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CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 23, 2014

October 23, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

Want to be in next week's CWA Newsletter? Send your stories and photos to or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at

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CWA, IBEW Members on Strike at FairPoint


CWA and IBEW members in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, on strike since Oct. 17, are walking the picket lines at FairPoint facilities.


About 215 members of CWA Local 1400 in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, and about 1,500 members of IBEW Locals 2320, 2326 and 2327, went on strike at FairPoint Communications on Oct. 17.

In late August, FairPoint negotiators walked away from the bargaining table and imposed a contract that ended restrictions on subcontracting and outsourcing, froze pensions, increased health care costs for active workers and cut retiree health care, added a two-tier wage plan with big pay cuts for new hires and more.

CWA and the IBEW have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that FairPoint illegally imposed its contract proposals before impasse was reached. On the picket lines, workers are getting lots of support, from their communities and elected officials. The commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service has expressed concern about the quality of service FairPoint will be able to provide during the strike. FairPoint has brought in replacement workers.

FairPoint bought Verizon's northern New England land lines in 2008 and filed for bankruptcy protection 18 months later. CWA and IBEW led a campaign fighting the sale at the time.


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With less than two weeks before Election Day, Nov. 4, early voting has begun in many precincts. CWA members and activists across the nation continue to staff phone banks, join labor walks, knock on doors and talk one-on-one with co-workers in the effort to elect leaders who will support working families.


Watch this video of CWA Illinois LPATs – from CWA Local 4250, TNG-CWA 34071 and NABET-CWA 54041 – working the phonebank.



Indiana members at the phone bank this week.



TSEU/Local 6186 San Antonio members get out the vote for Lieutenant Governor Candidate Leticia Van de Putte.



CWA local 7250 members Linda Yang and Ge Yang (in back) call at a TakeAction Women-to-Women phone bank for Minnesota State House Representatives.



Angie Wells at Medicaid Moral Monday in Raleigh serving as pallbearer to all North Carolina residents who have died due to the extreme policies of Speaker Thom Tillis and the State Legislature. Tillis seeks to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) on Nov. 4.



CWA Local 4603 EVP James Courchane, VP Greg Tennyson along with members Alisa Brown, Kwame Barnes, and Amy Burns participating in the weekly CWA Phone Bank night at the Wisconsin AFL. They were speaking to fellow union members to help elect Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Burke.

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We won!

Thanks to an outpouring of community support, Paulette McQueen, a CWA Local 1037 in-home child care provider and shop steward, will be able to safely stay in her previously foreclosed home.

In June 2010, McQueen missed one mortgage payment to Wells Fargo. The very next month, she attempted to hand deliver two payments – one for the missed month and another for the current month – but the bank refused and began to foreclose on her Irvington home, where she works and lives with her family. A sheriff's sale was soon scheduled.

But CWA wasn't going to let that happen. The union partnered with NJ Communities United, Occupy Homes and the Home Defenders League to help McQueen and her family. Together they organized demonstrations, signed petitions and sent delegations to Wells Fargo.


Paulette McQueen, a shop steward with CWA Local 1037 and an in-home child care provider, celebrates success by CWA and allies forcing Wells Fargo to back off its illegal effort to foreclose on her home.

CWA Local 1037 President Ken McNamara wrote in an op-ed today:

The collective power of these organizations successfully stopped an impending sheriff's sale and won a trial mortgage-modification from Wells Fargo that has allowed Paulette and her family to stay in their home.

But after Paulette and her family met all the terms of the trial modification for the three-month period, Wells Fargo changed the terms of its own agreement and re-scheduled the sheriff's sale. After more negotiations, more public pressure, and the added weight of our national leaders at the Communications Workers of America, Wells Fargo finally signed a document guaranteeing a mortgage modification that keeps Paulette and her family safe in their home.

Despite this hard-won victory, the process raises an obvious question: If Wells Fargo agreed to a trial modification and Paulette complied with the terms, then how can Wells Fargo even consider not honoring its agreement with Paulette?

The answer is also obvious: because Wells Fargo has done this to struggling homeowners before, and gotten away with it. 

Of course, it didn't have to be this way. McQueen's victory is bittersweet. McNamara concludes:

Paulette and other homeowners like her should not have to wage this type of campaign to achieve justice, or in this case simple fairness and the rule of law. They should be able to rely on the legal system and regulatory agencies to protect their interests. Unfortunately the New Jersey attorney general's office doesn't consider families like Paulette's worthy of their attention.

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For the third year in a row, The Hill has named CWA President Larry Cohen to its annual list of top grassroots lobbyists.

The newspaper recognized Cohen for his grassroots work, writing, "After a decade at the helm of one of America's most powerful unions for communications workers, Cohen is preparing to step down next summer."

Not all the people on the list fit the mold of a traditional lobbyist, but they are the ones "who shape the policy decisions made in the nation's capital."

Read the full list here.

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Republican efforts to hold down voter turnout have continued unabated. Over the weekend, Texas officials successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the state to impose the nation's most restrictive voter photo identification law that will keep more than 600,000 legal voters from being able to vote.

The ruling by the court's conservative majority brought a scalding dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She concluded her dissent this way:

"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters. To prevent that disenfranchisement, I would vacate the Fifth Circuit's stay of the permanent injunction ordered by the District Court."

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CWA President Larry Cohen spoke to media personality Ed Schultz for his podcast on Wednesday.

"You have to take the issues that cut through these ideological lines and say this is about our work, this is about our neighborhood, this is about our community. If we do that, even now with less than two weeks to go before the elections, we can move some of these swing states and prevent [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell (R-KY) from taking over the senate."

Here is Wednesday's full podcast.

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This midterm election cycle, GOP candidates are coming out against a federal floor on wages.

Asked if she supported raising the minimum wage, Michigan's Terri Lynn Land, who is running for Senate, said, "As a general rule, I believe this issue should be handled by the states, not the federal government."

Joni Ernst, a Republican running for Senate in Iowa, had a similar answer. She said, "I do believe that is something that needs to be set by the states, because our Iowa cost of living is very low. Currently it is at $7.25 an hour, and I'm someone that worked the minimum wage way back when, when it was much lower."

Thom Tillis, the Republican Senate contender in North Carolina, has dodged the question a number of times. But he's actually said, "We need to understand the job killing consequences to these sorts of policies."

And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, who is up for reelection, has proclaimed, "I don't think it serves a purpose."

An overwhelming number of Americans – across party lines – support raising wages.

On National Minimum Wage Day, raising awareness for $10.10 on Oct. 10, CWA President Larry Cohen appeared on The Ed Show. He said:

The minimum wage is the floor that we all walk on. We need bargaining rights. We need an NLRB that works. We need a decent trade policy. That package restores confidence, restores the consumer and builds our economy again.

Cohen added that if we leave the economy to the so-called "invisible hand," corporations will just lead us to a massive race to the bottom:

I'd say $10.10 is a minimum. We see L.A. move towards $15 an hour, thanks to the mayor there. We see Germany with an $11.60 minimum wage, Australia with $14. You know, when we talk about a global economy and we need to look up, not just down all the time.

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CWA and the Steelworkers' safety and health departments will be training workers on Ebola and its potential transmission, thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

In coordination with District 1, where the training session will take place, CWA will have a curriculum developed for health care workers within two weeks. Targeted trainings for airline, telecommunications, and social service workers will follow.

"We want to make certain that health care workers have the protection and training they need to keep them safe," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "It also is critical that the U.S. support efforts in West Africa to stop the spread of this disease."

Recently, a healthcare worker who attended to an Ebola patient in Dallas traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight. AFA-CWA has been working with union leadership at Frontier, Frontier management and the Centers for Disease Control. The union has been engaged in managing the immediate response, reviewing facts as the information evolves and advocating the best provisions to protect members.

(For more Ebola resources for Flight Attendants visit

The AFL-CIO sent letters to President Barack Obama and Congress urging them to put in place mandatory protections and other workplace standards for hospitals and other health care facilities. At the same time, CWA locals are partnering with their employers to better diagnose and treat future Ebola patients.

CWA Local 1168 has been working with its main employer, Kaleida Health, on a daily basis to create protocols, provide equipment and host training sessions. McCarthy said that when they discovered their surgical bonnets were fluid penetrable, the union quickly worked with the hospitals to stock sturdier headgear that would wrap all around workers' heads. And when members expressed concerns about gloves that were prone to ripping, all it took was one call to the employer to order more of the purple nitrile exam gloves workers had been requesting.

"It's a moving target still, what the response might be," said CWA Local 1168's health and safety director Dana McCarthy. "But we're always doing more than what the Centers for Disease Control is recommending."

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Two Election Victories for IUE-CWA

15 Electronic Warfare Technicians who work for Veteran Enterprise Technology at Mirmar Marine Station in San Diego, CA and the Naval Air Station El Centro, CA have won their National Labor Relations Board election to form a union with IUE-CWA. The Service Contract Act workers are a growing segment of IUE-CWA.

David Neider, president of a newly-organized IUE-CWA unit at Northrop Grumman at Marine Station Yuma, AZ, began the campaign back in May. He met with several of the Technicians when he visited their bases on a work assignment. He talked to them about the union and his pitch to them fell on receptive ears because the workers were ready to see changes.

Issues include a lack of pay raises and having no meaningful voice in their workplaces. IUE-CWA Staff Representative Eric Benjamin guided David and a two-person worker organizing committee through the campaign process to bring home the victory. The vote was 13 to 0, with one spoiled ballot.

In addition, there's a bit more good news. Neider started and won a separate election to represent four Heavy Equipment Operators at Marine Station Yuma, AZ. The workers in this unit, employees of JANTEC, INC., won their election 3-0.

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In another head-scratching ruling, the World Trade Organization this week sided with Canada and Mexico on their claims that it is unfair for the U.S. to require that meat sold in grocery stores carry labels indicating country or countries where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

It's basically international trade run-amok, without any common sense and it is the second time the WTO has ruled against the U.S. on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) issue. First passed in 2008, consumer groups like the rule, saying grocery shoppers deserve to know where their meat comes from. But corporate agriculture in the U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico, don't like it.

Canada, for instance, said the rule has cost it $900 million and was threatening tariffs on U.S. meat imports along with products such as wine, potatoes and orange juice. These rulings by unelected and unaccountable tribunals are able to invalidate U.S. laws.

The passage of TPP, with its own mechanism allowing foreign corporations to challenge existing U.S. laws, will bring many more rulings as absurd as the WTO decision to prevent the U.S. from letting consumers know where the meat they're buying comes from.

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Access to affordable cancer treatments in the U.S and 11 other countries will be delayed for years if terms revealed in a leaked draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should go into effect, Public Citizen said.

The text of the proposed trade deal was obtained by WikiLeaks and analyzed in collaboration with Public Citizen.

TPP is a controversial agreement that multinational corporations are pushing on governments and are negotiating behind closed doors with officials from the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Negotiations on the deal have taken years and continue in Australia this week, with a ministerial-level meeting to follow on Oct. 25-27.

The leaked text shows worrying developments in patent and copyright issues and explains in part why TPP talks remain deadlocked. Measures in the text, which favors the patent-based pharmaceutical industry, face stiff opposition from most of the other TPP countries and health care advocates. Large brand-name drug firms want to use the TPP to impose rules throughout Asia that will raise prices on medicine purchases for consumers and governments.

Language extending patents prevent other companies from manufacturing generic versions of drugs that are cheaper. With billions at stake, Big Pharma wants the TPP to be a road map for rules that would govern Pacific Rim economies for the next several decades.

If the TPP is ratified with this U.S.-proposed provision included, Congress will be unable to reduce the years a patent lasts without risking significant penalties and investor-state arbitration.

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CWA is observing International Call Center Month with collective actions focused on derailing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a dangerous trade deal that threatens good union call center jobs.

"We all know that call center jobs are vulnerable to offshoring and that thousands of our jobs have already moved overseas," said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins. "The TPP brings the threat of further offshoring since it grants special treatment to TPP signatories in terms of standing for government contracts and because of the new low-wage markets that will open up."

Earlier in the month, CWA kicked it off with a series of webinars. Key CWA locals that represent call center workers are now hosting teach-ins or "talk-to-ten" information drives to help educate members about the threat to their jobs from the TPP. Activists will be engaging with members of Congress through post cards, phone calls and meetings. We'll also be distributing flyers, sending letters to the editor and partnering with our progressive allies to raise awareness.

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Employees at the Sheboygan Press voted 10 to 7 in favor of retaining union representation by the Sheboygan Newspaper Guild, Local 34179, in an NLRB-run election on Tuesday.

The Guild has represented members in the news, circulation and advertising departments at the Sheboygan Press, a small Gannett-owned newspaper, since 1944.The local currently represents 19 workers. The election came about because an anti-union, non-member faction in the paper's advertising department pushed the decertification petition.

Local 34179 was in negotiations and was close to a new contract agreement that had the potential to reduce the cost of medical insurance when the decertification petition scuttled further talks. Those negotiations will now resume.

The local fought back the attempt to take away workers' bargaining rights by focusing on one-on-one contact with every employee in the bargaining unit. The local's leadership and organizing committee were assisted by TNG Rep Jay Schmitz and by Lou Grieco, administrator of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, Local 34022.