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CWA e-Newsletter: Sep. 3, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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A Labor Day Message from CWA President Chris Shelton

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On this Labor Day, CWA members aren't taking it easy. Across our union, we've been mobilizing for fair contracts, organizing new members, fighting back against a bad trade deal, and taking on voter suppression and the obscene amount of money in our political system.

As we bargain this year for 200,000 CWAers, whether at AT&T and Verizon, United and American Airlines, Delphi, public workers in New Jersey, NBC, GE, hospital workers and at many more companies, one thing is clear. CWA members are standing up for each other's fights.

We say "it's our turn," and that means all of us.

CEOs today earn 300, 400 or even 1,000 times as much as frontline workers, who haven't had a real wage increase for more than three decades. These CEOs take the credit and the reward for our productivity and our work. And the 1 percent is doing better than well. From 2009 to 2012, as the economy slowly came out of the Great Recession, the 1 percent captured 95 percent of all income gains.

That's why we're not resting. CWA families deserve a raise. We deserve secure, sustainable jobs and real improvements in our standard of living. And we're going to get it.

We know that one of the biggest advantages any working person has is union membership.

Workers covered by union contracts earn higher wages – 13.6 percent higher – than their non-union counterparts. For African Americans, the union edge is 17.3 percent higher, and for Latinos, 23.1 percent higher. Union members have a voice on the job, and someone to stand with them when management makes unreasonable demands.

However, fewer working people than ever have the chance to join a union. Either they're harassed by companies who use fear, intimidation or harassment to stop them, or they're classified as "contract employees" by corporations who want to farm out their responsibility for fair compensation to subcontractors.

Today, just 6 out of every 100 private sector workers and 35 out of every 100 public workers have bargaining rights. If more workers were organized, workers could bargain better contracts and not be intimidated by employer threats to move jobs offshore or to cut wages to "remain competitive."

More collective bargaining, for more workers, is the way we will make certain that working people get our fair share in today's economy.

Our members and locals are getting the job done, and I couldn't be prouder of our union. I know we're up to this challenge.

On Labor Day, we should be celebrating and thanking those who do the work, not attacking their unions and holding them in contempt. This country was built by and sustained every day by working people and without them, our country could not survive. So on behalf of each and every member, hundreds of thousands of the Communications Workers of America, let me say "Thank You for what you do every day, but especially on your day, Labor Day."

Bargaining Update

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Verizon Workers Continue Mobilizing, Fighting for a Fair Contract

Across CWA Districts 1 and 2-13, members are doing their jobs serving Verizon customers at the same time that they continue to mobilize to remind Verizon that they want a fair contract. The contract for 39,000 workers expired August 1.

At daybreak on Tuesday, CWA Local 2204 members were holding informational pickets near the Verizon Staunton garage in Staunton, VA, Local 2204 Secretary-treasurer Jodie Moore said. The technicians have been working all month without a contract and will continue to fight until they get a fair contract. On Wednesday, Local 2204 members were at Luck Avenue, Roanoke, VA, a location that Verizon is threatening to shut down. The closest place the workers could transfer to is Richmond, VA. No one relishes moving 190 miles away, Moore said.



Activists from CWA Local 1000 rally to raise awareness about Verizon's corporate greed in Livingston, NJ. A company that makes $1 billion in profit a month can afford livable wages, healthcare benefits and fair retirement packages for their employees and retirees.




The fight for a good contract with Verizon continues as CWA Local 2336 members mount informational pickets about the negotiations, like this one last week at the Verizon Fairland Data Center in Silver Spring, MD. About 125 members, mostly engineers and engineer assistants, work there, Local 2336 President Terry Richardson said.




Members of CWA Local 1400, workers at Massachusetts's only unionized Verizon Wireless store, show their support for a fair contract.

Across District 3, CWAers at AT&T are Mobilizing



AT&T Southeast's more than 28,000 workers have been working since August 8 without a contract.

Nearly 200 people picketed outside of the AT&T call center on South Stream Boulevard in Charlotte, NC. CWA Local 3603 President Bonnie Overman tells the local news, "They don't have any problem putting their name on football stadiums and golf tournaments, but when it comes to taking care of the people who built the company, there seems to be an issue."




CWA Local 3905 member Joseph Hodgeland's children turned up at an information picket outside an AT&T collection center in Huntsville, AL, to tell AT&T they want to see their father more. Members from across Local 3905 and Local 3903 joined the action.

Marist College



At New York's Marist College, 119 secretarial and clerical workers, represented by CWA Local 1120, are fighting for a fair contract. Business Agent Carl Bertsche said, "CWA has represented the members at Marist since 1986 and has always had a good working relationship, until this round of bargaining. Marist is looking for givebacks in retiree health care, sick bank and wages. Our members have rallied to the cause and are standing strong to gain a fair and equitable contract."

CWA Calls on State Regulators to Investigate Verizon's Refusal to Maintain Landlines

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CWA is filing letters with telephone regulators in six states and Washington, DC, calling for investigations into the deterioration of Verizon's copper landline networks. In July, Verizon admitted in a letter to the FCC that it had only spent $200 million over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in eleven states and the District of Columbia.

The $200 million investment is less than one percent of the amount phone and DSL customers pay Verizon for service, which means the average customer is financing wireless and fiber expansion, rather than the upkeep of the network on which they rely.

In light of the new evidence presented by CWA to regulators, scores of legislators across the region joined the call for renewed investigation into Verizon's abandonment of the copper network.

"Verizon pulls in more than a billion dollars in profits each month. $200 million represents less than half a percent of the $50 billion Verizon spent on its wireline network from 2008 to 2014 and less than one percent of what they charge the average voice customer," said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney made it clear that"We support Verizon's expansion of FiOS, but the company also has a legal obligation to provide safe, reliable service over its traditional landline network."

Read the letters here and here.

Nearly 100 percent of Verizon's wireline investment was spent to build its fiber network. Verizon has refused to deploy its all-fiber FiOS network, but it has the statutory obligation to maintain its copper plant to provide safe, reliable service. (Verizon spent $59.9 billion on its wireless network, 2008-2014.)

Read more here, here and here.

Unfair Labor Practice Strikes at AT&T Southeast

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CWA locals representing AT&T workers in two District 3 locations held unfair labor practices strikes last week. Both locals reported a successful resolution of issues that provoked the strikes.


New Orleans

In New Orleans, above, members of CWA Local 3410 walked out on Aug. 28 to protest the action of an AT&T manager, Eric Vance, who struck a local union officer on an informational picket line with his company vehicle. Vance purposely gunned his engine and drove carelessly through a peaceful picket line, the local said.

It wasn't the first time that Vance has been the focus of an unfair labor practice, the local noted. So when AT&T management again refused to address Vance's outrageous actions, members decided they had enough and walked off the job in protest.

As a result of the ULP strike, that manager has been transferred.

In a separate incident in Pensacola, Fla., members of CWA Local 3109 began an unfair labor practice strike at 7 a.m. on Aug. 28, following illegal threats made by management to a union member.

A manager told a CWA member that if he sought union representation for a performance warning, he would suffer more serious consequences and a longer period of disciplinary action.

This obvious unfair labor practice ended with the manager rescinding his warning altogether and writing a letter of apology to the member and the local.

Verizon Cries Poor with $1 Billion a Month in Profits

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Poor Verizon. In contract negotiations with CWA and the IBEW, the company says it just doesn't have the money for a fair contract for 39,000 workers from Virginia to Massachusetts.

That's why it wants to cut pay for workers hurt on the job, hit workers with big increases in health care costs and get rid of good jobs across the footprint. Surprised that a company that made $9.6 billion in profits last year doesn't have the money to do the things it should, like maintain the telephone network on which millions of people rely, keep its promises to build out FiOS broadband and negotiate a fair contract for the workers who have made it so successful?

Well, it's hard to make it on just $1 billion in profit every month. There are big executive salaries to pay, mansions to buy and debts to pay off.

CWA is focusing attention on just how ridiculous Verizon's claims are with a new website, It's crowdfunding for the 1 percent.

Check it out.

More Workers Gain Right to Organize and Bargain in New NLRB Decision

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In a decision that opens the door to more American workers having more rights, the NLRB ruled last week that a company that contracts out work but owns and controls the workplace and sets job conditions could be considered a joint employer with contractors.

CWA released a statement regarding the National Labor Relation Board's Browning-Ferris ruling:

For too long, U.S. employers have used temporary and contract employees to evade their responsibilities to workers and to purposely block workers from organizing and bargaining collectively.

We agree with the National Labor Relations Board that 'it is not the goal of joint-employer law to guarantee the freedom of employers to insulate themselves from their legal responsibility to workers, while maintaining control of the workplace,' and we welcome this decision.

The NLRB took into account a broad range of factors that helps determine whether two companies qualify as joint employers. This standard and definition will make it easier to hold corporations accountable and responsible for the labor practices of their subcontractors and franchisees.

The AFL-CIO issued an explanation of the ruling here.

Activists, CWA Allies Mark Historic America's Journey for Justice with North Carolina Rally

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CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings and former CWA President Larry Cohen joined NAACP President Cornell Brooks and the Rev. William Barber at a huge National Voting Rights rally today in North Carolina, the latest leg in the history-making America's Journey for Justice to Washington, D.C.

Union members, civil rights, environmental justice, and educational activists, and members of faith-based communities embarked on the 860-mile march, starting in Selma, AL, on August 1. The destination is Washington, D.C., for Advocacy Day and a huge rally on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Terrific videos of the Journey for Justice and rallies are available here.

"We are on this Journey for Justice, because, 50 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, there are forces that want to take us backward, not forward," Cummings, who is leading CWA's participation, said. "Since the U.S. Supreme Court stripped important safeguards for citizens, we have seen too many states and jurisdictions enact restrictive and unfair impediments to the right to vote. We must expand the right to vote, and ensure that this important part of our democracy is available to all."

Cummings, Brooks and Cohen – who is now chairman of the Democracy Initiative, one of the partners that put together the America's Journey for Justice with the NAACP – joined the march in Fayetteville and marched into Raleigh. The march features teach-ins in almost 40 locations. The latest teach-in, organized by CWA with the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, took place In Raleigh at the Pullem Baptist Church. CWAers were among the 160 people who packed the church, CWA senior campaign lead Angie Wells said.

The Rev. William Barber, executive director of the state's NAACP, in issuing the call to action, left no doubt that powerful forces have led the effort to undermine voting rights.

"We stand here today, 25 days after the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, less than one week after the death of Amelia Boynton who was 54 years old when she was beaten on Bloody Sunday and we have less voting rights protection right now than we had 50 years ago," Barber said.

Barber traced a long arc of history from passage of the Voting Rights Act to the U.S. Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted it. Southern states dusted off laws that they had at the ready to suppress the votes of African Americans, Latinos, seniors, low income citizens and young people. North Carolina's new voting law is among the most restrictive in the country.

CWA Director of Democracy Programs Tova Wang moderated the teach-in. Participants included Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who spoke on redistricting that dilutes the voting power of African Americans. Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina gave the audience the background on North Carolina's law to suppress the vote and Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Donita Judge of the Advancement Project talked about the fight against that law.



At the teach-in, CWA senior campaign lead Angie Wells joins Rev. William Barber.

President Shelton, AFL-CIO Leaders Meet with Fed Reserve Chair

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At a meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin, CWA President Chris Shelton and a delegation of AFL-CIO leaders said working families were not sharing in the economic recovery and profits of employers, and that good jobs continued to be at risk. He warned that raising interest rates would further harm the ability of working families to improve their wages and standard of living.

AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson, part of the group, said that airlines were creating new carriers to compete and replace work currently performed by employees at existing carriers, putting more downward pressure on wages.

The union leaders' session preceded the September meeting of the Federal Reserve at which it could raise interest rates, adversely affecting working families and the economy.

Shelton: We Can't Stay on the Course Charted by the 1 Percent

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In an op-ed that appeared in The Hill, a Capitol Hill print and digital newspaper, CWA President Chris Shelton talked about how the partnership between the labor movement and the civil rights movement is how we will gain economic and social justice.

"Today, just as 50 years ago, we must build a movement to secure our freedom. This begins with a freedom from want: a decent standard of living, a union job, and the ability for our children to do better than we did, as well as our democratic freedoms, especially our right to vote and our right to have a truly participatory democracy by and for the people."

Read the full op-ed here.

Expanding Lifeline Program Will Help Close Digital Divide

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In comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission this week, CWA called for specific measures to modernize and expand the Lifeline program to make broadband service more affordable and accessible to lower-income families.

"High-speed broadband service is as essential to modern life today as telephone service was in the last century," CWA President Chris Shelton said. "The Lifeline program must be updated to break through the digital divide and acknowledge the fundamental reality that Internet access is 'truly a lifeline to the outside world.'"

Economic factors, and especially household income, are significant barriers to the expansion of broadband services, CWA said, citing Pew Research Center data that found that "low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without broadband than their middle or upper-income counterparts." According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, just 47 percent of households with incomes below $25,000 have broadband service. In today's world, broadband service is a necessity for employment and job search, health and education. Yet lower-income families face a real and widening digital divide, CWA said.

Recommendations included:

  • Set minimum speed and service requirements for carriers consistent with other universal service programs. The 10 Mbps downstream/1 Mbp upstream standard for Connect America also should be provided to Lifeline customers.
  • Provide reimbursement to Lifeline customers for up-front connection charges, in addition to the monthly subsidy. The Commission also should monitor the cost and availability of broadband products and consider some reimbursement toward equipment purchases.
  • Establish a national eligibility verification system that enables Lifeline participants to efficiently and easily change carriers if a better service is available.
  • Promote the service to more lower-income families to achieve as full participation rates as possible. CWA strongly opposes a cap to financing of Lifeline services.

Read the complete filing here.

Organizing Update‬‬

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Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Organize with NewsGuild of NY

Journalists in the digital newsroom of Al Jazeera America want a TNG-CWA voice. An overwhelming majority of the journalists has petitioned for representation by TNG-CWA Local 31003, and the group has called on management to voluntarily recognize their union. They are still awaiting a formal response from the company.

Along with their request for voluntary recognition, the AJAM digital employees presented management with a mission statement in which they asserted that representation by TNG-CWA, with its long history as an advocate for journalists at respected news organizations, would not only improve their workplace, but their ability to continue to practice quality journalism.

"We're excited to welcome the digital staff at Al Jazeera America to the Guild," said Peter Szekely, president of The NewsGuild of New York. "For more than 80 years, the Guild has helped thousands of journalists and media workers translate their workplace concerns into real life solutions. We're ready to apply that knowledge and experience to our newest members at Al Jazeera America."

Read more here.

D1 Election Victory at American Red Cross


Red Cross

A clear majority of workers at American Red Cross in Albany, NY, voted to join CWA Local 1118. Organizer Pat Cumo led the successful campaign, with support from CWA District 1 Staff Representative Erin Bowie and Organizing Coordinator Anne Luck.

CWA represents Red Cross workers in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Latest from CWA's Next Generation

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Next Gen activists are expanding on the six student debt clinics they've already organized this month, and are fighting to get big money out of politics.

Read more here.