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CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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Bargaining Update

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CWA Reaches Tentative Agreements with AT&T Southeast, AT&T Utility Operations, and BellSouth Billing

CWA bargaining teams have reached tentative agreements in negotiations with AT&T Southeast, AT&T Utility Operations, and BellSouth Billing on contracts covering a total of 28,000 workers. Details are being provided to CWA members for ratification votes.

The new contracts will provide increases in wages, pension safeguards and improvements in job security, a better work/home life balance, and many other gains that will provide real economic improvement for workers.

The contracts cover 28,000 workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

With one loud voice, CWA activists across District 3 said "It's our turn!" on Oct. 16. Together, they mobilized for District 3's Day of Solidarity at AT&T by wearing black, rallying and standing together for a fair contract.


Verizon's Neglect of Telephone Infrastructure is Serious Public Hazard

CWA has petitioned the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to open an investigation into unsafe conditions at Verizon locations throughout the state. The company's systemic neglect of its telephone infrastructure poses a real hazard to public and worker safety, CWA said.

The story is grabbing the public's attention. Read the Philadelphia Inquirer's report here.

CWA examined Verizon's equipment in areas of the state where Verizon has not built its new fiber network (FiOS) and only offers service through traditional copper wiring. The investigation documented hundreds of dangerous locations that include poles designated for removal that are not stable (and in some cases broken), portions of old poles suspended in the air, terminals and other equipment not attached to poles, cables hanging dangerously low due to broken lashings that have not been replaced, plastic coverings and splice boxes placed over damaged cable and other equipment that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation and that are not properly grounded, damaged cabinets that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation, and similar conditions that pose a risk to CWA members and the public.

Left: In Newport Township, in Luzerne County, this partial pole is just dangling mid-air, with its connection attached to the new pole by a single cable. The cables that send signals to customers' homes still are mounted on the old pole; if it goes down, so does telephone service. Right: On Mountain Road in Montoursville, near Wilkes-Barre, this cross-connect cabinet is severely damaged, yet Verizon hasn't replaced it. Inside the cabinets are hundreds of pairs of individual conductors that serve customers. Clearly, these cables are completely exposed to weather and animals, affecting customers' service.

Click here for more photos on unsafe conditions for workers, consumers and service.

"Every day, CWA members put themselves at risk climbing poles that can fall at any minute or fixing equipment that has become a home for rats and other dangerous infestations due to Verizon's unwillingness to maintain its equipment," said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney."Despite a billion dollars in profits every month, Verizon refuses to spend the money necessary to keep the public and its employees safe. Customers are paying every month for telephone service that's reliable. They deserve better than this."

"AARP supports the call for an investigation of Verizon's operations in Pennsylvania. We know that telephone service is a basic necessity, allowing older people to maintain social contact, preserve health and safety, and call for assistance in an emergency," said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania State Director. "Many consumers rely on their landline service during extreme weather or other emergencies. When the power goes out, they need to be able to communicate. AARP also encourages consumers to take advantage of advanced technologies. The Commission should use its investigation to ensure that Pennsylvania consumers enjoy the finest, affordable, universal, reliable and high quality telecommunications system in the nation."

CWA has documented more than 200 examples in 13 counties where Verizon is failing to provide safe facilities. Since 2012, the PUC has received more than 6,000 complaints of inadequate service from Pennsylvania residents. Many of these complaints document multiple days without service over several months, and have led to missed medical calls and an inability to call 911 in emergencies.

Across the Verizon footprint, 4 million people rely on the copper network for their telecommunications. CWA wants the PUC to order Verizon to take immediate action to correct the dangerous conditions and to fine Verizon for the apparently willful failure to safely maintain its equipment. Fines can be as much as $1,000 a day per violation.


CWA Local 7272 Members Ratify 3-year Contract

Members of CWA Local 7272 have ratified a three-year contract with Garden Valley Telephone Company, a rural telecom company in northwest Minnesota. Local 7272 President Dave Holzer said the settlement provides for substantial wage increases over the contract term across all job titles, increased company contributions to health care coverage, as well as company increases to workers' 401(k) retirement plan and health savings accounts. It covers about 100 workers.

CWAers, Activists Gather in Miami to Oppose TTIP and other Secret Trade Deals

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CWAers and other activists are in Miami this week to shine a spotlight on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other secretive trade deals during the 11th round of TTIP trade talks going on at the Hyatt Regency Miami.

They are demanding transparency in trade negotiations affecting jobs, the environment, public health and more. They are saying, "No More Secret Trade Deals: Good-Paying Jobs, the Environment & Public Health Are at Stake."

"Massive trade agreements that will have a real effect on jobs, wages, the environment and public health in our communities should not be negotiated in the shadows," CWA Campaign Lead Fred Frost said at a news conference Wednesday morning. "The American people deserve to know what U.S. negotiators have been proposing in our names, and that's what we're here to demand."

Frost later testified before a panel of trade negotiators. Officers and members of CWA Local 3122 and local elected and community leaders attended the news conference. Opponents protesting the TTIP talks include faith leaders, consumer groups, environmental organizations and community activists. Speakers called for an end to secret trade pacts like the just concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade deals that affect south Florida's economy, environment and public health.

Just last week, the City of Miami Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution that calls on President Obama and Congress to "provide transparent, public participation and collaboration" on both TTIP and the TPP. Similar resolutions have also been passed in the City of South Miami, City of Hialeah Gardens, and the City of Hallandale Beach.

Unlike European negotiators, who have made their TTIP proposals public, U.S. negotiators have flatly refused to make their proposals available for public scrutiny. Meanwhile, they have given hundreds of corporate lobbyist's special "cleared advisor" status that provides them with access to the texts.

AFA-CWA Government Affairs Director Stephen Schembs is closely monitoring several important elements of the negotiations, including a European Union proposal to loosen rules governing how much of a U.S.-flagged carrier can be owned by a foreign entity. Other points of concern include the potential that overseas-based airlines could be allowed to operate under Flags of Convenience – much like the maritime shipping industry – which led to the elimination of virtually the entire U.S.-based commercial fleet and the work and safety rules governing it.

AFA is also concerned TTIP negotiators may tinker with the current U.S.-Europe Open Skies Agreement that governs how and when foreign carriers can serve the United States and vice-versa for U.S. flagged carriers.

Bank Workers Take over Wells Fargo and Bank of America

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Hundreds of bank workers and their supporters from across the country occupied the lobbies of Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches in downtown Los Angeles this week to protest declining working conditions at major U.S. banks. Activists unveiled a set of demands to guarantee better banks for communities and bank workers.

Members of the Committee for Better Banks, a national coalition of bank workers and community groups, were at Wells Fargo's 330 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles, CA, Regional Headquarters to protest the bank's obsession with sales goals that affect bank workers and consumers across the nation. Workers and their supporters attempted to meet with executives and delivered a petition to the bank with over 11,000 signatures calling for an end to sales goals that hurt workers and customers.

Activists in the coalition – which includes Make the Road New York; New York Communities for Change (NYCC); Minnesotans for Fair Economy; Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment; Jobs with Justice; and local affiliates of CWA and UNI Global Union – are speaking out about the low pay, high pressure sales goals and unstable working conditions that lead to predatory practices.

Earlier this year, the city of Los Angeles sued Wells Fargo for unlawful and fraudulent conduct. The civil complaint said that rigid sales quotas pressured its employees to engage "in unfair, unlawful and fraudulent conduct."

Khalid Taha, a Wells Fargo personal banker from San Diego, talked about the bank's obsessive sales goals:

"Since I started working at Wells Fargo two years ago, my blood pressure went up; I started suffering from insomnia and anxiety. I am only 27 years old, and yet the high-pressure sales goals are already taking a huge toll on my health and well-being. I am here today at Wells Fargo's LA HQ because employees are fed-up. We need reasonable sales goals. We want to be able to provide our customers with the services they need, not worry about being written up if we don't sell enough credit cards."

Wearing clip-on ties and holding signs that read "just because I wear a tie does not mean I can pay my mortgage" and "#BetterBanksToday", the workers complained about the dismal working conditions at major banks across the U.S. and demanded a fair share in the profits they create, as well as access to full-time and stable employment.

Bank workers and community members then marched to Bank of America where they proceeded to also take over the lobby. They delivered over four thousand petition signatures demanding the bank properly train workers to better serve customers.

Bank workers, community members and other activists took over two banks to agitate for better working conditions and better banking for communities.

Envoy Airport Agents Gearing up for Union Vote, Starting Next Week

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Thousands of Envoy airport agents will begin voting at airports around the country next week on whether to join CWA.

Starting Tuesday, October 27, through November 17, the agents will finally get to vote for a union and the opportunity to bargain their own wages and set workplace rules.

Some 31 Envoy airport agents visited the nation's capital three weeks ago to ask members of Congress to contact the National Mediation Board on their behalf and the federal agency shortly thereafter set dates for them to vote on joining CWA.

The workers quickly gathered more than 1,200 signatures of coworkers on a petition calling for a fair election. They brought the petition to Congress, asking their elected representatives to contact the NMB and urge the agency to move ahead with a decision.

The workers are still waiting on the NMB's full board to determine whether all 5,300-plus Envoy airport agents are eligible to join the union. An NMB investigator disqualified as many as 2,200 workers from being eligible to vote; CWA appealed that ruling.

Cartoon: Wave of Voter Suppression across the Nation

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AlterNet is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources.

Public Sector Workers Sharpen Internal Organizing Skills

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New York and New Jersey public sector activists spent two days participating in workshops on internal organizing, strategizing how to strengthen our union.

Participants at our Public Sector Organizing Institute shared their strategies and methods for organizing new members into the union. Workshops focused on organizing co-workers around the issues and conducting effective worksite meetings. Activists engaged in role playing and practiced one-on-one conversations.

The 52 attendees traveled to New Brunswick, NJ, from CWA Locals 1031, 1032, 1033, 1036, 1037, 1038, 1039, 1040, 1082, 1085, 1087, 1014, 1104 and 1180.

Check out more photos of this week's workshops on our Facebook page here and here.

Unity in the Wireless Industry

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Hundreds of Unity@Mobility activists from around the country gathered this week in San Diego for the annual AT&T Mobility Leadership Conference. Participants engaged in four days of networking, workshops and union building. CWA activists at Verizon Wireless, Cricket and T-Mobile also joined workers in important discussions on how to create more unity in the wireless industry.

CWA Comments in FCC Proceeding on Service Discontinuance Rules

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The Federal Communications Commission is developing specific criteria that will be used when a carrier requests permission to discontinue, reduce or impair service to a community or part of a community.

For example, when Verizon substituted fixed wireless Voice Link for repair of the copper wireline network destroyed by Superstorm Sandy on Fire Island, the FCC told Verizon it had to file an application for permission to do this. The issue became moot when Verizon put FiOS on Fire Island.

In the future, when AT&T or Verizon or CenturyLink or any other CWA wireline employer requests permission to shut down the wireline network and substitute a wireless service or simply abandon rural areas, the carrier must request permission from the FCC to do this.

In its comments, CWA indicated support for the eight criteria that the FCC proposes, including network capacity and reliability; service quality; device interoperability; service for individuals with disabilities; 911 service; cybersecurity; service functionality and coverage. CWA urges the Commission to add a ninth criterion: affordability. Wireless data caps and expensive satellite-based Internet access are not substitutes for wireline Internet access with unlimited data.

CWA is urging the FCC to ensure that there is a skilled, career workforce with worker's rights as part of its service quality analysis. A company that violates labor law is not a substitute.

These rules do not apply to Verizon's "forced migration" from copper to fiber network. This is considered a "network change" not a "service discontinuance" and simply requires advanced notice (90 days for retail and 180 days for wholesale customers).

The FCC considers a number of factors when evaluating whether to grant a discontinuance application. An important criterion is that an "adequate substitute" service should be available.

CWA continues to raise the issue of de facto service discontinuance/retirement as a result of failure to properly maintain and repair the copper network.

Fight for Clean Elections in Maine

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On November 3rd, citizens across the state of Maine will head to the polls and vote on Question 1 to restore and re-establish clean elections and to counteract the role of big money in state and local races.

Accountable or clean elections, approved overwhelmingly by Maine voters in 1996, established the first-ever public funding system in the United States for candidates running for a state office in Maine. Elections were decided by the voters, not by wealthy special interests. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011 gutted the intent of the law by eliminating the matching fund component, dramatically weakening Maine's Clean Election Law.

The original purpose of the Maine Clean Election Act – fairness, accountability and transparency in elections, along with Mainers' free speech – was compromised. The ruling made it easier for ultra-wealthy special interests to influence the outcome of campaigns.

Question 1 seeks to fix what the Supreme Court has broken.

As the campaign to restore clean elections in Maine races toward the finish line, CWA, the Democracy Initiative and coalition organizations are working hard to turn out every single Mainer to make their voice heard on Election Day. Their efforts on the ground, along with additional partners like Common Cause, Every Voice, Sierra Club, Maine People's Action, and others are critical to building a true democracy movement and building a government of, by, and for the people.

The Democracy Initiative recently spoke with Serina DeWolfe of CWA Local 1400 in Maine about her organizing efforts on the ground. Below are some of DeWolfe's reflections on the campaign in its final weeks and its importance to the broader democracy movement.

Democracy Initiative (DI): Why do clean elections matter to our democracy?

Serina DeWolfe (SD): I would pose this question: How do you have a true democracy without clean elections? Elections won by the most affluent candidates supported by the richest special interest groups are not examples of the democracy that the United States was founded on. There is no true "one person, one vote" when elections are bought by lobbyists.

DI: Why do you think clean elections matter in Maine and in other states?

SD: There is truth to the old slogan "as Maine goes, so goes the nation." There is a watchful eye on our small, rural state where we pride ourselves on doing what is right. I am confident that Mainers will go to the polls on November 3rd and do the right thing. This is a pivotal referendum question. If Mainers do the right thing by voting for clean elections, I am confident other states will realize the positive impact this will have on elections throughout the United States and we, the voters, will have our voice back.