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CWA e-Newsletter: Sept. 12, 2013

CWA e-Newsletter

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You Won't Want to Miss Next Week's CWA Town Hall Call: September 19

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Next week's town hall call focuses on the amazing partnership CWA locals and TU activists are building with our counterparts in the German union ver.di. Earlier this month, ver.di members held actions and leafleted at 20 T-Mobile locations to stand up for the rights of T-Mobile US workers. Join next week's CWA Town Hall Call on Thursday, September 19, at 7:30 p.m. ET to learn more and how you can join the fight.

Register here:

At AFL-CIO Convention, Unions Vote for Growth, Change, Innovation

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CWA President Larry Cohen, who co-chaired the convention committee on growth, innovation and political action, talks about critical need for movement building.

AFL-CIO convention delegates put new emphasis on organizing, building partnerships with community allies and other strategies to restore bargaining rights and make democracy work for working families.

Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson summarized some of the convention action this way: "Having banged its head against a wall for years with nothing to show for it but a headache, the American labor movement is devising a plan to bypass the wall altogether. During its quadrennial convention here this week, the AFL-CIO has acknowledged that the laws protecting employees who seek to join a union have been rendered so ineffectual that labor must come up with new ways to advance workers' interests." Read his full column here.

You can read resolutions and watch video coverage here.

CWA President Larry Cohen co-chaired the Committee on Growth, Innovation and Political Action, which developed key programs and resolutions that delegates adopted. Among them:

  • Each union must develop and submit an organizing plan that covers focus, resource commitments, strategies and tactics and projected timeline of campaigns.

  • The AFL-CIO and workers will hold the political parties accountable and will work to link politics to workers' ability to organize and bargain collectively through greater alignment of political and organizing campaigns at the national, state and local levels.

  • Immigration reform that includes (1) An independent governmental body to assess and manage future flows, based on labor market shortages that are determined on the basis of actual need; (2) A secure and effective worker authorization mechanism; (3) Rational operational control of the border; (4) A road map to citizenship for the current undocumented population; and (5) Improvement, not expansion, of temporary worker programs.

  • Continued support for the fight to break through the barriers that block effective participation by working people in our democracy, including voter suppression, the broken Senate rules, the pervasive influence of corporate money in our political process and the lack of a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

Cohen outlined the resolution on partnerships to reporters, explaining it was necessary to strengthen the labor movement and reverse some of the losses suffered recently in states where collective bargaining rights were rolled back. "This is the only way that we know of that's going to turn that around," he said.


Josh Coleman, a TU activist from Wichita, Kan., joins President Cohen to talk about global support for T-Mobile US workers.
Credit: Bill Burke Photography.

Below: President Cohen talks with reporters on partnership resolution.


Cohen also addressed delegates on global organizing strategies, joined by Josh Coleman, the TU activist from Wichita, Kan.

CWA delegates to the convention – Cohen, Chief of Staff Ron Collins, District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer, IUE-CWA President Jim Clark, Executive Board At-Large Members Nestor Soto and Greg Wynn, Senior Director Yvette Herrera and Laura Reynolds, assistant to the CWA District 9 vice president – all spoke on the floor on resolutions and constitutional amendments, including immigration reform, an end to transgender discrimination, and other issues. Soto introduced and spoke on a resolution adopted by convention delegates that called for the unconditional release of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico.

CWA leaders and activists also led several action sessions at the AFL-CIO convention.

Democracy Initiative With new Executive Director Marissa Brown, President Cohen outlined how the Democracy Initiative, a diverse coalition of organizations, is fighting back to take the money out of politics, fix the broken Senate, restore voting rights to put people back into our democracy and gain a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

Brazilian Bank Workers Campaign Vagner Freitas, president of CUT-Brazil, and other Brazilian union leaders were joined by Cohen and UAW President Bob King to discuss how strong collective bargaining and social movement unionism has enabled 40 million Brazilians to climb out of poverty over the past 10 years. Unions in Brazil have pushed democracy and development in the right direction and are pledging cooperation in organizing.

Global Organizing Partnerships Cohen and Josh Coleman, a TU activist, discussed the CWA-ver.di partnership that is helping T-Mobile US workers build their union.

Attack on Voting Rights CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings led a discussion on voter suppression and how the labor movement and allies are fighting to stop these attacks.

Delegates re-elected President Richard Trumka and Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler to new terms; Tefere Gebre, a 45-year-old Ethiopian political refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and the executive director of the Orange County, Calif., labor federation, was elected executive vice president.

Congressional Black Caucus Pays Tribute to the Labor Movement

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In honor of Labor Day, the Congressional Black Caucus devoted its Special Order Hour on Monday to talk about the importance of organized labor to African Americans and the nation as a whole.

Check out CWA's recap of the speeches featuring Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (NJ), Hakeem Jeffries (NY), Marc Veasey (TX), Joyce Beatty (OH) and G.K. Butterfield (NC).

"Labor unions played an important role in the civil rights movement," said Beatty. "Today the labor movement continues to be an important issue to African Americans – just as important as it was 50 years ago during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

Members recalled their work with the labor movement and stories of family members who have been proud union workers. Jeffries talked about his time as a New York state legislator, supporting the "very courageous" Cablevision technicians in Brooklyn struggling to organize.

"They voted in the face of significant pressure to the contrary to join the union and to organize a chapter in order to fight for better wages, stronger health care and the possibility of a better retirement," he said.

Watch it now!

Contracts Expire at Verizon West, CWA Members Rally for Fair Deal

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Verizon workers rally for a fair contract.

Contracts covering more than 4,500 CWA members at Verizon West expired just before midnight yesterday, with CWA notifying the company that it was cancelling the contract extension that had been in place.

CWA members are working with expired contracts under status quo conditions as bargaining continues this week but are being asked to remain on alert for updates, said Ellen West, who leads the CWA bargaining committee and serves as District 9's Southern California Area Director.

CWAers rallied yesterday in many locations in California, standing strong for a fair contract. Among the issues are fair wages, healthcare and retirement security and limits on outsourcing of jobs.

Verizon West workers include FiOS technicians, operators, call center representatives, customer service representatives, cable splicers, field technicians for business and residential service, buried service wire employees and other job titles throughout California.


Counting down to midnight, CWA Local 9586 members rally in Long Beach, Calif.

"Bargaining has been contentious and very slow, and we felt that we had to put the company on notice that this is unacceptable," West said.

"Clearly, this isn't a company that's hurting for money," said Ave Malagalaii, a Verizon Operator II employee who lives in Long Beach. "Why should Verizon workers have to face cutbacks as corporate earnings soar? We are profitable in California and we want a fair contract now!"

More Ver.di Protests Against Anti-Union Campaign at T-Mobile US

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Members of ver.di confront incoming CEO Timotheus Höttges.

Below: A light message tells Deutsche Telekom, "We Expect Better."


Last Saturday, 20 ver.di activists sneaked into a Deutsche Telekom-sponsored event in Berlin called "Long Night of Startups." When incoming CEO Timotheus Höttges took the microphone, activists stood up to reveal t-shirts reading, "We Are All Josh. We Are Not Disposable." And during the main event, a light projection danced on the walls, displaying messages supporting CWA.

The protest was the latest in an ongoing fight against anti-union tactics at Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile US. In May, the company unjustly fired a top-producing employee, Josh Coleman, a customer service representative in Wichita, Kan., because of his active union support. Since then, German workers have taken on Coleman's case as their own.

Check out more photos of the event on Facebook. And be sure to watch our video of the light projection.

Building Our Movement

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Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, labor leaders and environmental activists call for repair of America's infrastructure and efforts to prepare our communities for climate change and to reduce carbon pollution.


CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer joins Ellison, BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster and Minnesota section of the American Society of Civil Engineers President Seth Spychala in discussing how repairing the systems Americans rely on every day – for energy, to get from one place to another, to communicate with each other, and for clean water – will create good jobs and address climate change.


CWA Local 1036 stands with labor and community groups in the NJ Time to Care Coalition to support the first municipal ordinance guaranteeing earned sick days for all workers in Jersey City. On Wednesday, the City Council of Jersey City began considering the legislation.


Today on Capitol Hill, women from all walks of life blocked traffic and chanted "Si, se puede!" in support of an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship. Our family immigration system has been the primary way that women can get legal entry to the United States and yet currently 4.5 million people wait in the backlog to be reunited with their families.


Police arrest a UFCW member in a civil disobedience demonstration on Capitol Hill. CWAers supported the more than 100 women who joined together in the sit-down protest for comprehensive immigration reform today.

CWA: Verizon Plan to Build Out FiOS on Fire Island, NY, is the Right Call

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The news that Verizon Communications plans to build out fiber optic cable in Fire Island, N.Y., rather than substitute Voice Link wireless technology, is the right decision and welcome news.

"This is a victory for Fire Island residents, and offers a model for the rest of the state," said Chris Shelton, CWA District 1 Vice President.

New York State should implement a moratorium on the Voice Link rollout and require Verizon to either properly maintain its copper landline network or build out the FiOS fiber optic network to the millions of New Yorkers currently bypassed by FiOS who deserve state-of-the-art, reliable internet and phone service, Shelton said.

CWA called on Verizon to expand its investment in fiber optic, high speed broadband, which provides greater capacity for Internet use than wireless systems. That's the only way to ensure that our country has a 21st century broadband infrastructure, one that meets global standards and enables us to compete with the rest of the world.

Hundreds of local and state elected officials, public safety officials, labor activists, residents and small business owners protested Verizon's plans to substitute inadequate Voice Link wireless service for the system in place before Superstorm Sandy. In objections made to the State Public Service Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, residents pointed out that they would face inadequate and unavailable alternative services and increased costs.

Verizon's decision is a big victory for Fire Island consumers who took a stand for the quality services they need, and it's proof that consumers want the world class communications system that fiber optic broadband delivers.

Missouri Workers Defeat Paycheck Deception, Corporate Tax Cut Bills

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CWA Public Sector Vice President Brooks Sunkett and CWA members and allies lobby against SB 29, a paycheck deception bill designed to cripple public sector unions in Missouri, in Jefferson City.

Yesterday was a big day for Missouri workers, as the GOP-controlled state legislature failed to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes of legislation aimed at cutting the corporate tax rate and forcing unions to get written permission to withhold dues from paychecks.

CWA Local 6355 President Bradley Harmon wrote about the campaign for our blog, Resistance Growing. He said:

In a major blow to a concerted right-wing campaign to undermine workers' rights and public services, Missouri CWA members, working in a coalition with labor, faith, student and community groups succeeded in pressuring the Missouri legislature to sustain Governor Jay Nixon's veto of two key bills today.

The Missouri legislature began the year with the largest Republican majority in state history. Anti-worker leaders promised a robust legislative agenda undermining unions and cutting taxes on corporations. CWA members and allies were encouraged this spring when the Missouri House passed a so called "paycheck protection" bill with a bare majority. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon promised to veto the bill. The Senate had earlier passed the bill with more than the necessary votes to override any veto.

The House and Senate also passed a special interest funded corporate tax cut bill with substantial majorities in the spring. The bill threatened the jobs of 6,000 CWA represented state workers and tens of thousands of school district employees, including 300 represented by CWA in St. Louis County. Governor Nixon vetoed the bill and, with CWA and allies campaigned aggressively to sustain the veto. Extremist billionaires and their lobbying fronts in the Chamber of Commerce spent millions on a summer-long public relations campaign to round up the votes to override the veto. Texas Governor Rick Perry even flew in to threaten Missouri politicians that jobs would flee to his state if the Governor's veto was sustained.

Today, on the first day of the veto session, both bills died a well deserved death. Pressure from CWA members led to two Senators to switch their votes on the paycheck protection bill, leading to its demise. In the face of overwhelming money and astroturf, a sufficient number of Representatives in the Missouri House voted to sustain Governor Nixon's veto of the corporate tax cut bill.

Read more here.

Ben Jealous Stepping Down as NAACP Leader

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Ben Jealous, who led the NAACP for five years and helped re-energize that organization, is stepping down as president and CEO at the end of this year.

CWA President Larry Cohen called Jealous "a dynamic leader not only for the civil rights community, but for all people determined to win true justice."

"His work at the NAACP has made that organization a powerful and leading voice for economic and social justice. And early on he realized that joining with other progressive groups was the best way to reach that goal. We know that he will continue the fight for justice for all in everything he does," Cohen said.

Under Jealous, the NAACP was one of four founding members of the Democracy Initiative, which is bringing together allies who share the determination to break through the barriers to justice for ordinary Americans: voter suppression, the pervasive influence of corporate money in politics, the broken Senate rules and the lack of a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants. The other founders are CWA, Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

CWA activists have joined with NAACP members and other allies in New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and in many other places, standing together for what's right and to fully build our democracy

Report Confirms: Money Talks, Most Americans Shut Out of Policy Debates

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The Democracy Initiative and Demos co-sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing for congressional staff on the new report "Stacked Deck: How the Dominance of Politics by the Affluent & Business Undermines Economic Mobility in America."

The report was prepared by Demos, a public policy organization fighting for equal voice and opportunity in our democracy for all. The Democracy Initiative – founded by CWA, Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the NAACP, and with a growing number of progressive partners – works to break through the barriers that are limiting our democracy: voter suppression, corporate money in politics, the broken Senate rules and the lack of a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

The report documents how money affects our politics. Money talks, politicians respond, and most Americans are shut out of today's policy and political debates. The result: the donor class, which differs from the general public on core economic issues such as taxes, labor, and regulation, sets the agenda in Congress while ordinary Americans too often are forced to watch from the sidelines.

Among the report's key findings:

  • Just a few dozen large donors cancel out the voices of millions of Americans. In the last election, just 32 donors to Super PACs were able to match the more than $300 million that President Obama and Governor Romney combined raised in small contributions from more than 3.7 million people.

  • America's economic agenda is shaped by the already-wealthy. The wealthiest 1 percent list debt and deficits as their top priority, while the general public's main concern is jobs. The conversations by some elected officials and pundit class over the past few years has been focused on the debt and the deficit, demonstrating how government responds to the wealthy, not to the needs of the overwhelming majority of Americans.

  • It's not enough that nearly 80 percent of the public supports an increase in the minimum wage to keep working families out of poverty. Just 40 percent of the wealthy support an increase, and there hasn't been any increase in the minimum wage rate since July 2009. The $7.25 hourly wage has lost a third of its value since 1968. Workers generally haven't seen any increase in real wages for 40 years.

  • The anti-union attitudes of the donor class helps explain the escalating attacks on workers, their bargaining rights and their unions.

Read more here.

TNG-CWA: Tell White House & DOJ to Stop the Attacks on Journalism

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Democracy demands an independent news media free of government interference. But recently, journalists have been the subject of surveillance in the government's pursuit of whistleblowers. Through intimidation and harsh prosecution, officials are attempting to silence those voices brave enough to speak up about government wrongdoing. We know that our country has real and serious national security concerns, but we strongly believe authorities have crossed the line by targeting journalists. We are preparing to send a letter to the White House and Department of Justice asking President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to stop and renounce their actions threatening America's free press.

Please join with us by signing the letter here.

Cut Out, Stand Out!

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Los Angeles street artist and activist Ramiro Gomez is making the invisible visible. To raise awareness about immigrant service workers in our communities, Gomez has been painting life-size cardboard portraits of day laborers and domestic workers and placing them in locations where these real people work every day.

At the AFL-CIO convention, the AFL-CIO and National Day Labor Organizing Network commissioned various artists to produce cardboard cutouts for the convention hall inspired by Gomez's artwork. The cutouts represent the work we do as union members, highlight crucial industries and bring attention to those whose voices we feel are underrepresented.

Check out these portraits of CWA members, including a Flight Attendant, customer service representative and broadcast technician.