CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 8, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 8, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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TPP: The Fight Goes On

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CWA President Chris Shelton exposed the just-announced agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in an op-ed in The New York Times:

"The Trans-Pacific Pact is a one-sided deal to help the 1 percent," he wrote. "Despite all the hype, it's clear that this TPP will continue decades of one-sided trade policy that gives away U.S. workers' jobs and harms our communities, while benefiting multinational corporations and the 1 percent."

Read the complete column here.


 

On Monday, trade negotiators for the 12 TPP countries announced an agreement, capping nearly six years of secret negotiations, with corporate lobbyists leading the U.S.'s effort.

Shelton said:

"Despite broad promises from the Obama administration and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman that the deal would deliver for middle-class families, working people know that the TPP would be a disaster. It would continue the offshoring of jobs and weakening of our communities that started under the North American Free Trade Agreement and hasn't stopped. It would mean labor and environmental standards that look good on paper but fall flat when it comes to enforcement. It's a corporate dream but a nightmare for those of us on Main Street.

We're still very concerned about the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. The window dressing changes adopted in Atlanta don't change the fact that corporations still have an extra-judicial process – ISDS – to enforce their rights. That's not the case for labor and environmental standards.

And we're concerned that the protections given to pharmaceutical companies will mean that life-saving drugs won't be affordable for millions."

Read the full statement here.


CWA Local 3204 CWA members joined the Atlanta #StopTPP Coalition and many environmental, faith, senior citizen and LGBT activists to protest the trade ministerial meeting in Atlanta, GA, where negotiators agreed on a deal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Opposition to TPP is growing in some of the partner countries, including Canada, Martin O'Hanlon, President of CWA Canada, said. He mentioned meeting former Japanese Agricultural Minister Yamada Masahiko in Atlanta last week leading a Japanese anti-TPP delegation.

"Ordinary people know this deal is being cut for corporations, not for them," O'Hanlon said. "When corporate lobbyists go behind closed doors and negotiate in secret for six years, the deal they are going to come out with will look out for the interests of multinational corporations, not average working people or the environment in any of these countries."

 

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Hillary Clinton Opposes TPP

Hillary Clinton came out against the TPP trade deal, breaking with the Obama administration.

In an interview Wednesday with Judy Woodruff of PBS, Clinton said "As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it."

"I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security and I still believe that is the high bar we have to meet," Clinton said, adding that this TPP deal does not clear that bar.


Bargaining Update

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East Coast Mayors Representing over 12 Million People Criticize Verizon over FiOS Foot-dragging

Mayors of major Northeast cities are fuming at Verizon for failure to roll out FiOS Broadband Internet in urban areas, where up to 12 million people are seeking competition in the Internet access marketplace. Increasing access to FiOS would also create hundreds of jobs for Verizon workers.

In a letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, mayors from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey say that Verizon has failed copper network and traditional landline customers and expressed concern with how Verizon has been treating workers during contract negotiations.

"As Mayors, we understand firsthand how vital Broadband is to the growth of our local economies and to nurturing a healthy, competitive marketplace in our state. Our residents use the Internet to search for jobs, build home-based businesses, educate their children and engage in the civic life of our cities," the mayors wrote. "But consistently and increasingly, our consumers have complained that FiOS service is not available to them. These are not isolated complaints – there are millions of residents in communities throughout the Northeast who have been left without service, and with no plan or promise for future resolution."

The letter was signed by the mayors of New York City, Pittsburgh, Newark, Jersey City, Buffalo, Worcester, Paterson, Syracuse, Lowell, Albany, Brockton, Trenton and Revere, and the Democratic candidate for Mayor in Philadelphia.

Verizon is the only major telecommunications company to recently refuse federal funding to ensure customers had access to broadband in underserved areas, leaving many in eight states and the District of Columbia without access to important telecommunications options.

Verizon has also been uncooperative with municipal governments, and CWA has asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Verizon for neglecting traditional wireline services at a time when the company is trying to move away from fulfilling its obligations to non-wireless customers.

Verizon customers need access to options in the broadband marketplace, which is dominated by mostly non-union cable companies and sorely lacks in competitive price models. Americans pay nearly twice as much for broadband than consumers in other advanced industrialized countries, and often for broadband connections that are much slower.


Members and retirees from CWA Local 2201 came out Thursday morning to the Hungary Spring Road work site in Richmond, VA, to show their support for Verizon workers fighting to serve their customers and for a fair contract.

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October 16 is Day of Solidarity in District 3

On Oct. 16, across District 3, CWA members will be mobilizing in a "Day of Solidarity," to push AT&T to get serious about bargaining, especially on critical issues.

AT&T workers are building public support for their fair contract fight. The 28,000 workers have stayed on the job without a contract while negotiations continue.

"Our goals in these negotiations are keeping good jobs in our communities, respect, and a better quality of life for working families," said CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt.

Next Thursday, 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.


AT&T call center workers, members of CWA Local 3201, wear black on Friday to show solidarity with their bargaining team in District 3.
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CWA members in Florida picketed for a fair contract at AT&T after work on Friday. "We all stand equal together. I am proud of us," Local 3120 member Billy Bates said.


T-Mobile Worker is Part of White House Summit on Worker Voice

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At the White House Summit on Worker Voice, held Oct. 7, workers talked about their struggle to make ends meet despite working two jobs, the fight they face from employers who are blocking their right to a union voice, and how unions and labor organizations are fighting back in innovative ways.


T-Mobile worker Abigail Parrish with CWA President Chris Shelton outside the White House.

The day-long session brought together workers, union leaders, including CWA President Chris Shelton, worker advocates, and businesses to explore ways to ensure that working Americans can share in the U.S.'s economic growth. President Obama addressed the group, stressing that "we need to look at different ways of organizing, we need to update our labor laws and we need new tools to bring people together. We also need to engage businesses to lead the way."

"We should be making it easier, not harder, for folks to join a union. We should be strengthening our labor laws, not rolling them back. And for contractors or workers who can't join unions, we should be finding new avenues for them to join together and advocate for themselves as well," he said.

Abigail Parrish, a T-Mobile US customer service representative at the call center in Wichita, Kans., was part of a panel on Worker Voice Making a Difference: Rebutting the False Choice.

Here is some of the message she delivered to participants:

I really enjoy the job, and I love interacting with customers, but there are also a lot of issues at T-Mobile. The job is not well paid. We have to deal with unreasonable performance metrics that are very hard to meet, unfair and erratic scheduling stresses workers out and the biggest issue is probably that we have no voice at work.

We have no voice to raise our concerns. We have no say in anything that happens at work, and whenever workers are trying to speak out, the company retaliates against them.

My co-workers and I are working on organizing a union at our workplace, but it has been hard. Many workers have been retaliated against, some people have been fired and that just creates a culture of fear at the workplace. We know a lot of workers support us, but they are too afraid to come out of the woodwork.

One of my co-workers said it best when she said: 'When you come out in support of the union, you feel like there is this big X on the back of your head. That the company is out to get you.'

I think, in a free workplace, you should not have to be afraid to voice your concerns. You should not feel like you are targeted. You shouldn't have to keep it a secret, when you fight for your rights.


T-Mobile Policy Tries to Silence Woman about Sexual Harassment, but She and Other Women Fight Back

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CWA Local 1400 members came out to show support for Angela Agganis, a former T-Mobile customer service representative who worked more than eight years at the First Park call center in Oakland, ME, at a news conference on Tuesday.


CWA Local 1400 members supporting Angela Agganis at her news conference on Tuesday where she announced she is suing the corporation.

Agganis, who resigned her T-Mobile post after being forced to sign a gag order when she reported to human resources that she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor, announced at the press conference that she will file a lawsuit against the corporation this week. The corporation's human resources department, rather than come to her aid, threatened to fire her if she talked to her coworkers about the matter. In August, a National Labor Relations Board judge vindicated Agganis with a ruling that T-Mobile violated U.S. labor law when it required her to sign that confidentiality agreement and threatened her with discipline.

The judge ordered T-Mobile to rescind the policy and notify its employees of the rescission and their rights. But this remedy applies only to the call centers in Maine and South Carolina. T-Mobile workers at all other locations are not covered by the judge's order. Yet they also deserve to know that this policy is illegal and that they have the right to speak to each other about workplace issues like sexual harassment. The press conference called on the company to do the right thing and rescind these policies across the country and inform all employees of their rights.

T-Mobile has a pattern of policies that silence workers. National Labor Relations Board judge Christine Dibble ruled in March that T-Mobile US engaged in nationwide labor law violations that were directed from the very top of the company in Bellevue, Wash., finding that 11 of the 13 corporate policies or provisions at issue before her were illegal because they interfered with workers' rights to communicate with each other and organize. T-Mobile still has not taken action to address the violations.

The Maine Women's Lobby has also called on T-Mobile to change its ways.

"The Maine Women's Lobby calls upon T-Mobile to do the right thing and guarantee that when women choose to speak up against sexual harassment they aren't threatened with discipline. This outrageous policy needs to end today," Executive Director Eliza Townsend said.

Media coverage of the news conference:

Former T-Mobile employee to sue over harassment at Oakland call center by Dustin Wlodkowski, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel, October 6, 2015.

Former Oakland T-Mobile Worker to File Sexual Harassment Suit by Patty Wight, Maine Public Radio, October 6, 2015. 


Send Us Your Stories

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As more and more states put obstacles in the way of voters trying to exercise their right to vote, we want to hear from you, our CWA brothers and sisters, about some of the challenges you and your family have faced out there as you try to register and vote.

Have you gone to the polls to find you're not on the registration list? Did you change your name after getting married and have had difficulty voting with ID as a result? Do you not have the required identification at all? Or is it something as simple as moving your place of residence, and not being able to register in time? Or confronting long lines at the polling place?

CWA is not taking it lying down. We are starting a "Voting Rights Denied Story Project." Tell us your story by filling out this form – we are collecting stories until Tuesday, November 3 – and sending it to Tova Wang at  twang@cwa-union.org. Or send a letter to:

Tova Andrea Wang
CWA Director of Democracy Programs
501 3rd Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.20001

Alabama is just the latest example of discriminatory disenfranchisement in the states. The state where rampant voter discrimination and disenfranchisement of mostly African Americans led to the nation's first Voting Rights Act 50 years ago is at it again. So are Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas and many states across the nation which are showing new zeal in erecting obstacles to voting.

In Maryland's Montgomery County, the Republican majority on the board of elections has decided to close two early voting sites with more blacks and Democrats and moved them to lower population, white, Republican communities.

The effort got underway last week as a group of local leaders participating in the Minority Leadership Institute discussed the challenges that voters are facing and took up the cause of collecting our individual stories. The Minority Leadership Institute brings together active CWA members for an intensive leadership training program that features classes on diversity, leadership, public speaking, and effective teaching that allows participants to return to their locals with a range of skills and abilities to help them become better organizers, motivators, and leaders.


CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings with Minority Leadership Institute class members at a training session at CWA Headquarters last week.

If we are going to win on any of our issues, including the right to organize and collectively bargain, fair wages, and ensuring the health of our families, we must protect the right to vote. To fight back, we need to know more about the kinds of problems that you are encountering.


The Fight to Restore Workers' Rights: Workplace Democracy Act Introduced

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At a Capitol Hill news conference, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) announced the introduction of the Workplace Democracy Act, to support workers who want a voice in the workplace.


CWA President Chris Shelton says the Workplace Democracy Act is "long overdue." Photo credit: Rick Reinhard.

Senate cosponsors include Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) House cosponsors include Reps. Pocan, Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Wash, DC), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Don Norcross (D-N.J.), Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and Janice Hahn (D-Calif.)

The legislation represents a leap forward for working people in their fight to have a greater voice in the workplace. CWA President Chris Shelton, speaking at the news conference, cited the actions of employers like Cablevision that use every move they can think of to block workers from having a voice on the job.

"Even where workers endure the months of intimidation, harassment, pressure and firing from their employers – all illegal actions by the way – and vote for a union, nearly every company has a game plan to drag out negotiations so that more than half the time, workers can't get a first contract a full year after their representation election. The Workplace Democracy Act is long overdue," Shelton said.

Also joining the event were workers who have faced retaliation for trying to form a union at work.

This legislation will make it easier for workers to form unions through majority signup. If a majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards, the National Labor Relations Board will certify their union. This gives workers the ability and the choice over how to form their union, instead of allowing employers to dictate the process.

The bill also addresses the long delays that some companies use to undermine workers' voices. Employers would be required to begin bargaining within 10 days after the union is certified. If no agreement is reached after 90 days of negotiation, either side can request compulsory mediation. After 30 days of mediation, the remaining issues would be resolved through binding arbitration.

CWA was the leading voice for the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would have enabled workers to organize without the fear of intimidation, harassment or firing. The legislation passed the House in 2007 by an overwhelming margin. It had strong majority support in the Senate but couldn't get one minute of debate on the Senate floor because of the Senate's broken rules.


Organizing Update

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Al Jazeera America Journalists Join NewsGuild-CWA, Vow Fight to Add Colleagues Excluded by Management

An overwhelming majority of Al Jazeera America digital journalists on Tuesday voted for representation by The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. With the election, the staff of AJAM becomes the latest in a series of digital newsrooms to organize, but the first where management forced a government-supervised election, instead of voluntarily recognizing the union.

AJAM management is also contesting the rights of nine journalists to have union representation, despite declaring earlier that it would respect employees' wishes. The nine journalists include team leaders and junior editors who do not have the power to hire or fire and are positions covered by Guild contracts in other newsrooms. The Guild has vowed to defend the rights of the nine journalists at the National Labor Relations Board if management refuses to accept them.


Jubilant Al Jazeera journalists celebrate joining The NewsGuild-CWA.

"In voting to join The NewsGuild-CWA, journalists at Al Jazeera America are sending a strong message to all digital media workers – that they don't need management's approval to form a union," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said. "Now, as NewsGuild members, they have laid a solid foundation for fighting management's ongoing attempt to keep nine journalists out of the bargaining unit. We will fight right alongside them until all eligible AJAM employees have a voice a work."

Read more about this victory at The NewsGuild website.

Other coverage of the victory:

Al Jazeera writers continue unionization streak in digital media – this time, not without opposition By Lydia DePillis, Wonkblog, the Washington Post, October 6.

Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Vote to Unionize by Michael Calderone, Senior Media Reporter, The Huffington Post.

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Envoy Airport Agents' Capitol Hill Visit Gets Them Union Vote

31 Envoy airport agents who visited the nation's capital last week got what they came for as several members of Congress contacted the National Mediation Board on their behalf and, as a result, the federal agency has set dates for them to vote on joining CWA.

It's a huge victory for the workers as they will vote from October 27 through Nov. 17 on joining the union.

The workers are still waiting on the NMB's full board to decide on the size of their unit and whether all 5,300-plus Envoy airport agents will have the opportunity to vote. An NMB investigator wrongly disqualified as many as 2,200 workers from being eligible to vote. CWA appealed that ruling and the full board is now considering the union's appeal.

The workers quickly gathered more than 1,200 signatures of coworkers on a petition demanding an end to the delay. They brought the petition to Congress to ask their elected representatives to contact the NMB and urge the agency to move ahead with a decision.


CWA District 7 Leadership Conference

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First line leaders, activists and stewards participated in a districtwide leadership conference at the University of Iowa Labor Center in Iowa City, IA, last week.

District 7 Vice President Brenda Roberts spoke to participants about the importance of unity in action and organizing opportunities. Participants attended classes and workshops on topics such as "Defending the Public Good: Today's Struggles for Public Services and Public Workers"; "Laying the foundation to Organize the Unorganized"; and "Building Coalitions for Economic Justice."

They later organized and participated in a rally to support a minimum wage increase passed by Johnson County.