CWA e-Newsletter: May 1, 2014 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: May 1, 2014

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.

CWA Members Mourn the Dead, Fight for the Living on Workers Memorial Day

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This Workers Memorial Day, CWAers across the country joined union and safety and health activists in commemorating those workers who have been injured, made sick or killed on the job.

We mourned the dead, offered prayers and vigils, and pledged to "fight for the living" by continuing to work for safer, healthier workplaces.

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Houston activists from 13 unions, community groups, faith leaders and others mark Workers Memorial Day at CWA Local 6222.

Below: Members of CWA Local 9400 show their support for Workers Memorial Day by wearing Safe Jobs Save Lives stickers.

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Elected officials including State Senator Sylvia Garcia and representatives from Rep. Al Green and candidate-for-governor Wendy Davis also attended, along with UNIVISION, Telemundo and KPFT media.

First the first time in two years, members of D9 Locals were able to wear Safe Jobs Save Lives stickers. Two years ago, workers were told "to take the stickers off or no work for you today," but a decision by an NLRB administrative law judge threw out that management rule. (See next story.)

Members of CWA Locals 4900 laid flowers at the Indiana statehouse, where there was a reading of the names of the 203 Indiana workers who lost their lives last year. CWA Local 1103 joined the Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Body vigil in White Plains, NY.

CWA members stood with LIUNA and IBEW workers at the annual Workers Memorial Mass, also known as the blessing of the hard hats, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Long Island, NY. Check out this Newsday video of the event.

Workers Memorial Day falls on April 28, the day in 1971 that the federal government established the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. But decades later, it's important to remember that we have a great deal of work to do to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. Some employers continue to cut corners and violate the law. We have workplace exposure standards for only a small fraction of chemicals used on the job, and so-called "silent killers" like silica dust and asbestos are responsible for worker deaths every year.

For CWA telecom members, electrocution, heat stress and confined spaces are real dangers. Health care and university workers must deal with exposure to chemicals and other toxic substances. Ergonomic injuries, now not covered by OSHA, are real.

"We must never accept that injury, illness, or death is the cost of doing business," said President Obama. "Workers are the backbone of our economy, and no one's prosperity should come at the expense of their safety. Today, let us celebrate our workers by upholding their basic right to clock out and return home at the end of each shift."

As recently as 2012, a total of 4,383 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though most fatalities from work-related illness are not captured by national surveillance systems, an estimated 53,445 workers died in 2007.

Women are especially affected by lack of health and safety regulations. Check out RadioLabour's special report on health and safety at www.radiolabour.net.

 

Judge Upholds CWA Workers' Right to Wear and Display Pro-Union Messages

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Members of CWA Local 9509 can show their support for safe jobs following an administrative law judge's ruling that upheld workers' rights to display pro-union materials.

CWA District 9 Vice President Laura Reynolds reported that CWA members won a big victory with their right to wear and display pro-union messages upheld by an NLRB administrative law judge.

In April 2012, some CWA members were disciplined by Pacific & Nevada Bell Telephone for wearing and displaying pro-union messages on stickers and buttons, as well as on company trucks, laptops and lockers. About 18 months later, an NLRB regional director issued an amended complaint against the company for several labor law violations related to this unfair discipline. A hearing before an administrative law judge brought a clear victory for our members' rights to show support for our union.

Judge John McCarrick found that the company violated the fundamental tenets of federal labor law, and that language in the employer's Premises Guidelines also violates the National Labor Relations Act. His recommended order requires that the company "cease and desist from maintaining and enforcing this rule in its Premises Technicians Guidelines employee handbook."

"Without a doubt, the workers who showed their union support and stood up for their rights are heroes of our union movement," Reynolds said.

 

Organizing Update

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Wells Fargo Workers, Communities Mobilize in National Day of Action

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In Irvington, N.J., bank workers and supporters call for justice at Wells Fargo.

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This week, the Committee for Better Banks, a labor and community coalition that CWA is helping to lead and support, held actions nationwide to focus public attention on Wells Fargo practices that are harming communities, consumers and workers.

In more than 30 cities, labor, consumer and community activists were joined by elected officials in spotlighting Wells Fargo lending and foreclosure practices that are evidence of the company's culture of profit over people. The National Day of Action Against Wells Fargo was held as shareholders met for the bank's annual meeting in San Antonio, Tex. "While Wells Fargo shareholders are gathering in San Antonio to celebrate record profits, bank workers, homeowners and community activists are joining together to demand justice and the return of stolen wealth to our communities," the Committee said.

In Irvington, N.J., bank workers, homeowners and community leaders rallied, marched to the Wells Fargo branch and delivered more than 4,000 petitions to bank officials, calling for an end to the bank's predatory practices. The petitions included the signatures of 1,300 Wells Fargo employees,

Bank workers testified to the company's demands that workers push financial products onto customers who don't need them. "Wells Fargo is reaping record profits while low-wage bank workers do the dirty work of exploiting their customers. It's not right and this is why I'm speaking out," said Jonnelle Rodriguez, a former Wells Fargo teller and a member of Committee for Better Banks.

They describe their work environment as a "pressure cooker," with constant pressure by management to make more sales taking a toll on workers and customers.

Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith called on Wells Fargo to do the right thing. "With the company reporting record profits, we hope that Wells Fargo will utilize the spirit of the Community Reinvestment Act and assist people so that they may stay in their homes." Wells Fargo has been forced to pay out $224 million in settlements to homeowners since 2009 for predatory lending practices, especially for practices targeting veterans and communities of color that resulted in widespread foreclosures. Currently in Irvington, more than 100 homeowners are in foreclosure to Wells Fargo.

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Cablevision techs, members of CWA 1109, who are in a tough contract fight, send a message of support to Brooklyn Verizon Wireless workers.

Actions were held in St. Louis and Minneapolis, and petitions also were delivered to Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco and in other cities.

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Verizon Wireless Workers to Vote on CWA Voice

May 14 is Election Day for 63 workers at seven Verizon Wireless retail stores in Brooklyn. They've been getting lots of support from New York AT&T Mobility members, and from Cablevision workers who are standing strong in their own contract fight.

 

Movement Building

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Immigration Reform: The Time is Now

CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins was among the more than 20 people arrested Apr. 30 at a demonstration near the U.S. Capitol to pressure the House of Representatives to take action on comprehensive immigration reform now. Demonstrators sat down in the middle of a major intersection in the pouring rain and chanted, "Boehner, Boehner, don't lock us in a chamber" and "the youth united will never be divided."

"Stop separating families" was the message of the day, and seven young people chose to be arrested, to show their concern for their own families and others who are enduring separation, and who for now have no path to legalization and citizenship. The youngest to be arrested was Yahir Servin, an 11-year-old boy from Alabama, whose father was detained and deported two years ago. "Families need to stay together, because sometimes you need the love of your father and your mother and your sister. It's too hard without that support." [Reported by USA Today.]

Indhire Carrillo, 14, from Colorado, said because her father was deported, "my mom, she has to work three jobs, and that is really hard for her. My youngest sibling just turned 11 and it's hard for him. He hasn't had his dad." [Reported by USA Today.]

Elias Gonzalez, 15, said he was protesting because his father was deported to Mexico eight years ago, forcing young Elias to step into a caretaker role with his younger siblings. "I lost my childhood. But I'm protesting not just for me but so that deportations don't continue separating other families." [Reported by Associated Press.]

Collins said, "Being here, with these courageous young people, makes all of us even more determined to move Congress forward on real immigration reform. It's long overdue."

It has been 305 days since the Senate passed a bi-partisan immigration reform measure, Fair Immigration Reform Movement said. House Republican leadership has refused to bring a comprehensive reform measure to the floor.

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CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, with immigration activists, is arrested at a Capitol Hill protest. .

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Many young people joined the protest on Capitol Hill, to spotlight how families are being harmed by Congress's refusal to act.

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Tennessee: Put the People First

On May 1, Tennessee's "Put the People First" coalition held actions and events in Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Johnson City and Cookeville. The group includes members of United Campus Workers-CWA Local 3865, SEIU Local 205, the UAW, Workers Interfaith Network, Jobs with Justice, the NAACP, students, Citizen Action and more.

The North Carolina "Moral Mondays" have been an inspiration and the Tennessee coalition will work to put economic and social justice issues front and center in the state.

Read more here.

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Setting Up Camp McCarthy

Immigration reform activists, including members of CWA Local 9415, held a march for immigration reform, then set up "Camp McCarthy" outside the district office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy in Bakersfield, California, to push McCarthy, a Republican House leader, to schedule a vote on immigration reform in the House.

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Immigration activists in Bakerfield, Calif., tell Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) to bring reform to the House floor for a vote.

 

Standing Up for Retiree Health Care

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IUE-CWA members from four states protest at the GE annual meeting in Chicago.

Below: NABET-CWA members tell GE to keep its promise to retirees: From left: Debra Slimko, sec.-treas., CWA Local 4250; Liz VanDerWoude, president, CWA Local 4250; President Emeritus Ray W. Taylor, NABET-CWA Local 54041, and Sylvia Chapman, vice president, CWA Local 4250.

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CWAers from across our union joined a demonstration outside General Electric's annual shareholder meeting in Chicago last week.

More than 80 IUE-CWA GE retirees from Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York traveled to Chicago to press for retirement security, including health care protections for retirees and the addition of pension cost-of-living adjustments.

Joining them were active and retired NABET-CWA and CWA Local 4250 activists, who were protesting changes to retiree health care coverage announced by the company that affect NABET-CWA members who retired from GE while that company owned NBC.

Inside the meeting, NABET-CWA Retiree Coordinator and RMC Media Sector President Bill Freeda challenged GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Emmelt and the company's board of directors to fulfill the promise it made to workers on retiree health security.

GE's decision to terminate post-age-65 retirement health care benefits as of next January for anyone not yet 65 years old as of that date, "will have a devastating effect on the quality of life of so many thousands of our GE family members," Freeda said.

He challenged members of the board to "have the courage to reverse the policy."

 

Bargaining Update

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As bargaining for a new contract for Alcatel-Lucent installers gets underway next week in Washington, D.C., CWAers will rally outside the Alcatel-Lucent Test Center in Dublin, Ohio, one of the biggest installer locations in the company.

CWA Alcatel-Lucent installers are "fighting for our place in the future" and want to keep these highly skilled jobs from being contracted out.

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Members of NABET-CWA Local 52031 who work at the House of Representatives Recording Studio ratified a four- year contract after more than a year of tough bargaining. The contract calls for workers to be paid back pay for the overtime earnings that the House had unilaterally and wrongly withheld to April 1, 2013.

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The contract covering 1,600 workers at Frontier Communications in West Virginia has been extended through May 31.

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Iowa's Woodbury County sheriff's master deputies and sergeants will get a 2 percent pay increase under a contract approved Tuesday. CWA Local 7177 represents 31 workers. Read more here.

 

At Senate Hearing: Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens Warns of Destructive Influence of Big Money in Politics

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Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was exactly on target when he testified about the destructive effect of big money on our democracy and called for changes that will restrict the influence of big money and secret spending in our elections and our politics. "While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive the same constitutional protection as speech itself. After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglaries – actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment," Stevens said.

The retired justice has it right.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court turned election and political spending upside down in its January 2010 Citizens United decision. With the Court's determination that "corporations are people too," with free speech rights and other individual liberties, it eliminated the campaign spending restrictions that were put in place to stop corporations and other groups from exerting undue influence and spending millions of dollars in the electoral process. Stevens wrote the dissenting opinion in Citizens United. The Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC this April went even farther, striking down aggregate contribution limits and permitting one super-wealthy donor to inject up to $3.6 million into our politics.

Watch Justice Stevens' testimony here.

The impact of all this money is a growing conviction by Americans that their votes don't count, that our political process is controlled by the biggest bankroll, and that money, not the public interest, sets policies and priorities in government. All this big money gives a big voice to the wealthy and corporations, at the expense of the rest of us. It threatens the democratic voice that is the foundation of our country. Our representatives must spend too much time raising money. For some legislators, that leaves little time and less interest in developing the policies and programs that working families need. Like Justice Stevens, CWA believes that lawmakers would do a better job if they didn't have to spend so much time raising money.

Sen. Richard Durbin's (D-Ill.) "Fair Elections Now" Act and the "Government By the People" Act, introduced by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), are good first steps to reducing the influence of big donors over federal elections, enhancing the voice of small donors and helping to develop an effective, voluntary campaign finance system. The Senate also will vote on an amendment by Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) to overturn the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon.

 

People To Follow

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Did you know CWA locals are getting on Twitter? Get your updates from ...

@CWA_Local_9421
@cwa3407
@CWALocal4340
@CWA4900
@CWA3682
@CWA9423
@cwa1101
@CWALocal1014
@CWA1170
@CWA7200

Who did we miss? Let us know!