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CWA e-Newsletter: May 15, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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Breaking: Verizon Wireless Retail Store Workers in Brooklyn Vote CWA

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In a huge win for Verizon Wireless workers, retail store workers at six Verizon Wireless stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., voted for a union voice and representation by CWA Local 1109.


VZW workers celebrate a sweet victory. Retail store workers voted 39-19 for CWA representation. Below, VZW workers show off their solidarity and red CWA wrist bands.


This vote is a breakthrough not only for these workers but for thousands more across Verizon Wireless who want a union to help address their issues on the job. For more than a decade, Verizon has done everything possible to prevent VZW workers from joining 40,000 Verizon Communications workers and 80 Verizon Wireless technicians who already have CWA representation.

Today's vote begins to break down that barrier and ensures representation to these retail stores workers. They also join more than 40,000 workers at AT&T Mobility who have organized without fear at their company for nearly two decades.

Today, the Brooklyn workers are wearing red to celebrate their victory.

Bianca Cunningham, who works at the Bensonhurst store, said, "We walked in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters who fought before us. We banded together in the face of adversity and combatted fear with hope. We look forward to Verizon Wireless workers stepping out of the shadows and joining the 40,000 strong in CWA who work at Verizon to continue to fight for the middle class."

VZW executives kept up an intense campaign against workers who wanted a union voice to address their job insecurity, declining wages and discipline for unreasonable/unfair sales metrics.

Workers were ordered to attend one-on-one captive meetings with management as often as three times a day. On Monday, on the eve of the election, the company even shut down several of the Wireless outlets for as long as two hours to inundate the workers with anti-union propaganda. The number of corporate executives camping out in the six stores was a "who's who" of top company management.

The VZW workers had a lot of great support from CWA members, including AT&T Mobility retail workers in New York – check out their video, and Verizon Wireless techs and Verizon members who told the VZW store workers, "there's 40,000 of us and we have your back."

They also received support from numerous elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Ras Baraka Wins Newark Mayoral Race

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Newark voters elected Ras Baraka, a city councilman and staunch CWA ally, mayor of New Jersey's largest city Tuesday night.

"We are the mayor!" he told supporters at his victory party. Those words were a familiar rallying cry to the many grassroots activists who volunteered on his campaign.

Lillian Pichardo-Mancheno, a Newark resident and CWA Local 1037 shop steward, said, "It wasn't just a campaign slogan. Ras' track record as a Newark high school principal and a Newark councilmember clearly demonstrates that he prioritizes the people of Newark over the interests of Wall Street."

Baraka succeeds Cory Booker, who left office last year after winning a seat in the United States Senate. Baraka won 54 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for fellow Democrat and former state assistant attorney general Shavar Jeffries.


CWA Local 1037 members were a big part of the campaign to elect Ras Bakara mayor of Newark. They knocked on doors and spread the word about Bakara's support for working families.


"This is a stunning victory for the justice and democracy movement," said CWA New Jersey State Director Hetty Rosenstein. "Ras Baraka began this journey by saying this wasn't a campaign, it's a movement. His vision for Newark exactly matches CWA's vision of a broad based movement for economic justice and democracy. This shared vision played itself out in a campaign where we were outspent 10 to 1 by Wall Street money and in the end, union members, students, parents, and seniors overcame school privatizers, hedge funders and political machine bosses to elect the most progressive mayor in the United States."

CWA members who live and work in Newark campaigned for Baraka, spreading the word about why he was the best candidate for working families. Even in the final hours before the polls closed, Wall Street's unprecedented fundraising couldn't match the droves of supporters who worked the phones and hit the streets to get out the vote.

"CWA Local 1037 and our friends at the NJ Working Families Alliance, NJ Communities United and the Newark Students Union worked hard to make sure that Ras Baraka became Newark's next Mayor," said Ken McNamara, president of Local 1037. "It's a new day in Newark. It's our time. And we couldn't be more thrilled. Now the real work of restoring the city to the people begins."

"This is the moment that you reach inside and we all pull out a win," said CWA Local 1037 representative Christian Estevez, firing up more than 150 canvassers on Tuesday afternoon. "Nobody comes back early. You knock on doors again and again and again until the polls close. We're going to win because of you."

"I'm so proud of all my Local 1037 brothers and sisters who dedicated months of their time to make sure Ras Baraka became the next Mayor of Newark," said Annie Huff, a Newark resident and CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward. "We knocked on doors. We made phone calls. We attended rallies. We supported Ras Baraka and everything he stands for. And we did it because we believe that Newark and our future will be stronger under his leadership."

Bargaining Update

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Purple Communications


Members of TNG-CWA Local 39521 at Purple Communications held a one-day strike to protest their company's unilateral move on health care. Copyright David Bacon.


American Sign Language interpreters launched a one-day strike against Purple Communications on Monday to protest the company's abrupt decision to change health care benefits without reaching a contract agreement with union negotiators.

Members of ASL Interpreters United, an affiliate of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521, carried picket signs outside unionized Purple worksites in Oakland, Denver, San Diego and Tempe, Ariz., declaring the interpreters were "stronger together." In some locations, strike participation was close to 100 percent.

"I love all the strong community support," Laurie Rivard, an ASL interpreter and union leader, said during the Oakland picketing, where horns honked throughout the day.

The interpreters organized 18 months ago.

Read more here.


WPIX, a New York City television station, violated the contract with The Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003, when it removed web producers from Guild jurisdiction, Arbitrator Rosemary A. Townley ruled.

The award requires WPIX to restore the web producers to Guild membership with no reduction in base salary and remit back union dues along with interest, at company expense, for wages paid to the web producers after their removal from the Guild.

Townley also ruled on April 6 that WPIX violated the collective bargaining agreement by not meeting with the Guild prior to changing the job title and duties of the employees responsible for web content.

"We are very pleased that the arbitrator agreed with The Guild's view that the employees creating content for the website should be covered by, and protected by, the union contract," said Guild President Bill O'Meara, a former news editor at WPIX.

WPIX is owned by the Tribune Co.

Turn Off Fox2

Members of NABET-CWA Local 54043 are in a tough fight with Detroit's Fox 2, WJBK. Contract negotiations began a year ago, and management continues to demand the right to assign just about any station employee to shoot video with lights, tripod and mic and transmit that video to the station.

Management also wants to limit job security, end breaks for workers despite their working for 7.5 hours straight, stop providing photographers gear for inclement weather, among other issues.

NABET-CWA members and community supporters have mounted a "turn off 2" campaign. Check out the great video.

This Is Why We Said Give Us 5

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Last summer we flooded congressional offices with calls, e-mails and petition signatures, telling our lawmakers, "Give Us 5!" We won.

Now, nearly a year later, we see why a full strength National Labor Relations Board is so important. In its most recent move, the NLRB is reconsidering whether an employer can stop workers from using the company e-mail system for organizing. And it's a big deal for CWAers.

The case in question involves Purple Communications, which employs interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing, who are represented by TNG-CWA Local 3952. Last October, an administrative law judge workers' claim that the company's e-mail policy unlawfully restricted their right to discuss their jobs and stuck by a Bush-era NLRB decision that said CWA-represented newsroom employees at The Register Guard had "no statutory right" to use their employer's e-mail system for Section 7 purposes. Read that decision here.

Now the NLRB is saying – hold on, let's think about it some more. It's also asking interested groups to weigh in on related electronic communications questions:

  • Do employees' personal electronic devices (e.g., phones, tablets), social media accounts, and/or personal email accounts affect the proper balance to be struck between employers' rights and employees' Section 7 rights to communicate about work-related matters? If so, how?
  • Identify any other technological issues concerning email or other electronic communications systems that the Board should consider in answering the foregoing questions, including any relevant changes that may have occurred in electronic communications technology since Register Guard was decided. How should these affect the Board's decision?

Stay tuned, and check out the case. This is about to get interesting.

Money in Politics Update

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The California State Legislature has passed a bill requiring non-profit groups that contribute secret or "dark money" to political campaigns to reveal their secret funders when they spend more than $50,000 in state campaigns in one year, or more than $100,000 over four consecutive years. The measure also requires committees that push for or against ballot measures to release a list of the top 10 contributors who gave $10,000 or more, if they raise at least $1 million.

Governor Jerry Brown, a big proponent of "shedding light on dark money," signed the bill on May 14.

A huge outpouring of support from CWA and union activists, good government groups, MoveOn, the faith community and others pushed the vote forward. More than 40,000 people signed online petitions for SB 27, and more than 1,000 people called their Senators.

The measure is a good step toward transparency and ending the flood of secret money in California elections. The bill also has national implications, because it will require more transparency from non-profit organizations that spend significant amounts on California campaigns. Out-of-state, non-profit groups spent $11 million in California races in the 2012 elections, without revealing their donors.

CWA supports state and national legislation like the federal DISCLOSE Act, which would increase transparency of independent groups' campaign spending. That bill couldn't overcome a Republican-led filibuster last year. "Disclosing who sponsors and pays for political ads will bring needed transparency to our political system. Allowing big money donors to spread their message in secrecy is clearly the wrong message for our democracy," said CWA President Larry Cohen.


Members of CWA Local 1103's Women's & Equity Committee are helping to lead the local's fight against money in politics.


Local 1103's Women's & Equity Committee helped launch the local's campaign to enlist members of the state legislature in the fight to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United and McCutcheon cases.

Beginning next week, New York Local members will be asked to send emails to their Assembly members and Senators, asking them to sign on to a letter to Congress that makes it clear that corporations are not people, money isn't speech and that the U.S. Constitution must reflect this principle.

Movement Building Update

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Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, made a huge impression on CWAers and allies at the legislative-political and movement building conference. Watch his remarks here.


Allies in the Fight Against Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership


Some 175 groups signed onto this ad that ran on May 7 in Politico, a must-read Capitol Hill newspaper. Unions, environmental groups, people of faith, good government organizations, citizens alliances and many more are standing together in the fight to defeat fast track and to finally gain 21st century trade policies that benefit workers, consumers and communities, not investors and multinationals.

Second Anniversary of Colombia Trade Deal

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This week marks the second anniversary of the Colombia Trade Agreement. It's a perfect example of why unions, environmentalists and our community allies know better than to accept the empty promises now being offered by advocates of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

CWA, other unions, the AFL-CIO and many organizations opposed the Colombian trade deal. And just as we're hearing with the TPP, there were a lot of promises made by top U.S. trade officials. There would be strong labor and environmental standards built in, and we could help raise the standards and conditions for Colombian workers. Of course, that didn't happen.

Three years ago, we were told that the labor action plan would address the violence that targets union leaders in Colombia. We were assured that there would be legal reforms so that workers could be considered employees, not subcontractors or working for cooperatives and ineligible for government benefits like social security. The overwhelming majority of Colombian workers don't even have the most basic labor rights. That hasn't changed under the free trade agreement. We also were told that criminal prosecutions of companies that repress workers' rights would be pursued.

None of that has happened. In the three years since the action plan was signed, another 73 Colombian unionists were killed. Last year, 26 were murdered. Since 1986, 3,000 union workers and activists have been murdered, just because they wanted a union.

Workers are no closer to being classified as employees instead of contractors, and not one fine has been paid by a company for violating workers' rights.

So we have good reason to be skeptical about the TPP. One of the TPP countries is Vietnam, where labor rights are non-existent, minimum wages are 28 cents an hour, average wages are 75 cents an hour, and there is no leverage for that government to change anything. The TPP trade ministers now are finishing up talks in Vietnam, then will go to Singapore to review where things stand.

CWA President Larry Cohen told radio host Ed Schultz that "about a quarter of our economy is tradeable, that means both manufacturing and service sector jobs are affected and the work can be done anywhere. For the jobs that remain here, wages also are dragged down."

"The Democratic caucus needs to tell the White House, 'we hope you don't expect to get your votes for this trade deal from (Speaker) Boehner and Republicans. We want a commitment that there will be no fast track until the majority of this caucus supports the TPP. There will be no fast track unless this caucus supports TPP,'" he said.

Christie Forces Unfair Civil Service Overhaul

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Even though the New Jersey state legislature blocked changes to the civil service system that would lead to patronage and cronyism, Gov. Chris Christie (R) has pushed through the new rules anyway.

Last week, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission voted to set up the new regulations on how state workers are hired, promoted and fired, ignoring the legislature's resolution that prohibited the alternations because they violate New Jersey's constitution.

This week, New Jersey's top Democratic state lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie and the chairman of the state Civil Service Commission calling on them to stop the controversial changes to the rules.

CWA, which represents 40,000 state workers, is considering legal recourse. Seth Hahn, CWA's New Jersey political and legislative director, said, "it is inconceivable that the Christie administration is granting itself permission to promote anyone it wants, while getting rid of oversight and objective standards for fairness."

He added, "If we've learned anything over the past several months, it's that we need more oversight and more transparency and less political influence in jobs and promotions in state government."

Bullies like Christie think they can get what they want. But the people won't accept this kind of government.

No CWA Telephone Town Hall in May

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There won't be a CWA telephone town hall call in May. But make sure you pick up the phone on June 19 around 7:30 ET, for June's town hall call.


Are You On Twitter?

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More CWA locals are sharing their minute-to-minute updates on Twitter. We've started following ...


How about you?