consumers.

The merged company will provide employment opportunities for tens of thousands of employees at both companies. AT&T respects the right of employees to make their own choice about union representation.

The industry is constantly transforming itself as wireless, wireline, cable and satellite converge, and as voice data and video increasingly demand expanded high speed networks. The public interest is served by expanding access to high speed broadband services. AT&T's commitment to providing high speed Internet services to 15 million locations, with at least 2 million of these provided with Gigapower fiber to the premise service, is a positive move toward expanding Internet access and availability to more Americans.

We're Back! Next CWA Telephone Town Hall is June 19

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You won't want to miss next week's town hall call on Thursday, June 19, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour.

Joining us will be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will talk about the fight to get money out of politics. Leaders from allies Public Citizen and People for the American Way will join, and we'll hear the latest on public election financing in New York.

Register at and pick up the phone when you get the call.


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