CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 31, 2013
- Stop Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal
- Senate Minority Obstruction Blocks Key Executive, Judicial Nominations
- President Cohen Recognized Among The Hill's 2013 Top Lobbyists
- Political Update
- Victory For Freelancers, Proud Moment For CWA Canada
- Bargaining Update
- Movement Building
- CWA: FCC Spectrum Auction Must Be Open and Competitive
- CWAers Help Patients Sign Up for Health Insurance
On MSNBC's The Ed Show, CWA President Larry Cohen spotlighted how service sector jobs, as well as manufacturing jobs, will be sent overseas if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is approved.
"How do we expect to revive an economy if we send those kinds of jobs out of this country? No other nation does it. Only this country is doing it. That's not growth," he said.
Congress is currently considering "fast track" authority, which means that the trade deal can't be changed by lawmakers; only a "yes or no" vote on the entire package would be permitted. Authorization for fast track expired in 2007, and must be renewed by Congress.
So far, 146 Democrats have signed on to a letter authored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro and George Miller to be sent to President Obama expressing concerns about the secretive TPP negotiations and stressing that they will oppose fast track authorization if Congress has no role in the negotiation and approval process. "The United States cannot afford another trade agreement that replicates the mistakes of the past. We can and must do better," they wrote.
The signers added that "we are deeply committed to transforming U.S. trade policy into a tool for creating and retaining family-wage jobs in America, safeguarding the environment, maintaining consumer protection and improving the quality of life throughout the country."
Go to http://www.cwa-union.org/no-tpp for more information and to take action. Call your lawmakers. Tell them to oppose fast track authority for the TPP.
Dial 1-888-966-9836 for the House of Representatives.
Dial 1-877-795-7862 for the Senate.
The U.S. Senate confirmed several key nominations this week, including Richard Griffin as NLRB general counsel and Tom Wheeler as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
But the nominations of Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Administration and Patricia Millet to fill one of three vacancies to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit were blocked. Both failed to get the 60-vote supermajority needed to proceed to an up or down vote.
That prompted CWA and coalition partners to call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to use the procedural motion that's been used 17 times since 1978 to move these nominees to a vote. Leader Reid must take any action necessary to move these nominations forward. The Senate can vote for or against a nomination, but the president's nominees all deserve a vote.
CWA activists are contacting their Senators, calling for an end to Senate obstruction and an up-or-down vote on executive and judicial nominees. Call 1-866-937-4359 and follow the prompts. Tell your Senators that we need a fully functioning democracy, not obstruction.
Just as earlier this year, when the minority party senators tried to block confirmation of the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because they didn't want that agency to function, the minority is now obstructing Watt's nomination because they don't like the mission of the FHFA. Watt is a highly qualified member of Congress from North Carolina.
Similarly, on the floor, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said the work load of the court isn't sufficient to warrant filling the three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court. Yet, the D.C. Circuit Court is the second most important court in the nation, following the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last summer, CWA and a coalition of groups pushed for Senate confirmation of all five NLRB members, as well as for Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Gina McCarthy at Environmental Protection Agency and other key executive nominations.
Then, Leader Reid was ready to invoke the procedural motion necessary to get these nominations to a vote. A group of Republican senators agreed to stop their obstructionist tactics and move the nominations forward.
For the second year in a row, CWA President Larry Cohen has been named to The Hill's annual list of top lobbyists.
The political newspaper wrote, "A vocal advocate for Senate rules reform, Cohen had something to celebrate when a full slate of nominees was confirmed to the National Labor Relations Board."
The Hill uses the term "lobbyist" broadly to describe all people who are working to influence federal policy, even if they may not be necessarily registered to lobby. "They all have one thing in common: a proven ability to make things happen in Washington," the paper said.
CWA Local 3179 President Stephen Sarnoff has filed to run for Florida's District 67 state representative seat in 2014.
"I want to run because I simply want to change the balance of power in Tallahassee," he told The Tampa Bay Times. "Whether it's not expanding Medicaid to 1.2 million Floridians, or it's the parent trigger bill to privatize the education system...you name it, I'm tired of it. I want to make sure there's one more Democrat up there so the Republicans do not have a super majority to continue steamrolling the people of Florida."
CWA will be showing our support for New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio on Nov. 1. Wear red to the Labor GOTV rally at 5 p.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
CWA #1 in New Jersey
This election year, CWA has had the most volunteers of any union in New Jersey. Here CWA Local 1082 members phone bank for the Democrats running to represent the 18th District in the New Jersey Legislature: Peter Barnes, Patrick Diegnan and Nancy Pinkin.
More than 60 CWA Local 1036 members turned out for voter outreach. Activists have partnered with New Jersey Workers' Voices to educate voters about pro-labor candidates and the opportunity to raise the minimum wage by voting "Yes" on Question 2.
It was one of the proudest moments in CWA Canada's history: A media union victoriously stood up for hundreds of non-members who cherish their independence but were being victimized because of it.
Last November, Amber Nasrulla was pitching a story to an editor at Transcontinental (TC Media), publisher of more than 30 magazines. It was something she had done many times over the previous 10 years. But that relationship came to a screeching halt when she was informed she would have to sign a new contract.
She was aghast at what she read and sought counsel from another professional. She was referred to Derek Finkle, founder of the Canadian Writers Group (CWG), for his assessment of the document, which demanded full copyright and waiver of moral rights with no additional compensation. It was non-negotiable. Finkle proclaimed it draconian and advised her not to sign it.
She didn't. Instead, she went public about it – anonymously at first – after Finkle put her in touch with an editor of TheStoryboard.ca, a website for independent content creators that grew out of a unique alliance forged in 2010 between Finkle's agency and the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), which has long had a Freelance Branch that bargains a collective agreement for contractors who perform work for the CBC.
The alliance was funded by the CMG's parent union, CWA Canada, which had resolved to extend the benefits of membership to all freelancers and student journalists who were contending with the growing scourge of unpaid internships.
The CMG has led the way in advocating for independent content creators on issues such as copyright, rates, digital and re-use rights. This was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to thousands of the country's freelancers that, while they could not avail themselves of collective bargaining, they could use the power of the collective to get a fair contract.
In March, CMG set up a Facebook page (Back Off, Elle and Canadian Living publisher) where freelancers could share information and connect with one another. Word began to spread among writers, photographers and illustrators that a media union was preparing to do battle on their behalf.
CMG sent a letter to Ted Markle, president of TC Media, seeking a meeting to discuss the new freelancer contract. He declined the invitation. But it was Markle's letter to the CMG that convinced Nasrulla to reveal her identity as the whistleblower. Nasrulla wrote that she had come to believe that "it's crucial to stand up, speak the truth, and be counted."
To help the freelancers do just that, the Guild and Finkle's CWG formed a coalition with the Quebec Association of Independent Journalists, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, The Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators and the Canadian Freelance Union to put pressure on the publisher to withdraw or revise the contract.
Letters were written to TC Media and a federal minister about the fact that the company receives some $8 million a year from Heritage Canada's Periodical Fund, yet puts the squeeze on freelancers who could barely earn a living even before the contentious contract was introduced.
By mid-April, there was an indication that TC Media was succumbing to the pressure. Freelancers in Quebec were being told they would not be required to sign the new contract. The CMG learned that a new draft of the agreement was being prepared.
Soon word came that TC Media was circulating a new contract to freelancers in Quebec. According to a report in Le Devoir, the French agreement allows contributors in Quebec to retain both their copyright and their moral rights.
The CMG said it was cautiously optimistic, but would reserve judgment until the English version of the contract was available for scrutiny. "Having the weight of a union behind us is terrific," declared Nasrulla, who was about to become CWA Canada's newest member.
CWA members at CenturyLink (LegacyQwest) in District 7 ratified a new contract by a 60 percent yes vote. For more information, go to http://www.cwadistrict7.org/.
Kaplan students come to the bargaining table.
Kaplan students recently visited negotiations to tell Kaplan it's time for a fair contract. Daniela, a current student, told Kaplan corporate, "If we want to learn English by the book, we can just buy the book and stay home. If we don't have a good teacher, we wouldn't have a good education. In Venezuela, we have benefits for part-time workers. Why you cannot have this for your most important people?"
Kaplan's English-as-a-second-language teachers in New York voted last year to join TNG-CWA Local 31003. They are in tough bargaining for a first contract.
Help support Kaplan teachers in their fight for a fair contract by signing their petition: http://bit.ly/kaplanpetition.
Keeping GE in West Burlington Honest
At a community forum in West Burlington, Iowa, coalition members including activists from CWA, CCI Iowa Action Fund and other groups call on GE to keep its promises on jobs.
At a community forum in West Burlington, Iowa, 60 people, including union and community activists, elected officials, and others talked about ways to keep GE accountable and to remind the company: Keep your promise to the community. Invest in West Burlington. Don't take our money and run!"
In 2010, GE threatened to shut the plant if workers didn't come up with $8 million in concessions, some being forced to take pay cuts of 30 percent. In addition, GE got $2.4 million in tax incentives in return for agreeing to keep the plant open for at least five years.
The West Burlington community is organizing to make sure GE is held accountable and keeps the plant going.
Union and community partners include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, CWA and IUE-CWA, Iowa Federation of Labor, Iowa Policy Project, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, Des Moines/Henry County Labor Council, and Iowa Citizen Action Network.
CWA and ver.di leaders met in Berlin to talk about the next steps in the campaign to support T-Mobile US workers in their fight for organizing and bargaining rights.
Below: ver.di members in Germany have held many actions to support their T-Mobile US colleagues.
T-Mobile US Action
United Students Against Sweatshops activists and students at Wichita State University, Kan., are calling on the university to make their campus "sweatshop free" by cutting all ties with T-Mobile US and affiliating with the Workers Rights Consortium.
Students delivered a letter to University President John Bardo.
USAS activists at the College of Charleston also are pushing college administration to support workers' rights and stand up for T-Mobile US workers.
CWA President Larry Cohen and senior staff met with leaders of ver.di this week on the campaign. Next week T-Mobile workers and ver.di activists from Berlin will meet in Charleston, S.C., with T-Mobile US workers as part of their partnership program.
Child Care Providers Demand Fair Wages
Outside DHS, 100 child care providers and their allies rallied for a fair contract.
Below: Kids joined workers at the protest.
One hundred child care providers, represented by CWA Local 1037, rallied outside the New Jersey Department of Human Services to demand a fair contract and wages on Tuesday.
Workers have spent more than a year negotiating their second contract with DHS with little success. So they decided to launch the Better Beginnings campaign – building a coalition of working parents, union members, faith-based groups and community supporters – to help advance their cause and the health, well-being and promising future for New Jersey children.
The protesters delivered a petition, demanding a fair contract for the more than 2,000 home child-care providers, to Commissioner Jennifer Velez. Her office refused to accept the petition.
But a number of small businesses – up and down South Warren Street in Trenton, right next to DHS – put signs in their windows supporting Better Beginnings.
These workers are independent contractors, paid through DHS. As independent contractors, they're prevented from accessing workers' compensation, unemployment, social security retirement or even basic health care coverage. And according to a report by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, more than half of the home-based child care providers surveyed lived in households earning less than $25,000 a year – despite providing on average nearly 39 hours a week of care.
Don't mistake them for babysitters. Rutgers found that this is a highly experienced and well-trained group, with an average of 12.5 years providing child care. A vast majority of providers reported at least one training, such as learning to care for children with special needs, in the past year. Some of have degrees in education and early childhood development.
The Federal Communications Commission now is writing the rules for an auction of unused broadcast spectrum, and CWA says the rules must be fair.
The Commission's goals of raising sufficient funds for a public safety network and to make sure that the spectrum is used efficiently for the public can only be achieved through "an open and competitive auction in which every carrier can participate equally," CWA wrote in a letter to FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.
T-Mobile and Sprint already are looking for special treatment and want the FCC to establish different rules for different bidders.
"The FCC should not favor one competitor over another," CWA said, citing T-Mobile's recent combination with MetroPCS, the spectrum it acquired from AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and the $3 billion cash penalty fee it received from AT&T as evidence of its strength in the market. Sprint received billions of new funds as part of the Softbank deal and, in combination with its affiliate Clearwire, controls more spectrum than any competitor, CWA noted, adding, "these companies are strong competitors."
CWA members are helping patients navigate the process of signing up for health insurance for the very first time.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, communities across the country have received $67 million in federal grant money to train, support and certify health care advisors – or navigators – to help people figure out the new health insurance marketplace.
At Kaleida Health in Buffalo, N.Y., Susan Grupp, a member of CWA Local 1168, has been helping people understand the insurance offerings on the New York Health Benefit Exchange, select the best options for their families and determine what level of financial assistance is available to them.
"The very first person we signed up was in tears when she was done, she was so excited. She was among the working poor who are ineligible for Medicaid," said Grupp, who has worked at Kaleida for 34 years. "And all three of us were also teary eyed because she was so excited to have health insurance. Now she can go get a mammogram, go to the doctor and do all the things so many of us take for granted."
The exchanges opened earlier this month. And navigators have been busy since day one.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook and we're running out of spots for appointments," said Grupp.