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CWA e-Newsletter: June 13, 2013

CWA e-Newsletter

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You Won't Want to Miss the Next CWA Town Hall Call: June 20

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In the 1930s, workers took to the streets, protesting poor working conditions, low wages and exploitative labor practices. Some died fighting for their rights. As a result, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress established the National Labor Relations Board to provide workers a place to seek justice.

Today we are on the verge of losing the NLRB.

Join next week's CWA Town Hall Call on Thursday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m. ET to take a stand and learn how you can fight back.

Register here:

Activists Push 'Give Me 5 NLRB Members' Message on Capitol Hill

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At CWA's latest political boot camp in Northern California, 25 members made four calls each into Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer's offices, telling them, "Give us five!" In total, about 100 calls were made.

Union activists spent two days on Capitol Hill, telling senators and staff that the Senate majority must confirm all five NLRB nominees to ensure 80 million workers have rights under federal law.


CWA activist Robert England and the fly-in's California delegation visit Sen. Barbara Boxer's office.

The current board has one confirmed member whose term expires in late August; two others are recess appointments. In a broad ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals voided these and other recess appointments made by President Obama. If the Senate doesn't act before its August recess begins, 80 million private sector workers, both union members and non-represented, will lose their rights on the job. And we know the opposition won't stop there.

This week more than 50 local leaders and allies from 24 states were part of the "fly-in," that brought union activists, including Robert England of CWA Local 9415, who traveled from Bakersfield, Calif., to lobby elected officials in the Senate and House. England had meetings scheduled at the offices of California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, among others.

"It's cut and dry: Approve all five NLRB nominees or change the rules," said England. "This is so important to workers."

The Sierra Club, another CWA ally, was featured in a print ad in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication. The message, from Michael Brune, executive director, said:

"We can't hold big polluters accountable or protect the rights of American workers and consumers if we've got no cops on the beat. But, inaction in the Senate has left key watchdog agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board without leaders while putting key safeguards in jeopardy. The Senate Majority needs to break the logjam and confirm the President's qualified nominees to fix the Senate and show the American people they can still get things done."

CWA Activists Hit the Streets for Mississippi Candidates

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Mississippi state employees campaigned hard for Jackson city council member Chokwe Lumumba, securing him a landslide win in his mayoral election last week.

"Our workers were engaged – precinct walks, prepping materials to go out to voters, sweat and tears," said Brenda Scott, president of Mississippi Alliance of State Employees-CWA Local 3570. "We were very instrumental in his success."

Lumumba, a pro-worker candidate who campaigned on a living wage and improving community jobs, easily defeated three independents, winning 87 percent of the vote. After winning his Democratic primary, CWA activists became permanent fixtures in the Lumumba campaign, helping with phone banking, canvassing neighborhoods, rolling thousands of newspapers with sample ballots and poll watching. All the way up until Election Day, at least 10 CWAers could be found on each shift at Lumumba's campaign office.

MASE-CWA has been involved in mayoral elections for the past decade. But this was the first year that activists ventured outside of Jackson to campaign for other mayoral hopefuls.

Workers helped state Rep. George Flaggs become mayor of Vicksburg. In Moss Point, they aided Billy Broomfield's move from the state House to city hall. State employees successfully campaigned for Bill Luckett, a local attorney and businessman, in Clarksdale. Workers ensured state Rep. Kelvin Buck would become the next mayor of Holly Springs. And CWAers joined with the Building Trades to help elect Meridian's first black mayor, Percy Bland.

"It was all people – old people, young people, African Americans, Hispanics Whites," said Liz Roberson, assistant to the CWA Public Workers Vice President. "Everyone was pulling together to make this happen. That's the beauty of it."

Moral Mondays

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CWA Local 3607 President Chris Myrick (above), and fifteen local members participated in the Moral Monday Witness at the North Carolina State Capital in Raleigh on June 9.


CWA activists are joining the "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina, a growing non-violent direct action targeting the state's Republican general assembly and governor.

Every Monday people are showing up outside the statehouse in Raleigh to speak out against extreme public policies, including cutting the payroll tax credit for working people, slashing state unemployment benefits and rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid.

Last week, CWA Local 3607 President Chris Myrick and fifteen local members participated in a Moral Monday demonstration, where Rep. G.K. Butterfield showed up to support the activists and more than 60 people were arrested.

In a recent column in The Guardian, Moral Mondays leader Rev. William Barber wrote:

The appeal for each Moral Monday has been the same: urging legislators to govern for the good of the whole, rather than for the wealthy. We didn't come to this decision lightly. In fact, we made several attempts to meet with the far-right legislative leadership. Governor Pat McCrory invited us to his house for a 20-minute chat. We said we wanted to work with him to be sure he governed for the good of the whole, as the U.S. Constitution requires him to do. But it was clear he was marching to the beat of a different drummer.

MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry just devoted a long segment of her show to the protests. Watch it here.

Bargaining Update

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  • CWA Local 3181 and a strong community coalition stopped an effort by the St. Lucie, Fla., County School District to privatize the jobs of 300 custodial service workers, said Local President Rick Poulette. The coalition convinced the board to reject contracting out and cutting the custodians' pay.

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    In California, members of CWA Local 9586 at the Santa Fe Springs Yard call out Verizon West for its corporate greed. Negotiations for a new contract covering 5,000 workers are continuing.


    The NABET-CWA team bargains a new PBS contract.


    Workers tell CenturyLink to "Honor your word!"

  • A New Jersey appeals court has denied CWA's request to block the privatization of New Jersey's lottery. "The ruling just says there's not an immediate irreparable harm. The court may say that $120 million in a budget is not irreparable harm, but taxpayers of New Jersey may feel differently if this does not work out in their favor," said Seth Hahn, the CWA's legislative and political director for New Jersey. Read more here.

  • Iowa's Area Education Agency 267 Board approved a contract covering 229 members of CWA Local 7170. The agreement provides for a wage and benefit increase of 4.14 percent for workers in several job categories, including educational assistants, clerk technicians, interpreters, occupational therapy assistants, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers and cooks. Read more here.

  • Members of NABET-CWA Local 52031 in the Washington, D.C. metro area overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with the Public Broadcasting Service. The contract, effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016, covers 44 workers and provides for wage increases, a ratification bonus and other gains.

  • CWA Local 1168 members have voted in favor of going on strike at Kaleida Health, which operates four hospitals in the Buffalo, NY, area. Read more here.

  • Bargaining at CenturyLink has been suspended and will resume on June 18. Updates can be found on District 7's website:

Fight Goes on at Peabody/Patriot Coal

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CWA members stand with UMWA miners in fight for fairness at Peabody/Patriot.

The United Mine Workers is appealing the decision of a federal bankruptcy judge that approved Patriot Coal Corp.'s plan to throw out its collective bargaining agreements and slash retiree benefits. Patriot now has suspended contract negotiations.

The ruling affects 23,000 retired miners and their families who face the loss of their health care benefits. UMWA miners and retirees worked at Peabody and Arch operations in Kentucky and West Virginia, which each spun off part of their businesses to form Patriot.

Unions and progressive allies have been standing with the UMWA miners, in civil disobedience, non-violent protest and other actions at Peabody/Patriot Coal headquarters in St. Louis, and in Charleston, W.Va., and Henderson, Ky. CWA President Larry Cohen was arrested in St. Louis, and hundreds of CWA members have joined the protests.

It's one of the worst examples of corporate greed yet.

Despite its profitability, Peabody created Patriot Coal in 2007 and gave that company 11 percent of its assets, 43 percent of its retiree liability and some underwater coal contracts, the UMWA said. Some 90 percent of retirees whose benefits will be slashed never worked for Patriot. Then, in 2008, Patriot bought Arch-spinoff Magnum Coal, and Arch saddled that company with 12 percent of its assets and 96 percent of its retiree health-care liabilities.

Keep up with the latest on Facebook.

Senate Begins Debate on Immigration Reform

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The Senate opened debate on comprehensive immigration reform this week, with many amendments expected to be proposed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744.

The bill was put together by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight," although that version was modified by the Judiciary Committee that accepted changes pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Hatch called for changes in the H-1B visa program that will allow preferential treatment by corporations for foreign born workers at the expense of U.S. workers, and other changes that will hurt U.S. tech workers who already face a tough employment outlook. Hatch has indicated he'll push for more changes that tech companies want, at the expense of U.S. workers. CWA will fight back against these cuts to worker protections and will oppose amendments that look to eliminate or further delay the path to citizenship for immigrant workers.

The time is now for comprehensive immigration reform and a true path to citizenship for 11 million immigrant workers. CWA is committed to the comprehensive reform our nation needs and to safeguarding the rights of all workers.

Sing It Out Loud!

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CWA District 1 health care members at activist training.

At a recent activist training in Albany, NY, CWA District 1 health care workers sang a unique rendition of Elvis's "Love Me Tender." They called it, "Ouch, I'm Tender."

It was a tribute to the effort to pass a safe patient handling bill in the New York state legislature this year.

"Workers injured / Some made lame / Then they're made to blame," they sang.

Watch it here.

A Father's Day Poem

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Paul Romaine is the son of a longtime CWA member, Wilbur Ernest Romaine, who worked for Verizon/New York Telephone for 35 years. Paul says "that my first two years of attending college at Cornell were made possible because of the CWA's Joseph A. Beirne Scholarship."

He wrote this poem about his father.

As a boy my father's huge hands
with weathered fingers as thick as sausage
would splice cables or grab handholds
on telephone poles that he climbed each day,

but at night those huge fingers made
Rusty come to life at bed time
and Dad would talk to Rusty and me,
with Rusty groaning about being crushed
overnight when I rolled on top of him.

Hey! I would shout, and Rusty snuggled close
and told me that he loved me.

Dad gloried in his strength and control:
Arm wrestling match, pushing a mower,
or writing a check in his neat round hand.

But lately his hands were spotted and pale.
His fingers couldn't hold a pen steady,
and they even had trouble holding a fork.

So when I heard today that Dad had died,
I remembered those huge hands,
and how I never saw Dad, except at night,
and how those hands paid for a home
and protected us, and made a stuffed dog talk.