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CWA e-Newsletter: May 14, 2015

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

Senate Tries Again on Fast Track

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This afternoon, the Senate resumed debate on advancing Fast Track Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals to the Senate floor. Earlier this week, 44 Senators rejected a motion that would send Fast Track to the Senate floor for discussion. Today, however, there were 60 votes to end debate and move Fast Track forward.

Following the first vote, CWA commended Senators who voted No and spotlighted concerns about trade adjustment assistance (TAA), currency manipulation and other issues that are likely to be left behind by Majority Leader McConnell's push to pass Fast Track authority.

Today's cloture vote followed intense pressure from the administration. But the earlier vote was a big victory for our coalition, with all but one Democrat voting No. It demonstrated that the strong opposition to this deal isn't going away.

Our coalition will continue to call out Senators who support Fast Track for giving away their right to amend this trade deal – that has been negotiated in secrecy – and any other trade deal negotiated through 2021. We'll step up our work focusing on House members who are the real key to winning this battle, and make sure that they hear us loud and clear: No Fast Track for the TPP!!

At a news conference on Capitol Hill with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, CWA President Cohen said, "Our cities cannot survive or thrive just with headquarters, skyscraper jobs for the fortunate few, while the rest of us clean up for the 1 percent or drive them around. Fair trade for the 21st Century ties together much of what unites us. The $11 trillion trade deficit of the last 20 years not only transfers $20 trillion of wealth to foreign governments, corporations and billionaires. But it also impoverishes our cities." (See related story on Mayor de Blasio's progressive agenda.)

NYC Mayor De Blasio Launches a Progressive Agenda for America

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio believes income inequality is a national crisis that defines our time and he came to Washington this week to launch a Progressive Agenda for America to begin to address the issue.

His 13-point plan includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; enacting paid sick and family leave laws; providing universal pre-kindergarten and after-school and child care for families; and closing tax loopholes that corporations and their CEOs use to avoid paying their fair share.

De Blasio found like-minded allies in Washington – progressive activists, elected officials and labor leaders, including CWA President Larry Cohen. Cohen said that the progressive agenda could be found in "our common story."

"It's a story about democracy, opportunity, a fair economy," he said. "It's about cutting $1 trillion in student debt that is choking our families. It's about bargaining rights for workers, not just accepting what we are offered as the stock market soars. It's about that higher minimum wage and raising, not cutting, social security. Most of all, it's about decent jobs in a global economy with rules that prevent a race to the bottom."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd District) said the broad coalition shows, "a hunger in the United States of America today for a genuine progressive agenda."

"Over the past 25 years, a succession of trade agreements have sent U.S. jobs overseas and have depressed wages," she said. "The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens American jobs, wages and regulations. That is exactly why we must set our public policy on a new path and a progressive agenda is that path. It's like putting working families at the heart of our national conversation."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA 13th District) said racial justice needs to be part of the agenda, part of economic justice for all.

"We support families with educational opportunities, from pre-school and head-start to affordable college. We also advance some basic tax fairness by ending corporate welfare. That's what a progressive agenda does. We combat income inequality and restore the opportunity to each and every American to live the American dream by investing in families instead of the super-rich and special interests," Lee said.

De Blasio said he could feel change coming in America and said, "[it] is time to take that energy and crystalize it into an agenda that will make a difference."

"It's time to put people ahead of profits and value work over wealth," the mayor said. "We'll be calling on leaders and candidates to address these issues, to stiffen their backbones, to be clear and to champion these progressive policies. And we know that this call will grow. Everyday people will join it."


CWA President Larry Cohen joins NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Unions Protest Christie's Pension Fund Cut

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"Governor Christie, breaking his word! Breaking the law!"


Workers protest the attack on the New Jersey pension fund and shout, "Christie is breaking the law!"

Below: CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton says, "Governor Christie is in New Hampshire today, but he will hear us!"


About 4,000 CWA and other public-sector union members – all dressed in red – surrounded New Jersey's Statehouse on Tuesday to protest the governor's decision to axe $1.57 billion from a promised payment to public workers' pension system.

"It takes a special kind of carelessness and cruelty to be willing to burn down the American dream that my father worked so hard to achieve," said CWA's New Jersey director Hetty Rosenstein, whose 90-year-old mother relies on her father's public pension. "But that is the fight that we will wage here. I know I will fight as if a cruel monster is trying to drag my mother from her lovely home. I will stand on her steps and shout, 'They shall not pass!'"

Watch Rosenstein's full speech here.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney told the crowd, "If this was in the private sector, this would be theft. I am committed to fight this to the death."

Just last week, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on what to do next. CWA and more than a dozen labor unions made the case that, under the constitution, the governor must increase payments into the pension system. In 2011, Christie and state lawmakers passed a law raising workers' pension contributions, upping the age of retirement and slashing cost-of-living adjustments. In return, the state vowed to begin putting more money into the pension system each year to make amends for previous shortfalls. But while workers kept their word, Christie reneged.

Christie was traveling in New Hampshire during the demonstration. But protestors chanted this promise: "We will be back!"

Watch a video of the rally here.

CWA Activists Across the Nation Rally to Oppose Fast Track, TPP

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CWA Activists joined with allies and other labor organizations to continue the campaign against Fast Track for bad trade deals, including for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership that the U.S. is negotiating with 11 Pacific Rim nations such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

CWAers are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to defeat Fast Track. They have generated 14,405 handwritten letters and 12,965 calls to targeted House members and Senators so far. They are also continuing their letter-writing, e-mailing and phone calls and visiting Congressional members' offices, as well as holding town hall meetings and rallies.

Making Sure You're Seen and Heard

04a_Fast_Track_Bus-OR1 04b_Fast_Track_Bus-OR2

When your protest is drowned out by some of the other voices out there, you may have to do a little bit more to get your issue noticed. Pres. Barack Obama was at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, OR, last week, pushing trade. CWA activists, including Local 7901 Retiree Mary Clisby and Active CTL member Rose Secrest Sarver, came to protest Fast Track. They did such good job the Oregonian newspaper noticed and put them in a slide show headlined: How to stand out at an Obama protest in Portland? Build a bus.


CWA Local 3808


Members of CWA Local 3808 in Nashville, T – joined by labor allies from the AFL-CIO and other unions – rallied against Fast Track in front of the office of Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN 5th District).


Hoyer Stop Fast Track Action


Fast Track opponents dropped off shoes in front of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer's (D-MD) 5th District office last Thursday. The activists asked Hoyer, a TPP supporter, to say "no" to Fast Track and "to not walk away from Maryland Jobs."


Rep. Blum Gets a Visit


Americans for Democratic Action, CWA and UAW members urged Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) to say "no" to Fast Track.


Claire McCaskill Hears from Missourians


CWAers protest outside of Sen. Claire McCaskill's St. Louis, MO and Kansas City, MO, offices.


Special Delivery for Rep. Don Beyer


Rep. Beyer's (D-VA 8th District) constituents, including CWA Local 2222 members, came to his Washington, DC, office to deliver letters from thousands of constituents who wrote telling him to reject Fast Track and say "no" to the TPP.


Above and Beyond...


CWA Local 1103 members phone banked the constituents of Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican whose New York district is at least 100 miles away from the local. Why? Because of their hard work, they had already locked down commitments from Hudson Valley members of Congress to oppose Fast Track and the TPP. Those members of Congress are actually now helping educate their House colleagues as well as the public about the dangers of bad trade deals.


Elected Leaders Speaking out against Fast Track, TPP


Several members of the Illinois delegation held a news conference to talk about bad trade deals like the TPP and their determination to defeat Fast Track.
From left
: CWA Local 4250 Vice President Sylvia Chapman; Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL 2nd District); staff member for Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL 7th District) and Grace Catania, TNG-CWA Local 34071.

Kelly said, "I'm here as a public servant to Illinois and in all due respect to this Administration, to say that we must engage in broader and deeper discussions about trade. The U.S. cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better."


Senator Pat Toomey Gets Trade Lesson


CWAers visited Senator Pat Toomey's Philadelphia office to tell him to stop Fast Track and the job-killing TPP trade deal.


Gratitude from Constituents


Meanwhile, Rep. André Carson (D-IN 7th District) read letters thanking him for his opposition to Fast Track and the TPP.


Wasserman-Schultz Urged to Oppose Fast Track


DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL 23rd District) heard from CWAers opposed to Fast Track for the TPP.


Sen. Rob Portman Shut Ears to Constituents


In rallies, including this one in Cincinnati last week, and town hall meetings and office visits, activists have told Senator Portman they don't support Fast Track or the TPP, but Portman is not listening. Maybe, he'll hear them one election day soon.

Congress Asks: Who Is Writing the TPP?

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In a stunning op-ed in the Boston Globe, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) pull back the curtain on the authors of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The congresswomen reveal, "powerful corporate interests have spent a lot of time and money trying to bend Washington's rules to benefit themselves, and now they want Congress to grease the skids for a TPP deal that corporations have helped write but the public can't see."

They write:

The president argues that the TPP is about who will "write the rules" for 40 percent of the world's economy – the United States or China. But who is writing the TPP? The text has been classified and the public isn't permitted to see it, but 28 trade advisory committees have been intimately involved in the negotiations. Of the 566 committee members, 480 – or 85 percent – are senior corporate executives or representatives from industry lobbying groups. Many of the advisory committees are made up entirely of industry representatives.

A rigged process leads to a rigged outcome. For evidence of that tilt, look at a key TPP provision: Investor-State Dispute Settlement, where big companies get the right to challenge laws they don't like in front of industry-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside of any court system. Those panels can force taxpayers to write huge checks to big corporations – with no appeals. Workers, environmentalists, and human rights advocates don't get that special right.

Most Americans don't think of the minimum wage or antismoking regulations as trade barriers. But a foreign corporation has used ISDS to sue Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage. Phillip Morris has gone after Australia and Uruguay to stop them from implementing rules to cut smoking rates. Under the TPP, companies could use ISDS to challenge these kinds of government policy decisions – including food safety rules.

Read it in full here.

Bargaining Update

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Tentative Contracts at AT&T Midwest, Legacy

CWA bargaining teams reached tentative three-year agreements at AT&T Midwest and AT&T Legacy. The tentative agreements provide for wage increases, pension safeguards, improvements in job security and other gains, resulting in real economic improvement and an increase in workers' standard of living.

CWA represents about 13,000 workers at AT&T Midwest operations in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. AT&T Legacy is a nationwide unit representing about 4,500 workers. Negotiations with AT&T Southeast, covering 27,000 workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, will get underway this summer.

Read more at Contract details are being provided to CWA members for ratification votes.

Missouri Governor Poised to Veto Right-To-Work Bill

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This week the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly passed a right-to-work bill – but it's not veto proof.


District 6 CWA members turned up at the Missouri statehouse to observe legislators vote on Right-to-Work laws.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Senate filibustered the bill for more than nine hours and passed it with a 21-13 vote, short of the 23 votes they would need to overturn a veto. The next day, the bill moved back to the Missouri House, which gave its approval by a 92-66 vote, falling short of the 109 votes needed to override the governor's veto.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to veto the legislation soon.

"Attacking workers and weakening the middle class will not create jobs," said Nixon in a statement. "In fact, rolling back the rights of working people would weaken our economy by lowering wages and making it harder for middle class families to move up the economic ladder. This bill also takes the extreme step of subjecting Missouri employers to criminal and unlimited civil liability, which would stifle growth and discourage investment in our state. At a time when our economy is picking up steam and businesses are creating good jobs, this so-called Right-to-Work bill would take Missouri backwards."

CWA is now turning its focus to the veto session in September, where activists will be supporting labor-friendly Democrats and Republicans who have supported and continue to support union workers.

CEOs Get A Pay Raise – Again

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CEOs of the nation's largest corporations already get paid a disgusting amount. But in 2014, they all received a nearly 16 percent raise.

The latest data for the AFL-CIO's Executive PayWatch found that an S&P 500 company CEO averaged $13.5 million per year, while the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned $36,000 each year – an alarming ratio of 373-to-1.


One of the biggest pay gaps was at mega-retailer Walmart, where CEO Doug McMillion earns $9,323 an hour. An entry-level Walmart employee earning just $9 an hour would have to work for 1,036 hours just to equal that pay.

"In 2013, I earned about $12,000 as a full-time employee, which, at Walmart, isn't always 40 hours each week," said Tiffany, a former Walmart worker. "These poverty wages forced my family to receive public assistance. Walmart doesn't value me. I believe in working hard and that my work should be valued. This is why I will not stop fighting until Walmart commits to raising wages and begins valuing all of its workers."

Congress passed a law five years ago that requires all publicly traded companies to disclose the ratio between the CEO and its median worker. But Wall Street and big corporations continue to lobby hard to prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from enforcing this rule.

Sign this petition urging the SEC to life the veil and require companies to disclose their ratio of CEO-to-median employee pay.

And check out to learn more about the pay of top executives broken down by state and industry.

CWA in Solidarity with Postal Workers on their National Day of Action

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CWA President Larry Cohen joined American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein, Bree Ambrose of AFGE, actor Danny Glover and other labor activists in firing up scores of APWU members and supporters as they kick off a National Day of Action in Washington on Thursday.

AFGE is calling on United States Postal Service leadership to take steps to improve service and protect good, living wage jobs across the United States as they open negotiations with the United States Postal Service.


Danny Glover, whose parents were postal workers, joins the National Day of Action.

Rallies took place on Thursday in 85 cities across 42 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Glover, an award winning actor on both stage and screen, told the crowd that both his parents were postal employees, and both saw their family-supporting jobs as the key to a better life for their family. Following the rally, Glover participated in a national satellite media tour, appearing in over two dozen markets across America.

During contract negotiations, the APWU has made the unprecedented move of bringing consumer issues to the bargaining table, insisting that quality service is crucial to creating a strong public postal service. Among other demands, postal workers are asking for extended hours at post offices, shorter wait times for customers and an end to the closure of dozens of mail sorting centers across the country that have led to service delays – particularly in rural areas.

"U.S. Postal Service Executives and the agency's Board of Governors are using a manufactured financial crisis to justify their strategy of reducing service, delaying mail delivery and dismantling a great national treasure," Dimondstein said.