CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 15, 2015
Nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives are demanding the immediate release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Nine members of Congress at a U.S. Capitol Hill news conference on Friday calling for immediate release of the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal agreement.
The United States and 11 other countries announced on Monday, Oct. 5 that they have reached an agreement, yet no final text has been shared with Members of Congress, who would vote on it. United States Trade Representative Michael Froman said, meanwhile, it could be as long as a month before the supposedly completed deal could be transmitted to Congress.
The representatives say that this is too long to wait. They gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on Friday – four full days after trade ministers announced the agreement – and demanded that the Obama Administration release the final text immediately. The members included Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); Marcy Kaptur (D-OH); Lloyd Doggett (D-TX); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Tim Ryan (D-OH); David Cicilline (D-RI); Bill Pascrell (D-NJ); Dan Kildee (D-MI); and Keith Ellison (D-MN).
Negotiations of the deal, which lasted more than five years, took place under unprecedented secrecy. The lawmakers said the administration has no more excuses to keep the text secret after holding a self-congratulatory news conference in Atlanta with other participating nations. Kaptur said her constituents in Northwestern Ohio – a region heavily dependent on the auto industry that suffered huge job losses as the result of past trade agreements – are owed better than the secrecy still surrounding the agreement.
Arguing that there's no reason to delay publication of the documents now that countries have reached a deal, the AFL-CIO also demanded an immediate release of the TPP text.
"Creating a level playing field for American workers includes equal access to information, and the only way to ensure that is to ensure that all Americans have equal access to the text – not in 30 days, after the public relations spin has been spun, but right now," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a letter today to President Barack Obama.
Fast-track trade rules require Obama to release the text of the agreement 30 days after notifying Congress that he intends to sign the agreement.
"The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has long claimed the TPP will level the playing field for American workers and American business – that it will be the most 'progressive' trade agreement in history," Trumka wrote. "The American people are eager to have the opportunity to read the new rules for themselves."
CWA has released a new TV ad for local broadcast and cable channels slamming Verizon's failure to build out its high-speed FiOS network in New York.
The 30-second ad highlights a New York City audit of Verizon's FiOS rollout in New York City that found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic Internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it. In a sign of growing concerns about Verizon, the City Council held a hearing on Wednesday to hear from city officials, customers who have been unable to get FiOS and the company.
The audience at a packed New York City Council meeting on Wednesday listens to officials grill Verizon about its incomplete FiOS rollout.
New York City is not the only city frustrated with Verizon's broken promises. Last week, 13 Northeastern Mayors sent Verizon a letter expressing frustration at its refusal to build its high-speed FiOS network in some cities while in others it fails to meet contractual and legal requirements to complete universal build-outs. The Mayors also expressed concern about Verizon's treatment of its workforce in ongoing contract negotiations.
More than 39,000 workers, members of CWA and IBEW, have been working without Verizon contracts since they expired August 1. The corporation – with profits of $28 billion over the last five years and paying its top five executives $249 million during that time – has been dragging its feet at negotiations as it seeks to roll back workers' job security and benefits.
The anger has been growing across the East Coast as Verizon systematically refuses to invest in its infrastructure. In August, it was the only major U.S. telecommunications company to turn down federal funding to build broadband in underserved, primarily rural, communities, leaving many residents in eight states and the District of Columbia without access to vital communications options. The company was offered $568 million over six years by the Federal government to bring broadband to 270,000 locations in Washington, DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
In New York State, the company refuses to avail itself of Governor Cuomo's $500 million New York State Broadband Fund, which offers up to 50% subsidies to companies willing to build high-speed service in underserved areas. For years, Verizon has steadfastly refused to bring its high-speed internet service (or FiOS) to areas like Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Rome, Utica and numerous other upstate New York cities, as well as much of Eastern Suffolk. At a series of hearings held by New York State, elected officials from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, the North Country, the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley decried the lack of FiOS in their communities.
Communities in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have also called for FiOS to be built.
At the same time, Verizon has been letting its traditional phone network deteriorate.The corporation even admitted to the FCC in a letter that it had spent only $200 million, or $3.50 per customer, over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in eleven states and the District of Columbia. Four million people in Verizon's footprint depend solely on the copper network and they aren't receiving the service they pay for month after month.
CWA has filed complaints in six states and Washington, DC, calling on the FCC to investigate Verizon's neglect of this vital infrastructure.
Federal Mediation Begins Oct. 20 for AFA-CWA Flight Attendants at United
The AFA-CWA Joint Negotiating Committee will begin mediation on Oct. 20 with United Airlines with the goal of reaching an industry-leading, comprehensive contract. Mediation is overseen by the National Mediation Board.
This mediation session also will be the first under new United CEO Oscar Munoz, who replaced Jeff Smisek. Smisek and two other United officials resigned following news of a corruption investigation into their dealings with the Port Authority of New Jersey.
The negotiations cover 24,000 Flight Attendants from United, Continental and Continental Micronesia Airlines.
AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson said "our unity is the key to equalizing pay for equal work and lifting standards for our careers. At no other time have we been better positioned to fight for an industry-leading contract, and as we set a new standard, American Flight Attendants will benefit, too, because we made sure their pay would increase once the United contract is worth more."
AFA-CWA's Master Executive Council – the directly elected local council presidents from pre-merger United, Continental and Continental Micronesia – unanimously adopted a resolution of unity and called for concrete measures of change. The resolution "calls upon the new CEO Oscar Munoz to conduct a thorough review of United management to resolve deep-seated problems in order to promote the spirit of shared purpose."
"Whether change is truly coming to United will be measured by direct evidence and concrete measures such as immediate and substantial progress at the bargaining table; changes in upper level management personnel as warranted; a repudiation of bad faith bargaining tactics; making good on commitments to provide 2015 profit sharing for CAL and CMI Flight Attendants; and a moratorium on using surpluses, base closures, furloughs and other disruptions to Flight Attendants' lives during contract negotiations," the resolution said.
AFA-CWA Flight Attendants – left to right: Chris Black, Sylvia Cavazos, Mara Hoffer, and Lindsey Tucker at San Francisco International Airport – are fighting for a fair contract that respects their contributions to profits at United Airlines.
October 16 is Day of Solidarity in District 3
CWA members across District 3 will be mobilizing tomorrow, Oct. 16, in a "Day of Solidarity" to push AT&T to get serious about bargaining, especially on critical issues. The 28,000 AT&T workers have stayed on the job without a contract since their contracts expired on August 8 while negotiations continue. CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt said the workers are building public support for their fair contract fight.
Tomorrow, CWA members from North Carolina to Mississippi will be wearing black and standing together, at garages, call centers and public actions, for a fair contract.
CWAers display their "Blue Monday" solidarity at the Tennessee AFL-CIO Convention in Franklin, TN.
AT&T workers in District 3 have been showing solidarity throughout the week in their workplaces.On Friday, members of Local 3201 in Georgia wore black to show their support for the AT&T bargaining committee.
About 250,000 people showed up in Berlin on Saturday to protest against the free trade agreements between the European Union and the U.S. and Canada, calling for fair trade instead.
The demonstrators, including CWA's international allies, said the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its Canadian counterpart, CETA, will undermine jobs, the environment and democracy. A coalition of 170 civil society groups – including environmental, development and social politics, democracy, culture, citizens' and consumer rights and trade unions – had called for the mass protest but turnout far exceeded the organizers' expectations.
The demonstration sent a clear signal, the organizers said, "We are standing up against TTIP and CETA. Together we defend our democracy and march in the streets for fair and just trade. The TTIP negotiations, based on the current mandate, have to be stopped. The present CETA contract must not be ratified the way it is now."
The organizers have also collected more than 3 million signatures on petitions against TTIP and CETA, which they have handed to the EU Commission.
The turnout of 250,000 demonstrators in Berlin vastly exceeded expectations of the organizers of the Berlin protest.
CWA President Chris Shelton, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), was an honored guest at the National Consumer League's Trumpeter Awards Dinner last week. NCL gave Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez the awards this year. The Trumpeter Awards recognize leaders who speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers. Award recipients are honored for their commitment to raising the voices of consumers and workers to ensure they are heard.
Commissioners for the City of Miami have unanimously approved a resolution calling for greater transparency in trade policy-making that affects south Florida's economy, environment and public health.
Their action comes just ten days before negotiators from the U.S. and the European Union meet in Miami for their 11th round of talks on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a companion to the just-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the text of which still remains secret.
Unlike European negotiators, who have made their TTIP proposal public, U.S. negotiators for both TTIP and the TPP have flatly refused to make their proposals available for public scrutiny. They have also blocked composite texts from being published. Meanwhile, they have granted hundreds of corporate lobbyists special "cleared advisor" status that provides them unfettered access to negotiating texts.
"It's shameful that Europeans can learn what their governments are proposing, but Americans cannot," CWA Campaign Lead Fred Frost said. "Government just works better when there's a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration."
CWA worked in a coalition with the Citizens Trade Campaign, Florida Progressive Democrats and AFSCME Local 3292 to get the resolution before the city commissioners. Unions, faith leaders, elected officials, consumer and environmental groups, and community activists will be holding protests, press conferences and briefings to shine a spotlight on the TTIP and other secretive trade deals during the upcoming TTIP negotiations from Oct. 19-23 in downtown Miami.
Similar resolutions have also been passed in the City of South Miami, the City of Hialeah Gardens and the City of Hallandale Beach, as well as around the nation.
In Miami, members of CWA, IBEW, AFSCME, the South Florida AFL-CIO and Laborers joined community and environmental groups to stop secrecy in trade deals.
In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the National Women's Law Center, the AFL-CIO and seven other leading women's organizations asked the German government – a major shareholder of Deutsche Telekom – to press T-Mobile to abandon an employee gag order policy that violates U.S. law and restricts workers' ability to address sexual harassment and other workplace violations.
This past August, a National Labor Relations Board judge found T-Mobile guilty – in Maine and South Carolina – of unlawfully requiring employees who brought complaints of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination to the company's human resources departments to sign a non-disclosure agreement that prohibited them from discussing their experiences with anyone during the company's investigation. As a result, employees were forbidden from banding together with coworkers who experienced the same harassment or discrimination, and were illegally deterred from bringing complaints with enforcement agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
"U.S. workers have a basic right to speak out and challenge sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace without fear of facing retaliation or losing their jobs," said Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel at the National Women's Law Center. "By threatening employees who talk publicly about sexual harassment or other workplace abuses, T-Mobile's gag order policy violates this right. Indeed, T-Mobile's policy threatens workers to remain silent or risk their job. We hope that the German government, as a major shareholder of T-Mobile's parent company, will urge T-Mobile to quickly reform its practices to respect workers' voices and obey the law."
The pressure is building as we win more allies.
Angela Agganis worked at a T-Mobile US call center in Maine as a customer service representative and, like too many women, she was sexually harassed by her supervisor.
When Angela went to Human Resources to complain, the company told her to "suck it up," asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and threatened her with discipline if she discussed the matter with anyone.
Instead of being silenced, Angela contacted her union, TU. Together they went to the National Labor Relations Board, and T-Mobile was found guilty of violating Angela's rights.
Now we have to hold them accountable, so they can't try to sweep sexual harassment under the rug again.
Sign Angela's petition asking T-Mobile to end the gag orders against women speaking out against sexual harassment on the job.
This week, Democrats held their first presidential debate. Republicans have already debated twice. Even though the caucuses and primaries start in February 2016, organizations are reviewing the candidates' positions and are making endorsements. This is why we want to hear from you.
CWA's political website, www.cwavotes.org, is live and our membership poll of presidential candidates is open.
This is where you'll find information about all the declared candidates, along with an online poll for members to make their views known. Do you think CWA should make a presidential endorsement before the primaries begin next year? If so, which candidate should CWA endorse?
CWA President Chris Shelton said, "It's all part of the process to determine whether and how our union will endorse a presidential candidate."
The poll will stay open into early December and will help determine whether a single candidate has overwhelming support from the membership. It is important that this poll reflect the views of as many members as possible, so make sure your co-workers know about the site.
Labor Groups Call for Disclosure of Political Contributions by Government Contractors
Thirteen labor organizations, including CWA and the AFL-CIO, have written to President Obama calling on the president to sign an Executive Order that requires businesses that receive federal funding to fully disclose their political contributions.
The U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decisions on money in politics have weakened our democracy by moving us toward a system where contribution limits are fully dismantled, restrictions on corporate and special interest campaign spending are eliminated, and sources of contributions are rarely, if ever, disclosed.
"An Executive Order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending would reach at least 70 percent of the Fortune 100 companies – an important step in shedding light on the millions of dollars influencing our campaigns and elections," the labor groups wrote.
To lead the fight for transparency in these political contributions, they urged Obama to "sign an Executive Order requiring businesses that benefit from taxpayer dollars to disclose their political spending."
Do you want to have a say in getting big money out of politics?
You can make a video to lay out your views and you might even win a prize in the Democracy for All Video Contests. Get more information here.
The videos can be funny, serious, creative, dramatic, or even musical. You can talk about other issues that are important to you, as long as you tie it back to the influence of money in politics and the need for the Democracy For All Amendment.
Until December 2, activists can upload a short video (30-90 seconds) about big money in politics and the need for a constitutional amendment – the Democracy For All Amendment – to overturn the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision. A $1,000 prize is awarded every week, plus five category prizes of $5,000 each and a grand prize of $25,000 at the end of the contest.
IUE-CWA has awarded 17 partial college scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year. IUE-CWA members' children and grandchildren, including those of retired or deceased members, were eligible for the various awards.
Paul Jennings Scholarship for $3,000:
- Haley Zorger, daughter of Robert Zorger, Local 123, is attending Ursinus College.
Sal Ingrassia Scholarship for $2,500:
- Taylor York, daughter of Tracy York, Local 725, is attending Clark State Community College.
Bruce Van Ess Scholarship for $2,500:
- Mackenzie Sorrells, daughter of James Sorrels, Local 701, is attending Owensboro Community & Technical College.
David J. Fitzmaurice Scholarship for $2,000:
- Brianna Tabor, daughter of Keith Tabor, Local 647, is attending Virginia Tech.
Robert L. Livingston Scholarship for $1,500:
- Brooke Ostapovich, daughter of Stuart Ostapovich, Local 106, is attending Rowan College at Gloucester County.
- Jerasak Manivong, son of Nouxone Manivong, Local 323, is attending the University of Buffalo.
George Hutchens Scholarship for $1,500:
- Jessi McConaghy, daughter of Donald McConaghy, Local 106, is attending Gwynedd Mercy University.
Willie Rudd Scholarship for $1,000:
- Danilo Rubio, son of Omar Rubio, Local 134, is attending The College of New Jersey.
James B. Carey Scholarship for $1,000:
- Matthew Popso, son of Raymond Popso, Local 134, is attending Rowan College at Burlington County.
- Jordan Lyle, son of Phyllis Williams, Local 775, is attending Wright State University.
- Michael II Dippold, son of Michael Dippold, Local 101, is attending Pennsylvania College of Technology.
- Riann Rohn, daughter of Jonathan Rohn, Local 436A FW, is attending Michigan State University.
- Sean Williams, son of Ross Williams, Local 648, is attending Duquesne University.
- Alysha Hardy, granddaughter of Michael Allen, Local 201, is attending Morrisville State College.
- Bridger Kowalczyk, grandson of Lucia Kowalczyk (retired), Local 717, is attending Youngstown State University.
- Zachary Dossett, son of David Dossett, Local 859, is attending Western Kentucky University.
- Gabrielle Hubbard, granddaughter of Irving Hubbard (retired), Local 509 (closed), is attending Slippery Rock University.