CWA e-Newsletter: Mar. 12, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Mar. 12, 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.

Allies in the Fight Against "Fast Track"

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100 Law Professors Urge ISDS Removal from Proposed Trade Deals

More than 100 law professors wrote a letter opposing trade language that fails to "protect the rule of law and the nation's sovereignty." The letter is addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

"As members of the legal community, we write to oppose the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)," the scholars wrote. "As you consider trade authority legislation and negotiate these agreements, we urge you to protect the rule of law and our nation's sovereignty by ensuring ISDS is not included."

The writers include heavyweight law school professors, starting with Constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky.

ISDS, they said in the letter, "grants foreign corporations a special legal privilege, the right to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against a government for actions that allegedly cause a loss of profit for the corporation. Essentially, corporations use ISDS to challenge government policies, actions, or decisions that they allege reduce the value of their investments. These challenges are not heard in a normal court but instead before a tribunal of private lawyers."

The campaign was organized by the Alliance for Justice, a CWA ally in the fight for Senate rules reform and to defeat "fast track."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Sounds the "Investor State" Warning

In a teleconference organized by the Alliance for Justice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said opposition to provisions in the TPP trade deal that would allow multinationals to sue governments in international tribunals over laws and regulations that could affect their "expected future profits" isn't limited to progressive lawmakers like her. Conservatives hate it, too.

"This is not a partisan issue," the Massachusetts senator said. "Conservatives who believe in American sovereignty are outraged that ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] shifts power from American courts to unaccountable international tribunals."

Warren called ISDS a "powerful provision that will further tilt the playing field in the U.S. in favor of powerful multinationals corporations, and worse, undermine U.S. sovereignty." And ISDS cases have exploded in the last several years, she added.

"With more and more American corporations headquartered abroad, it's only a matter of time before ISDS does serious damage to the U.S.," Warren said. Warren echoed CWA President Larry Cohen's take on ISDS in his Huffington Post column last week. Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, one of two bodies that advise the President on economic matters, attacked Warren's position. CWA President Larry Cohen supported Warren in his column.

Reps. Grijalva and Ellison Vow to Reject "Fast Track"

Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are telling the world why they won't rubber-stamp the TPP in an article in the Guardian newspaper. 

Desperate and Dishonest "Fast Track" Promotion Campaign

Proponents of TPP reached a new low this week with a public relations campaign to promote "fast track" under the name the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs.

The only problems with the campaign's name are that it is not progressive, it is not a coalition and it is meant to destroy American jobs. Also, there's already a vast progressive coalition and it is lined up against "fast track" for bad trade deals like the TPP.

Proponents of the TPP have asked Congress to cede its Constitutional role to examine trade deals by giving the administration "fast track" (dubbed Trade Promotion) authority on trade deals. If Congress acquiesces, it forgoes the ability to amend trade deals.

"Progressives don't support bad trade deals that outsource jobs and lower wages. Instead, they want to create more good-paying jobs in America – and for workers globally," the AFL-CIO said in a statement. "Sticking the word 'progressive' on a corporate-driven campaign for a destructive trade deal is purposefully hollow and delusional."

Talk about dishonest.


Volunteer Activists Are the Heart of the Health and Safety Movement

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"Volunteer activists are the heart of the health and safety movement," CWA President Larry Cohen told 1,500 union members who gathered in Pittsburgh this week for the CWA-Steelworkers Health, Safety & Environment Conference.

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CWA President Larry Cohen holds up a photograph of Katherine Rodriguez, the daughter of Ray Gonzalez, who died with his coworker Maurice Moore in a tragic on-the-job accident at a former British Petroleum refinery in 2005.

Below: Katherine Rodriguez won the Community Service Award by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health for her work to memorialize victims of workplace fatalities.

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Cohen spoke about Ray Gonzalez and his coworker Maurice Moore, whose tragic on-the-job deaths in the Fall of 2005 at a former British Petroleum refinery revealed weak federal oversight in chemical plants.

Gonzalez's son-in-law, Randy Rodriguez, a CWA Local 6222 steward and safety and health chair, has taken a lead role in organizing for workplace safety in the labor movement. So has Gonzalez's daughter, Katherine Rodriguez, who would later receive a Community Service Award by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health for her work to memorialize victims of workplace fatalities.

"We will stand with you until we make sure no more dads die in refineries," Cohen said.

CWA activists are gearing up for April 28, Workers' Memorial Day, when workers and unions remember those workers who have been killed, injured and made sick on the job, and step up the fight for safe workplaces.

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Across the country, union members will hold candlelight vigils or a moment of silence for those who have been killed on the job. Many locals will have a short ceremony at a memorial that's been established in their communities and follow up with a public forum or workshop on workers' rights on the job.


Union and Community Activists Rise Up to Fight Against "Fast Track"

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At town halls, rallies and lobbying visits to their Members of Congress, union activists have been speaking out loud and clear about their opposition to "fast track" for labor deals, especially the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

CWAers have sent in 3,140 hand-written letters, made more than 2,000 phone calls and written 55,000 emails to their representatives in the House and Senate.

Just last week, as many as 800 union and community activists from across economic sectors fanned across Capitol Hill, visiting the offices of 200 Members of Congress, with same message: reject "fast track" for bad trade deals.

Their representatives – whether in Washington, D.C., or in their districts – have been responding.

New York City Hall Press Conference

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Rep. Grace Meng of New York's 6th District announced at a New York City Hall press conference that she would oppose "fast track" when it comes before Congress. Activists from CWA Locals 1101, 1102, 1109 and 1180, who have been doing the work of informing their representatives about the perils of "fast track" came out in force for the news conference. Meng was joined by other members of New York's Congressional delegation: Reps. Nydia Velasquez, Hakeem Jeffries and Jose Serrano, all of whom oppose fast track.

Also attending the news conference were New York City Council Members and activists from CWA, the AFL-CIO and other groups, including Sierra Club; Food & Water Watch; Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY); Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU); United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW); United Federation of Teachers; New York State Nurses Association; DC 37-AFSCME; and Teamsters 817.

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District 3 Members Meeting

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CWA Local 3112 President Johnny Hernandez led the way as each delegate spent a minute at the District 3 meeting telling the audience what they're doing to fight "fast track."

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Cookies with a Message

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Stacy Bush and Cortney Haynes, IUE-CWA Local 81320 activists in Syracuse, NY, in conjunction with the letter-writing campaign to Members of Congress to reject "fast track" for the TPP, baked the "No TPP" cookies and helped deliver them to get the message out about TPP.


Eyewitness to History: Commemorating Selma's "Bloody Sunday"

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CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings and Ruth, his wife of 43 years, were among the more than 70,000 people who marked the 50th anniversary of the famous "Bloody Sunday" march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, last weekend.

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CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings and his wife Ruth marked the 50th anniversary of the famous "Bloody Sunday" march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, last weekend.

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"It was moving, quite an experience," Cummings said of the epochal civil rights event that led to the passage of legislation including the Voting Rights Act and other critical civil rights laws. "I couldn't help but think about how far we've come and also how far we have to go because there are so many of our rights that we won in that struggle that are now being taken away."

Cummings said it was especially gratifying to be there to hear President Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, speak on voting rights.

"More than anything else, it re-energizes me to do more, to make sure that our rights are protected. We need to go back to the communities and do more to make sure that people are registered to vote. We cannot allow our voting rights to be taken away. People endured trauma and beatings, they were tear-gassed and jailed. We cannot let them down by sitting out elections," Cummings said.

Cummings said CWA will work with the NAACP to organize a "Journey for Justice" trip from Selma to Washington later in the summer to focus on voting rights, workers' rights, civil rights, human rights, and the rights of everyone in our communities. The journey will include stops for events in cities along the way, he said.

Ruth Cummings has personal connections to the events that took place in Selma 50 years ago.

Her home then, where her brother Chester still lives, was one mile east of where the Edmund Pettus Bridge crosses the Alabama River. As one of the few homes with telephones in town, they hosted members of the media who came to call in their stories.

Mrs. Cummings says she was 13 on "Bloody Sunday" and was forbidden by her father to go anywhere near the bridge. Her brother, Hosea Purifoy, was 17 when he marched and was tear-gassed on "Bloody Sunday."


What Do We Do When We're Under Attack?

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President Obama stood up for union workers this week, condemning the "right-to-work" bill signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

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In West Virginia, the state legislature's attempt to pass a right-to-work bill and eliminate the state's prevailing wage got nearly 7,000 union workers to show up at the state capitol on Saturday in protest.

"It's inexcusable that, over the past several years, just when middle-class families and workers need that kind of security the most, there's been a sustained, coordinated assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government," Obama said. "I'm deeply disappointed that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen, workers in the new economy."

The president urged Wisconsin to take "meaningful action" to raise wages and offer families the security of paid leave. "That's how you give hardworking middle-class families a fair shot in the new economy – not by stripping their rights in the workplace, but by offering them all the tools they need to get ahead," he said.

Obama's words echoed what our brothers and sisters are saying across the country.

In West Virginia, nearly 7,000 union workers gathered on the steps of the state capitol on Saturday to protest the legislature's attempt to pass right-to-work and eliminate the state's prevailing wage. In the last week left in the legislative session, workers were determined to make their voices heard.

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CWA members from Missouri State Workers Union, Local 6450 in Kansas City and Local 6300 in Saint Louis, joined with allies in SEIU Local 1 for this year's Public Workers Lobby Day. They met at a local church before marching to the State Capitol.

Below: State Sen. Jill Schupp, standing with CWA activists, was elected last fall with support from union members and community allies. She has co-sponsored an equal pay bill to address gender pay disparities in public employment. State Rep. Stephen Weber has sponsored the house version of the equal pay bill and one of the leading opponents in the House against efforts to destroy bargaining rights for workers.

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The Missouri State Workers Union, CWA Local 6450 in Kansas City and CWA Local 6300 in St. Louis, joined allies for a public worker lobby day last Wednesday. Missouri workers are fighting a major battle to defeat right-to-work and paycheck deception laws moving through the legislature. Last month, for the first time in the state's history, the Missouri House passed a right-to-work bill, though the state's Democratic governor will likely veto it. And even though the governor's veto of previous paycheck deception bills was sustained, the corrupting influence of big money in politics means workers are again fighting this issue this year. Workers asked their lawmakers, "If you're interested in 'protecting' paychecks, why don't you pass an equal pay law? Why do Missouri state employees continue to be the most poorly paid government employers in our nation?"

In New Mexico, hundreds of protesters packed a Senate committee hearing room to speak out against right-to-work over the weekend. "The tone was at times sharp, with one union member warning committee members to 'choose wisely' on how they vote with 2016 elections looming and a Republican state senator telling the crowd he is not a 'stooge' for out-of-state backers of right-to-work laws," the Albuquerque Journal reported. On Tuesday, a Senate panel tabled the bill.

This fight has only just begun. Nearly 800 anti-union bills have been proposed in statehouses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

"Right-to-work will not create jobs and will lower wages for all workers – making it harder for working families to reach the American Dream," said Mark Frey, a CWA activist in Wisconsin.


New York Guild and The Times Settle Disputes Over Layoffs

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New York Guild and The New York Times have settled disputes and avoided arbitration over all 14 Guild members who initially challenged their layoffs of late last year through the contract's grievance process, TNG-CWA Local 31003 President Bill O'Meara announced yesterday. Six others who were laid off decided not to grieve their dismissals.

While the terms of the agreement are confidential, it included financial packages for each of our former colleagues that they found acceptable.

"The Guild felt confident in prevailing through the arbitration process," said Unit Chair Grant Glickson. "But we believe that a settlement was in the best interest of our members, who can now take their considerable talents and move on in their careers without going through a grueling legal battle."

Read more here.


Leah's Law Aims to Protect Child Welfare Caseworkers

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New legislation dubbed "Leah's Law" introduced today would bolster protection of New Jersey Department of Children and Families workers.

The bill is named after Leah Coleman, a CWA Local 1038 member and child protective services worker, who was stabbed 21 times by a deranged client at work last November. It would require police officers to be assigned to offices and calls for tougher penalties for people who harm employees.

The incident had occurred just a few days after the Christie administration pulled police officers out of all of its child welfare offices to save money. Without security or metal detectors, her attacker was able to walk into the building with a knife.

"I don't know if she was aware the police officers left that Friday, and Monday was the first day they weren't there, but it would've been a quick response," said Coleman, speaking about the attack for the first time at a CWA awards ceremony for her five coworkers who saved her life. Two CWA caseworkers tackled and subdued the assailant, while three HPAE nurses treated Coleman's wounds until the ambulance arrived.

"I thank you all for your love and support," she told the crowd of about 1,000 people.

After a two-week stay in the hospital, Coleman remained in bed until early January. Earlier this week, her attacker pled guilty to stabbing her and received a 13-year prison sentence.

CWA raised $18,000 in member donations to help her recovery.

"I would like to continue helping people. Maybe I can help push legislation," Coleman told NJ.com. "I'm okay. I'm strong."


Bargaining Update

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AT&T Midwest

CWA D4 Vice President Linda Hinton opened AT&T Midwest negotiations by making it clear to management that "this round of bargaining is about moving forward" and that "it's our turn." CWA members are concerned about secure jobs, health and retirement security and fairness and respect on the job, Hinton said, calling on the company "to think out-of-the box."

AT&T Midwest bargaining covers 13,000 CWAers in District 4. The D-4 bargaining committee includes Tim Strong, Local 4900; Mike Handley, 4123; Diane Bailey, 4310; Dan Frazier, 4322; George Walls, 4603 and D4 assistant to the vice president Jerry Schaeff.

Also, administrative director Curt Hess heads mobilization.

AT&T Legacy

CWA members at AT&T Legacy are looking for fairness – fair wages and benefits, fairness for future and current retirees, and fairness in access to training to the jobs of the future, Laura Unger, assistant to Bill Bates, Vice President of CWA's Telecommunications & Technology sector, told AT&T management at the opening of negotiations.

Across T&T locals, members showed their support for bargaining by wearing red, walking into work together, holding worksite meetings and bargaining rallies, standing up and "making some noise" together and other solidarity actions. AT&T Legacy bargaining covers 4,800 T&T represented workers nationwide.

The CWA Legacy bargaining team includes: Bill Bates, Vice President, T&T Sector; Mary Ellen Mazzeo, Local 1152; Roy Hegenbart, President, Local 3250; LaNell Piercy, President, Local 4252; Cindy Neumeyer, Local 13500; Laura Unger, assistant to Bill Bates; and T&T Administrative Director Lois Grimes-Patow, staff representatives Isa Shabazz and Martha Flagge.


Next CWA Telephone Town Hall Call is March 19

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The next CWA town hall call is Thursday, March. 19, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour.

Sign up for the call at http://cwa-union.org/cwacall.