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CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 24, 2013

CWA e-Newsletter

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CWA Organizing Institute Boosts Union Building in Mississippi

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A three-day Organizing Institute in Jackson, Miss., brought together CWA public worker leaders and activists to focus on organizing, mobilizing and union building among the city of Jackson's workers.

CWAers from Locals 3570, Mississippi; 3865, Tennessee; 3179, Florida; 1077 and 1082, New Jersey; 81381, New York; and 9119, California, participated in the program.


CWAers join breakout sessions during the OI.

The 33 participants worked through principles of union organizing, including how to inoculate, or prepare workers for what employers sometimes do during organizing campaigns. Role-playing sessions demonstrated effective ways to assess, agitate and move workers to action, with workshops led by Liz Roberson, assistant to the vice president for public, health care and education workers, and Brenda Scott, president of CWA Local 3570. The Jackson city workers are members of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees (MASE-CWA Local 3570).

Following the training, the 33 activists spent a day in on-site work visits in Jackson, talking with city workers and building support for CWA representation. "These visits were overwhelmingly positive, with workers signing up as we talked with them," the new organizers said. Many participants also signed up for steward training and are excited about building their union.

Participants heard from State Representative Jim Evans (D) and the assistant to Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (D). Lumumba was elected in June and CWA activists now have access to all city locations to talk with workers about union representation. CWA Vice President Brooks Sunkett, public, health care and education workers, and Booker Lester, administrative director to D3 Vice President Judy Dennis, also met with the group.

Growing Our Movement: St. Louis Bank Workers

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CWA and its allies are building a movement in one of St. Louis's hottest sectors: the financial services industry.

This month, CWA Locals 6300, 6350 and 6355; Missouri Jobs with Justice; and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, a nonprofit social justice organization, banded together to begin reaching out to finance workers in the St. Louis area. Targeting Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Pulaski Bank and Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, 20 activists flyered and circulated petitions in support of the "Press One for America" campaign.

"We plan to be active two days a week. It's not a one and done situation. Building a movement takes time – consistent effort and consistent determination," said CWA Local 6300 Vice President Jeff Spraul.

The financial services industry in St. Louis is booming. Employment grew 85 percent between January 2007 and September 2012, according to Moody's Analytics. In fact, St. Louis beat out Washington, DC, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth and Bridgeport, Conn., as the metropolitan area that added the most financial sector jobs.

The response to the outreach was overwhelming. After hearing about the call center bill – legislation that stops companies that ship jobs overseas from receiving taxpayer cash and gives you the right to transfer to a U.S.-based operator – bank workers shared their own stories about St. Louis jobs moving offshore. They signed hundreds of petitions and asked activists to keep them informed about the bill through email and phone calls.

"We got nothing but positive reactions. It was very inspiring," Spraul said.

At Wells Fargo, employees happily stopped and talked to activists outside their building. At Citibank, workers came outside on their breaks specifically to ask questions; coincidentally, the company had announced that week that it intended on outsourcing 100 call center jobs in the complex.

"We actually had people coming out and looking for us!" said Spraul.

CWA District 6 Staff Representative Kara Hutchason and CWA District 6 Organizer Judy Graves were instrumental in the effort, working with the organizers all three days of flyering. CWA Local 6300 President Mike Mehringer and CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings have also provided immense support and encouragement.

We're Building a Movement 50 Million Strong

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) meets with activists at Local 3204 in Atlanta.

Below: Local 3204 President Walter Andrews and D3 Vice President Judy Dennis join the "southern strategy session."


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke to a packed house at CWA Local 3204 on how union activists and others must join together throughout the South to restore economic justice for working families.

CWA Local 3204 President Walter Andrews and D3 Vice President Judy Dennis attended the meeting.

The "southern strategy" session was one of several town hall meetings during which Sanders met with union members, democratic and independent activists, and others to talk about the big economic issues facing working people. In addition to Atlanta, meetings were held in Birmingham, Ala.; Columbia and St. Helena, SC, and in Jackson, Miss., by video conference.

Sanders told MSNBC's Ed Schultz that, "what the American people are saying is very clear. They are saying in poll after poll, 'Do not cut Social Security, do not cut Medicare, do not cut Medicaid.' The most important issue is the need to create millions of jobs, so we deal with this frightfully high unemployment that we're seeing."


More than 50 activists from CWA, other unions, community and faith allies assembled at the California office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) to deliver this message: "Your time is up on immigration reform." Speakers included activists from CWA, WIC, SEIU, CHIRLA, and an undocumented family. The delegation entered the congressman's office and delivered 11 ringing alarm clocks while chanting "Your time is up!" McCarthy was unavailable for a meeting.

CWAers included Richard Moe, Chris Golden, Rob England, Shane Gentry, Mary Helen-Castro, and Tania Rodriguez Salinas from Local 9416, and Delia Sorrano, Ann Cervantes, and Elizabeth Camarena from 9423.


In California, CWAers and activists rally outside the office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, calling for fair immigration reform.

Below: Activists send a message to Rep. McCarthy and other lawmakers that "your time is up on immigration reform."



CWA members and first responders spotlight concerns about Verizon's
Voice Link system during an earthquake or other natural disaster.

In California, CWA activists joined with first responders and public officials for "The Great Shake Out," an education effort to point out the weakness of Verizon's Voice Link system during an emergency or natural disaster, such as an earthquake.

Members of CWA Locals 9423, 9586 and 9588 were among those participating.

No More Empty Promises on Trade Deals

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The Los Angeles Times recently published an op-ed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that focused on the administration's support for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Today CWA President Larry Cohen and Sierra Club Executive Director responded, "While Kerry mentions the right buzzwords, lessons from past trade pacts show why we deserve more than empty promises."

"We need a full debate on TPP, not more empty promises. We cannot afford another NAFTA," they wrote in a letter to the editor. Read the full letter here.

Kerry's op-ed said that the TPP would "support American jobs," set "high labor and environmental standards," and protect "human rights." But here are the real facts:

  • TPP Will Create American Jobs? That's What We Heard Re: Past Trade Deals: Secretary Kerry claims that the TPP would "support American jobs," yet similarly rosy projections regarding job growth have failed to materialize in past trade deals. A recent Economic Policy Institute analysis found that America experienced a net loss of 680,000 jobs to Mexico after NAFTA and over 40,000 jobs to Korea after passage of the U.S./Korea trade deal. The reality of these net job losses undermine the empty promises of American job creation made on behalf of those trade deals. As the study notes, "The TPP would significantly increase the threat that rapidly growing trade deficits and job losses in the United States would be locked in if the TPP is completed."
  • Rewarding Labor & Human Rights Abusers: Secretary Kerry notes the importance of protecting human rights and setting high labor standards, yet the TPP also would reward bad actor countries such as Vietnam with trade benefits, instead of holding them accountable for their deplorable human and worker rights records as the U.S. has already done with Bangladesh. Vietnam was recently named by the U.S. Department of Labor as one of only three countries in the world that uses child labor in apparel manufacturing. Additionally, a report by Worker Rights Consortium titled "Made in Vietnam" described major human rights and working rights problems in the nation, such as forced labor and child labor; pregnancy and gender-based discrimination; health and safety hazards; excessive working hours and inadequate wages. Human Rights Watch has also testified that conditions have actually become worse since Vietnam entered into TPP negotiations.
  • An Environmental Race to the Bottom: The TPP includes provisions that would enable corporations to challenge environmental, public health, and other public interest policies and regulations if they interfered with the corporation's "expected future profits" or that would pose a change to the corporation's "expectation of a stable regulatory environment." Such corporate-led challenges would take place in private tribunals that would circumvent the sovereignty of the U.S. judicial system.

Ted Cruz Blocks Nominee for FCC Chairman

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First he shut down the government. Now Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) is blocking the confirmation of Tom Wheeler as head of the Federal Communications Commission.

The tea party member has placed a hold on the nomination because he opposes the DISCLOSE Act, an important CWA-supported bill that would have increased transparency of independent groups' campaign spending – except it failed to overcome a GOP filibuster last year. Since the bill has stalled, some Democrats have suggested that the FCC might be able to use its authority to bring greater openness to campaign spending. So Cruz intends on blocking the nomination until Wheeler pledges not to require more disclosures from the sponsors of political television ads.

"Disclosing who sponsors and pays for political ads is all about bringing transparency to our political system. By supporting the ability of big money donors to spread their message in secrecy, Ted Cruz is clearly on the wrong side of democracy," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Since Wheeler's fate is in limbo, the confirmation of Michael O'Reilly, nominee for a Republican FCC seat, has also ground to a halt.

There may be another Senate rules showdown is on the horizon.

Recognizing Customer Service Workers

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October is Customer Service Professionals Month. Check out this great video about the important work CWA members do every day.

Bargaining Update

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CWA members at CenturyLink (LegacyQwest) in D7 will vote on a new tentative agreement reached last week. A majority of the CWA bargaining committee is recommending ratification. For voting information and details on the tentative contract, go to The results must be provided to the District 7 office by locals no later than 4:30 pm, MST, Oct. 25.


CWA Local 6360 in Kansas City has reached a three-year collective bargaining agreement with Lan-Tel Communications and Underground Services. Read more here.

Detroit Bankruptcy Would Hit Workers, Pensioners Hardest

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This week, a federal bankruptcy judge is hearing arguments about whether the city of Detroit can declare bankruptcy and throw out its pension commitments to city workers.

AFSCME, which represents city workers, the UAW and other unions are challenging this push to bankruptcy, especially since it will pay banks and other financial institutions ahead of city workers and pensioners, who receive around $1,000 a month.

To get the straight facts and real stories of Detroit's bankruptcy, visit AFSCME's website at

What happens in Detroit matters. It matters to working people, to small business, to everyone who played by the rules and now is in real danger of losing everything they worked for. What Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and his emergency manager Kevyn Orr have put in play in Detroit is absolutely and morally wrong.

Detroit is absolutely in a tough place. But instead of putting all of the burden on city workers and retirees and small business, Snyder could pursue federal funds, the same way the federal government saved GM, Chrysler and countless workers and communities. That plan was a big success. The people of Detroit deserve at least the same opportunity.

Watch CWA President Larry Cohen talk about the Detroit bankruptcy challenge on The Ed Schultz Show.

Mayors Urge DOJ to Allow America-US Air Merger

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Mayors from seven hub cities penned a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to settle the Justice Department's "ill-conceived lawsuit" challenging the merger between US Airways and American Airlines.

"We support the merger of American and US Airways because it is based on growth which benefits consumers and our communities," wrote mayors of Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Fort Worth. "A hub airport is only as good as the route network it supports, and our cities represent hubs throughout the United States that would benefits from a broader route network. The combination of American Airlines and US Airways creates a better network than either carrier could build on its own."

They added, "Without this merger, American and US Airways will be at a permanent competitive disadvantage to Delta and United, each of which has been allowed to build superior route networks through mergers that were cleared by the Justice Department."

They also highlighted "unprecedented" union support of the merger.

"The unions at both airlines share our goal of job growth and our view that pro-competitive mergers increase jobs," the mayors wrote. "They also have a deep understanding of the airline industry's competitive landscape, aided by the participation of the American unions in the Unsecured Creditors Committee as part of American's bankruptcy. Now they have joined together with the companies to support the new American Airlines. This is unprecedented. Such a constructive approach between employees and management should be applauded by the Administration, not challenged.

The mayors' letter comes on the heels of 68 Democratic members of the House writing their own letter urging President Obama and the Justice Department to end their opposition to the merger.

Read the full letter here.

Political Action Update

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CWA President Larry Cohen, with Virginia leaders and activists, meet for early morning neighborhood political walk in northern Virginia.

CWA activists in Northern Virginia spent last Saturday knocking on doors for Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe joined an early meeting of labor activists, including CWA President Larry Cohen, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and volunteers ready to go door-to-door.

CWA led all unions in Virginia on number of volunteers at the Saturday walk and workplace leafleting.