CWA e-Newsletter: May 8, 2014
- Fair Trade Now!
- CWA Legislative-Political and Movement Building Conference
- T-Mobile Settles NLRB Complaint
- NLRB Moves Forward on Consolidated Complaints Against T-Mobile US
- Labor Rights Forum Honors Defenders
CWA President Larry Cohen introduces members of Congress.
Union and progressive partners rally together.
More than a thousand activists from dozens of progressive organizations rallied on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to demand trade deals that work for everyone – not just the 1 percent.
Braving thunder and a downpour, CWAers and our labor, environmental, student, citizen, faith and good government allies chanted, "They say 'Fast Track!' We Say 'Fight Back!'"
About half the participants came from CWA's legislative-political and movement building conference. CWA activists were joined by partners from 42 other organizations and other unions and the AFL-CIO as part of the campaign to build a movement for economic justice.
Rally speakers included Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Mike Michaud (D-Me.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
MSNBC's Ed Schultz, who covered the rally, laid it out plainly: Free trade agreements hurt American workers.
"Americans have every right to be outraged that this country is even thinking about this. This is a corporate deal. It's driven by Wall Street. It's been done in secrecy. Doesn't that bother you at all?" asked Schultz.
After the rally, CWA activists and partners visited the offices of every member of Congress, proving that our alliance is united in the fight for fair trade deals.
This year's legislative-political and movement building conference had a totally different feel, and moved us a step closer to building our movement of 50 million activists who can bring about real progressive change. This year, CWA leaders and activists joined with partners from 42 organizations to strategize about how we move forward together on the issues we care about.
More than 100 participants from partner groups and more than 500 CWAers attended the conference, spoke to the issues and helped present at 17 workshops ranging from public financing of elections, fighting back against state budget shortfalls and holding Democrats accountable to online tools for movement building, immigration reform and more.
Every workshop and panel featured CWA activists from across our union and the partners with whom we're working everyday on issues like economic justice, the environment, equal rights and fair trade.
Day 1 focused on how we're building our movement. Day 2 provided an update on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, "fast track" authorization, and information for the participants' meetings with their members of Congress following the rally.
Cohen: 'Our Fights Are Really One Battle'
CWA President Larry Cohen called on activists to unite in a strong, robust democracy movement.
"Without this movement for democracy that will unite us all, our individual fights just can't be realized," he said.
He added, "The democracy movement is necessary if we are going to move forward toward economic justice."
Cohen laid out why our seemingly disparate fights are really one battle.
"It's not just the rights of an individual to vote," he said. "It's not just the rights of an immigrant. It's about what kind of democracy we have when $7 billion is spent in the last federal election alone, more than in any other country in the world.
More than 40 years ago, a memo was drafted by Lewis Powell Jr., before he served on the U.S. Supreme Court, for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, laying out a corporate strategy to aggressively shape U.S. politics and law. Since then, the business community has worked to take over the most important institutions of public opinion and democratic decision-making, Cohen said.
Barber: Why We Need a Moral Movement
Rev. William Barber called for a "moral movement" across America to defend our democracy from extremist state legislatures.
"What is bad is not what they are doing. What would be bad is for us not to fight back," said Barber, who is also the president of the NAACP in North Carolina. "That's what would be bad!"
One year ago, Barber led a small group of clergy and activists into North Carolina's state legislative building to protest GOP lawmakers' attacks on voting rights, blocking Medicaid expansion, cutting unemployment benefits and shrinking higher-education spending. The police led him away in handcuffs.
But then something incredible happened: The next Monday, more than 100 people showed up at the capitol for a non-violent demonstration. The following Monday, even more rallied to the cause. Soon thousands of people were attending "Moral Monday" protests in Raleigh, but also in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Barber's recent Moral March on Raleigh in February attracted a crowd of at least 80,000 people.
Today the attacks on the poor, immigrants, LGBT communities and civil rights are "lewd, mean-spirited and fundamentally contrary to what our democracy is supposed to be," said Barber.
"We are at a time when corporations are treated like people and people are treated like things," he said.
Barber told CWAers that Martin Luther King Jr. and the great leaders of the labor movement aren't going to rise up from the dead, so it's up to everyday citizens to get involved. Moral Monday protests will start up again on May 19 and continue through the North Carolina General Assembly's legislative session. This summer Barber will also be coordinating an event in 11 Southern states where Republican agendas are hurting the poor and working class.
"When anybody challenges our deepest moral principles and our deepest democratic principles – you and I were born for such a time as this. And we must fight back now!" he said.
Rev. Barber will participate in CWA's Human Rights Conference June 8-10.
Brown: 'You Make This Country Better'
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) encouraged activists to tell the personal stories of their families, friends and neighbors when they lobby members of Congress. Stories, like that of TU activist Blake Poindexter, who lost his job when T-Mobile offshored several call centers, illuminate why we need bills that protect workers and grow the middle class.
"Tell them why this matters," he said. "The labor movement has been at the forefront of so many fights. You advocate, you organize, you educate. You rally people. You make this country better."
This is critical as GOP lawmakers seek to undermine so many of the rights workers have fought for over the decades. "The far right sees the demographics of this country changing, so the only way they can win is changing the rules," he said.
Worker advocacy is particularly important when it comes to trade. Brown noted that we were told that passing NAFTA would create lots of jobs – but it didn't. Congress was told that same line when it negotiated CAFTA and passed fast-track authority to speed trade agreements through Congress with little debate. But those all failed to live up to their job creation promises.
"They don't even bother saying that anymore because the country doesn't believe it," said Brown, who has been calling for more transparency in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
He added, "That's why your work is so important. That's where you come in – to protect jobs, to project the public interest, to protect health and safety."
Pelosi: 'We Need Transparency'
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was greeted with shouts of "best Speaker ever," a reminder of the hundreds of pieces of legislation supporting working families that she was able to steer through the House of Representatives during her years as Speaker.
"You couldn't be coming at a more critical time. And I thank you for the advocacy that you bring to Washington," she said. "It's so very important. We can maneuver all we can internally, but the outside mobilization that you represent is what makes a difference."
To the White House, Republican lawmakers and our potential trade partners – all of whom are pushing to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping trade deal with a dozen Pacific Rim countries, and fast-track authority – the message is simple. "We need transparency," she said.
We all must be able to read and analyze the negotiating texts so that we can keep our eye on our own economic prosperity, as the United States negotiates trade deals in Asia and Europe, she said. Congress needs more input and a seat at the table so that it can improve trade deals for the American people.
"We must create jobs. We must have growth. And we want to do it in a way that recognizes our role in the world," she said. "We're not protectionists. We want to be fair traders. But we're not fools."
Pelosi added, "Let's do what other countries do. When they enter an agreement for trade they do so protecting their workers."
Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and many of their fellow Democrats have made it clear that they oppose fast tracking this trade bill.
"I'm here to give you our commitment that we understand that this is a fight for our country. For our democracy. For the middle class that is the backbone of our country," she said.
De Blasio: 'Thank You For Standing Up'
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) credited CWA activists for helping pave a new progressive path for the city.
"CWA stood up and was actually one of the crucial elements in creating the momentum that not only allowed us to win city hall, but then be able to implement the agenda," he said. "When labor demands fairness and helps elect progressives and builds bonds with community organizations, we have limitless potential."
De Blasio has been a steadfast CWA ally. As the city's public advocate, he took on Cablevision for union-busting and stood with the 22 technicians who were unjustly fired. Cablevision rehired the technicians after a successful community support campaign.
"When I stood with Cablevision workers in Brooklyn fighting to organize, that was to get more people to the middle class," he said. "That was the patriotic thing to do."
"When I stand by Verizon workers, who seem to be constantly asked to give up their hard won gains, I say to the public, I say to Verizon, I say to anyone who wants to ask, 'Why on earth would we want to take some workers who actually reached the middle class and make them insecure?'" he said.
"Thank you for standing up. Thank you for building coalitions. Thank you for organizing – the most noble profession. It's my honor to stand by you, and I hope we in New York can continue to be something of a good example for the victories ahead," he said.
Val Givens and Blake Poindexter
Val Givens, CWA Local 6222, is a District steward and a member of CWA's AT&T Internet bargaining team. She said the recent negotiations showed her firsthand "the connection between the wages that we can negotiate and these trade deals."
Blake Poindexter was in the highest level of customer support at the T-Mobile US tech support center in Frisco, Tex., until one day, "management called us in and told us we were out of a job. Just like that."
Joint Partner Campaigns
Herb Keener, CWA Local 6215; Hal Suter, Lone Star Sierra Club; Mona Meyer, CWA Minnesota State Council; Terin Mayer, Take Action Minnesota, and George Kohl, CWA, talked about how they came to work together on issues like equality, voting rights and fair trade.
Beating Fast Track and TPP
Hugh Espey, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Steve Abbott, CWA Iowa Council; Joe Mayhew, CWA Local 1103; Kian Frederickson, Public Citizen, and Rafael Navar, CWA, discussed how their community coalitions are a big part of the fight against fast track.
Richard Hatch, CWA Virginia Council; Doris Crouse-Mays, Virginia AFL-CIO; Steven Goldstein; Garden State Equality; Hetty Rosenstein, CWA New Jersey, and Yvette Herrera, CWA, reviewed their joint CWA partner 2013 election work and looked ahead to 2014.
What's Wrong with TPP, Investor and State Ally Issue
Scott Slesinger, Natural Resources Defense Council; Elizabeth Drake, trade attorney; Brett Gibson, AFL-CIO, and Shane Larson, CWA, explore how the TPP has been written by and for investors, and what we can do to stop it.
CWA: There's An App For That
Four years ago, CWA was the first union, and one of the first progressive organizations, to create an app. And now, thanks to CWA's Growth Fund, we've taken that app to a new level, using the latest technologies available on the iPhone and Android devices. Not only does the app allow you to connect in real time to events and information that you care about, but, as CWAers and progressive partners who downloaded the app at the Legislative-Political and Movement Building Conference discovered, you can use the app to share photos. Check out some of the great moments they captured here.
Get ready to check out more photos once you download the app. To get the app, text APP to 49484 from your phone to get the links to download it or search for CWA in the App Store or on Google Play or click here. Once you download the app, set up your profile in order to RSVP to and check in at events.
Stay Tuned for More Video
CWA's Communications Dept. will have additional video available from the conference. It will be posted at youtube.com/cwaunion. So stay tuned.
Facing Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Our Movement
Today, a panel including Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union; Bob King, UAW President; and CWA Presidents Ken McNamara, Local 1037; Irene Roblis, Local 7019, and Abdur Bilal, Local 3645, discussed the challenges workers and activists face in pushing for economic and social justice, with participants and CWA President Larry Cohen and Sec.-Treas. Annie Hill.
A settlement was reached this week between the National Labor Relations Board, T-Mobile US, CWA and two T-Mobile workers from Wichita, Kans. – Josh Coleman and Ellen Brackeen.
The agreement vindicates Josh and Ellen, who endured an illegal firing (Josh) and unfair discipline (Ellen), all because they wanted a union voice.
The settlement is not full justice, but it is a solid step forward for workers battling anti-worker giants like T-Mobile and other companies that attack workers' rights.
T-Mobile agreed to a pay settlement for Josh, the first time the company has ever agreed to pay back wages or the equivalent. T-Mobile agreed in writing that its earlier discipline of Ellen will not be used against her in any way. Ellen will continue to lead CWA's organizing work at the Wichita call center, now without the constant fear that her family is at risk. Josh remains a committed TU activist who will continue to work for union representation for T-Mobile workers.
A top performer at the Wichita call center, Josh was disciplined and fired in 2013 after he engaged in visible union activity. An NLRB complaint was issued over this illegal action, as well as for the company's violation of Josh's rights when its managers destroyed his organizing notes.
Ellen was disciplined after she attended (on her own time) the final meeting of shareholders of MetroPCS before that company merged with T-Mobile.
Why the settlement now? The NLRB has looked at T-Mobile management's behavior in Wichita and found strong similarities to management tactics in other T-Mobile US operations. (See next story.)
Why did T-Mobile management agree to a settlement of unfair labor practice complaints in Wichita?
Probably because the decision by the National Labor Relations Board general counsel to consolidate recent unfair labor practice complaints brought against T-Mobile US is going forward, and T-Mobile US knows that there is clear evidence, especially through the company's "third party activity reports," that its anti-worker campaigns are directed by and orchestrated by top management at headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.
The telecommunications company has been cited for its relentless and escalating attempts over the past 10 years to stop workers from obtaining union representation.
The next NLRB hearing is taking place in Albuquerque, NM, where at least two T-Mobile US workers were illegally disciplined after being identified as union activists and supporters; both were fired after they made their support public.
The activists were organizing in an environment just as, or maybe more, hostile than Wichita, since the New Mexico supervisors more openly threatened workers. The NLRB also will prosecute its claims that the company's handbook and other policies used nationwide violate federal labor law because of their intimidating effect on workers who want a union.
Over the past decade, NLRB complaints were repeatedly issued against T-Mobile in different regional offices. The decision to consolidate a group of current unfair labor practice complaints challenging the company's disciplinary actions targeting union activists and its overly broad company rules and policies into one national case is an important step by the NLRB. The company will need to defend its systemic anti-union behavior in one proceeding where the board can order broad relief for employees at every T-Mobile location.
The decision requires one hearing officer to hear all complaints, witnesses and evidence regarding T-Mobile's efforts to block workers from voting for union representation.
The general counsel's decision was affirmed by an administrative law judge. The NLRB is responding to the history of broken promises by T-Mobile when it comes to following U.S. labor law. Consolidation will allow the NLRB to issue more effective remedies to finally stop T-Mobile's outrageous conduct.
CWA Senior Director Yvette Herrera, center, accepts the ILRF award for CWA.
CWA was honored as an International Labor Rights Defender for its transnational organizing that has taken on the forces of globalization and has built alliances with unions and worker organizations in the fight for economic justice.
Highlighted was CWA's work with STRM, the independent and democratic telecom workers union in Mexico, our work with Brazilian finance unions to support bank workers, and our alliance with the German union ver.di that is working for a voice for T-Mobile US.
Also honored was Rep. George Miller (D-Cal.), a leading advocate in Congress on international labor and human rights, for speaking out on the violence and abuses faced by women garment workers and those in Bangladesh, and the Maquila Worker Organizing Project that is building respect for workers' rights in Honduras.