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CWA e-Newsletter: May 22, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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Working People Don't Need Boehner Trade

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CWA President Larry Cohen talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership with MSNBC host Ed Schultz, calling the deal negotiated by and for multinational corporations "Boehner Trade" that American workers don't need or want.

Watch the video here.


COHEN: Worldwide Labor Alliance Must Confront Virulent Anti-Union Efforts in U.S.

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CWA President Larry Cohen urged a worldwide conference of trade unionists in Germany this week to join efforts to revive and sustain the American labor movement under relentless assault from corporations and reactionary political forces.

"Without the world's attention to the crisis of labor in the U.S., anti-union corporate and conservative government policies will be exported," Cohen warned. "The consequences are dire for the rest of the world."

In a forceful speech this week at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Berlin, he recited the now familiar but depressing data on how the U.S. trade union movement has been brought low from its peak 50 years ago of 35% private sector coverage to just 6% today. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow has been a strong ally in the campaign for T-Mobile workers' rights, including coming to Charleston, S.C., last year to support call center workers.

"Our political and business leaders have for the most part adopted an ideology of greed, not partnership," Cohen said. "As a result of these types of U.S. labor polices, for the last 25 years, income and wealth in the U.S. have shifted to the wealthiest Americans. While workers' wages have stagnated, the wealth of the 1% grew. Top executives of large U.S. companies now earn 350 times more than workers."


CWA President Larry Cohen and Josh Coleman, now a TU activist, address ITUC delegates.

U.S. corporations are exporting this economic model, he continued, including right now behaving one way in Europe, where governments have strong policies supporting workers joining unions, but being virulently anti-labor at home. Multi-national corporations like Deutsche Telekom have been more than happy to respect workers' rights in their home countries while treating U.S. workers abominably.

T-Mobile is 67% owned by Deutsche Telekom, the largest shareholder of which is the Germany government. DT's German workforce has bargaining rights, and ver.di leader Lothar Schröder is the deputy chairman of the company's supervisory board, serving along with other worker representatives. In the U.S., workers who choose to organize are subjected to repeated captive audience interrogations and harassment.

Meanwhile, corporations continually ply political allies in the U.S. with campaign cash and push for so-called negotiated trade treaties that put multinational corporations above national law.

"A global labor movement cannot survive with the elimination of a trade union movement inside the USA. We will make collective progress or suffer collective decline," Cohen said.

A positive development has been partnerships like the one formed by CWA and ver.di, the 2 million member German union that represents telecom workers at Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile. CWA and ver.di together created TU, a joint organization to represent U.S. workers at T-Mobile US. ver.di is pressuring Deutsche Telekom management to take responsibility for U.S. managers who violate workers' rights by interrogating union activists, illegally firing and disciplining them and allowing supervisors to lie about the union.

As part of that effort, Josh Coleman, a Wichita, KS, T-Mobile call center worker fired last year for organizing his co-workers, also joined the Berlin meeting. In an earlier trip to Germany last August, Coleman had the surreal experience of seeing his own face everywhere he turned as German telecom workers wore T-shirts with the words "Wir sind alles Josh!" or "We are all Josh."

"Each of us needs to take on this challenge to create conditions where union representation can be tolerated in the USA, so that the cancer of trade union elimination is stopped," Cohen said.

Working together, U.S. unions and the AFL-CIO and international allies, including the ITUC and UNI, are building global partnerships to ensure workers' rights in the global economy.


In Berlin: ver.di Members, International Union Activists Protest at Deutsche Telekom

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ver.di members and union activists from around the globe demonstrate outside Deutsche Telekom in Berlin.


Union activists from dozens of countries join Deutsche Telekom protest.

Below: At the rally, Ado Wilhelm, Lothar Schröder, CWA President Cohen, Mike Döding, ver.di staff rep, and Josh Coleman.


German giant Deutsche Telekom got a big surprise this week when over a thousand international trade unionists and activists from the German union ver.di, employees of DT, rallied outside its Berlin offices to protest the virulent anti-labor practices of its U.S. subsidiary T-Mobile US.

"This is a message of resistance from America," CWA President Larry Cohen said, in a challenge to DT's Chief Executive Officer Timotheus Hoettges. "When you attack, we stand up and we fight back."

T-Mobile supervisors have been harassing workers in the United States for daring to organize their workplaces, including subjecting some, like a group of Harlem, NY, retail store workers, to repeated captive audience interrogations. T-Mobile has illegally disciplined and fired other activist workers, including Josh Coleman, who participated in this week's Berlin rally.

ver.di, the union representing DT's German workers, organized this week's rally as part of its continuing efforts to pressure DT into stopping T-Mobile's U.S. labor abuses.

Cohen said the rally grew out of frustration with DT's stubbornness in responding to ver.di's efforts to help U.S. workers exercise their rights. Hundreds of trade unionists from all over the world, attending the weeklong International Trade Union Confederation conference in Berlin, joined more than 1,000 ver.di members protesting in support of T-Mobile US workers who are fighting for their right to form a union.

Messages of solidarity from Arab unions, activists in the Indian trade union movement, British union leaders, U.S. and European activists and many others from around the globe lit up Twitter with support for T-Mobile US workers. Members of the German Parliament also joined the protest, calling on DT to follow its social compact, which calls for full recognition of workers' rights to union representation, and stop T-Mobile's abusive labor practices in the U.S.

Cohen said that T-Mobile US workers will be in this fight "one day longer and each day stronger."


U.S. Added to Watch List of the World's Worst Labor Violators

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At the International Trade Union Confederation conference in Berlin this week, the organization's General Secretary Sharan Burrow made an announcement that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Workers in the U.S. face systematic violation of their rights by some government officials and/or corporations that are engaged in serious efforts to threaten and crush workers' rights, according to the ITUC.


Sharan Burrow (right), general secretary of the ITUC, opens the "global workers' Parliament."

The United States of America once built a middle class that was the envy of the world largely on the strength of how many of its people belonged to unions. The U.S. grew to be the world's leading economy as membership in unions grew. Now, with systematic abuse of workers' rights and the speed with which it is eliminating private sector unions, the U.S. will be keeping different company.

Read the full report here.

"Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labor laws," Burrow said. "A country's level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all."


Truth to Power: Fired T-Mobile Workers Question CEO About Its U.S. Labor Practices

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How is it that Deutsche Telekom manages to ignore criticisms from home and abroad of subsidiary T-Mobile US for violating the rights of workers, Josh Coleman wanted to know?

Coleman asked DT's CEO Timotheus Hoettges and the other board members at the May 15 annual meeting of the Deutsche Telekom board in Cologne why the corporation is avoiding or ignoring the T-Mobile problem. German members of parliament have criticized DT for its reluctance to deal with T-Mobile's anti-labor practices. The German government is a large shareholder in DT.

"Do you influence the American management in order to stop these anti-employee practices?" Coleman asked. "I am aware that many organizations, politicians, customers and investors criticize Deutsche Telekom's behavior and have addressed this in letters. The allegations are diverse and even more serious."


Kornelia Dubbel spreads the TU message at the ITUC meeting. Dubbel, along with Josh Coleman, spoke at the Deutsche Telekom annual meeting in Cologne.

Coleman, in his work for T-Mobile's Wichita, KS, call center, won many awards and was well regarded by supervisors. That is, until they became aware of his efforts to organize coworkers into a union. Overnight, they changed their assessment of him, telling him his work no longer measured up.

"That is a lie," Coleman said.

He sought to create a bargaining unit because he felt his coworkers needed a structure for their future and to protect them against the arbitrary manner in which they were supervised. T-Mobile instead mounted a campaign of harassment and intimidation against worker activists. Supervisors held captive audience interrogations of workers and illegally fired others.

DT's workforce in Germany and the rest of Europe have bargaining rights and worker representatives serve on corporations' supervisory boards. Kornelia Dubbel, a ver.di member and member of the T-Mobile supervisory board, also spoke at the annual meeting. Dubbel has been a strong advocate for the rights of T-Mobile US workers to have union representation, just as telecom workers in Germany do.

"Unfortunately, the employees have no voice in the company, no works council like in Germany, no union," Coleman said. "Deutsche Telekom and other German companies publicly praise the 'social partnership' practice and the German system of co-determination. Why do you allow practices that T-Mobile is fighting and preventing, often coupled with high costs of union avoidance lawyers?"


CWA Sues Christie on Pension Fund Grab

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CWA and the National Education Association are filing a lawsuit to block NJ Governor Chris Christie's plan to grab nearly $2.5 billion that should be going to the state's pension system. Christie wants to use those funds to reduce his budget's shortfall instead of making the required payment to the pension system. CWA and NEA are the two biggest unions in the state.


CWAers and union activists meet outside the statehouse in Trenton, N.J., ready to lobby elected officials about the damage being done to workers' pensions.

"Governor Christie is not only breaking his word, but he's also breaking the law in failing to make these pension payments," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA New Jersey Director. "Put aside how Christie's actions are immoral. If the pension payments are not made, the plan will go bankrupt. Retirees and active workers will spend their retirement in poverty through no fault of their own. For these reasons, and more, we are taking the governor to court. And we will be mobilizing our members and allies in protest of Christie's outrageous, illegal actions."

In 2011, Christie and some legislators pushed through big cuts in public workers' pension benefits. Workers' pension contributions were increased, the retirement age was raised and cost-of-living adjustments were eliminated. Christie and the lawmakers who supported him claimed that the changes were necessary to restore the security of the pension system and they also pledged that the state would begin to make bigger payments each year to the pension system, to make up for the complete lack of contributions by the state for most of the past 17 years. Workers continued to make their contributions.

Now Christie is reneging on the state's obligation and putting public workers' pensions at risk. The state estimates that it's unfunded pension liability is $52 billion.

Thousands of activists, from CWA, other unions and allies, held a "Lobby Day" today in Trenton, to focus attention on the governor's power and money grab.


Movement Building Update

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Maybe the North Carolina legislature is channeling North Korea.

Legislators are trying to stop the message of "Moral Mondays" by passing a rule that calls for the arrest of anyone who "might pose an imminent threat of a disturbance," even if that person hasn't done anything. The Legislative Services Commission, which hasn't changed its rules in 27 years, and in fact hasn't even met in the last 15 years, decided it had to act to keep Moral Monday supporters out of the building as the new legislative session was set to begin.

That means in the state legislative building, where in theory elected officials are supposed to meet with and serve their constituents, some constituents aren't welcome. What does the commission consider a disturbance? Any noise at a level beyond ordinary conversation. And any staff member can order a constituent to leave, or face arrest. Read more here.

This attack on democracy hasn't discouraged the thousands of activists committed to "Moral Mondays" and to restoring fairness to North Carolina.

This week, thousands of activists entered the legislative building and marched in a silent protest, with tape over their mouths.

Moral Monday activists are members of unions, faith groups, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, students, community groups and more. They are protesting the legislature's radical right actions to suppress citizens' rights to vote, restrict unemployment insurance, attack women's rights and leave hundreds of thousands of working and poor people without medical assistance by refusing to expand Medicaid.


Thousands of "Moral Monday" activists carry out their silent protest at the North Carolina legislative building.

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What Happened in the Basement?

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When most workers in the U.S. want a union, they face harassment by supervisors and intimidation by corporate executives. That's standard operating procedure for companies like T-Mobile US and Verizon Wireless. In recent campaigns by workers at retail stores in Harlem and Brooklyn, N.Y., management went all out to stop workers from making their own choice about having a union. Both corporations even brought in high level executives, including T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, who you might think had other work to do, to intimidate workers about their jobs.


This video offers a good look at what happens in the basement, for too many U.S. workers.


CWA Statement on Proposed AT&T Acquisition of DirecTV

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CWA issued this comment on the announcement by AT&T that it plans to acquire DirecTV:

"CWA is optimistic that this deal will improve services and make even more content available for millions of customers. We also believe that it will provide better employment opportunities for tens of thousands of employees at both companies. We look forward to learning more about the details in the days ahead.

"The industry is constantly transforming itself as wireless, wireline, cable and satellite converge, and as voice data and video increasingly demand expanded high speed networks. AT&T's commitment to provide high speed Internet services to 15 million non-urban locations is a positive move toward expanding Internet access and availability to more Americans."


Macklemore. Really?

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United Students Against Sweatshops is pushing rapper Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to break up with union-busting T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, and instead stand up for workers at T-Mobile who are been harassed, disciplined and fired just because they want a union.

USAS launched a "Justice for T-Mobile Workers" campaign last fall, and is turning up the heat on Macklemore. Read more here.

Check out for more info.


CWA – There's An App For That

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Have you downloaded the new CWA App?

Four years ago, CWA was the first union, and one of the first progressive organizations, to create an app. Now, we've taken that app to a new level with our Movement Builder app. Word is already out, and we've already had other unions and progressive organizations asking us about it.

You'll want to make sure you're connected. To get the app, text APP to 49484 to get the links to download it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store. You can also search for CWA in the App Store.

Once you download the app you need to set up your Profile. This allows you to RSVP to and check in at events. You'll also be able to send photos from actions from the app.

This app will enable you to be connected in real time to events and information that you care about, using the latest technologies available on the iPhone and Android devices.