CWA President Chris Shelton Remarks to AT&T Mobility Conference Participants

 

Sisters and brothers, I’m glad to be here in San Diego.
       
The weather here is beautiful; I only wish it was as pleasant at all of our bargaining tables. 
It’s maddening to read the papers and see the wealthy getting richer. Wall Street is doing well, but those of us on Main Street are still struggling to keep our heads above water.  
We are the richest economy in the world, but our economy is delivering millions and billions to the wealthiest of the wealthy, and the banks and Wall Street want only to leave crumbs for the 99 percent.
Inside the 99 percent, we are the lucky ones.  We can bargain, but 93 percent of American workers cannot.  They must take what the companies offer and work under the terms the boss dictates, at the pay he decides, and without job security and just cause.
Ninety-three percent of Americans are not organized.   Most of them want to join a union, but their management fights them tooth and nail.
At Mobility, we are working on building our Union.  We have to build it in the workplaces and with our high turnover units, we have to keep on building it. 
I want to recognize the Vice Presidents who are here and I want to thank Vice President Dennis Trainor for taking on the assignment to coordinate our mobility work.   He’s not here today as his sister-in-law died suddenly; way too young -- at 64.  Dennis has asked Pat Telesco to take on this work and she will continue to draw on the team from each district, as well as the mobility education team.  Please stand and be recognized.   Coordination isn’t easy, but it is essential.  I think we have the team to do it and I’ll fully support the process. 
Unity at Mobility will continue as our union building vehicle.  We need to match our resources with the goals.  We have set our goal at educating 10 percent of our membership and we need to focus on this in each Local.  It doesn’t help us to have 20 percent trained in one Local and none trained in another. The education program is good and it’s a critical step in building union members in this young, high turnover workplace.  It is a slow process, but we are moving forward.
******************************************
In the worst atmosphere for organizing in 100 years, we are growing in wireless -- at Cricket, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile USA.  
In the past year, over 1,200 Cricket workers in 150 stores joined our union through card check.  We have had 80 Verizon Wireless workers in seven stores withstand a blistering anti-union campaign to join our union in Brooklyn, New York, and Everett, Massachusetts.  We have had hundreds of T-Mobile members join TU, overcoming massive management pressure.
Last week, I was at the White House Summit on Workers’ Voice where we had a T-Mobile worker, Abbey Parrish from Wichita, speak about what it is like to work in a non-union shop. She was amazing.  We all know non-union work doesn’t pay well and we hear it every time we negotiate with our own employers.  Abbey talked about it from her guts, saying she has personally seen six cars repossessed in the employee parking lot over the last eight months.  She talked about the culture of fear at T-Mobile and how you can be loyal to your union and want your company to succeed.  But at T-Mobile, the managements’ ruthlessness and their willingness to fire even the best performers makes most people afraid to talk about the Union.  
As Southwestern Bell bought up many other telephone and wireless companies and changed their name to AT&T, that agreement became a nationwide one. As a result, workers at AT&T operations, whether wireless or Internet Services, or whatever comes next, will be able to freely choose a union voice.  
Our AT&T Mobility members are helping other workers try to organize.  Both, because many of you have heard the stories about how much T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless workers need a union, and because every time you sit across the table and bargain with AT&T, you know that the gains you can make are limited as long as most of the rest of the wireless companies remain with no or minimal union presence. 
It matters that AT&T Mobility is union-represented while T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless management try to keep a vicious hold over workers’ rights to a union. It matters because at the bargaining table, our strength depends on what the rest of the industry is doing. Sometimes, it’s as though every non-union worker is seated across from us in bargaining, as well as our employers. To build our power, to build our bargaining strength, we need to expand union representation across wireless. 
That’s what will help us gain more settlements with the improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions that our members deserve. That’s what will help us counter an employer’s push to move our customer service or tech support jobs offshore. 
************************************
Our German union colleagues at ver.di feel this same pressure on a global scale.  That’s why they are so interested in helping us stop anti-union activity at T-Mobile. I was in Germany a month ago and spent a whirlwind four days at the ver.di Convention in Germany.  It was an amazing experience. They worked from 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.   Convention time, workshop time, discussion time.  Imagine 1,200 resolutions to consider!  They want to help us organize Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile subsidiary. They are embarrassed that their company treats workers like T-Mobile does. And those of you who have worked at a non-union wireless company have some idea of just how bad it can be.    
I met with many Bundestag members talking about the difficulties of organizing in the US and why they need to take responsibility for T-Mobile -- which is owned in part by the German government.  Our colleagues have been rachetting up the pressure.  Now, the Bundestag (the German Congress) will launch an investigation into their union-busting on November 30, thanks to the hard work of so many activists who gathered over 50,000 signatures both in the US and in Germany. 
Just as our German ver.di union colleagues have been motivated by their partnerships with T-Mobile workers here and see the need to build unions to raise up wages, we, too, in the US are building partnerships. Here in the US, AT&T Mobility workers have partnered with T-Mobile workers to build a broad wireless organization.  AT&T Mobility members building these partnerships let our T-Mobile - our members hear first-hand that work can be different in this industry and why we support raising conditions across the industry.
So I want to thank: 
Local 6116 in Oklahoma City, partnered with Wichita, Kansas T-Mobile; 
Austin, Texas Local 6132, partnered with Mission Texas T-Mobile;
Memphis Local 3806, partnered with Nashville, Tennessee T-Mobile; 
Joplin, Missouri Local 6313, partnered with Springfield, Missouri T-Mobile; 
New York City Local 1101, partnered with New York City, T-Mobile/MetroPCS; 
Denver Local 7777, partnered with Colorado Springs, Colorado T-Mobile; and 
Pueblo, Colorado Local 7702, partnered with Albuquerque, New Mexico T-Mobile.  
It is a great display of solidarity and these are the kinds of things we need to broaden and deepen our movement in the US and worldwide.   For nowhere do we have more potential for growth and for strengthening our existing contract than in the wireless industry. We have received literally hundreds of organizing leads from our AT&T Mobility members in dozens of locations, but we need to dig deeper and do more.  To organize effectively, we must engage all of our AT&T Mobility members in the fight to grow stronger and bigger. Stronger in our existing contracts at AT&T Mobility, and bigger by reaching out to our non-union friends and neighbors.  Our youngest and potentially most militant members of our union are in wireless.
Our job is to visit every AT&T Mobility store at least once per month. We must find the activists, we must train them and invite them to become the leaders they are. They can become stewards, they can sit on our Executive boards, they can join NEXT GEN,  they are the future.
When we DO consistently visit the stores and have a presence in our call centers, we find members who want to fight the boss to make improvements at work. We find members who used to work at T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless. We find members who want to get engaged.  We build our union.
We commit malpractice as union leaders if we fail to visit the stores, if we fail to have a presence in the call centers.  We have 50,000 members in Mobility. Let’s go out and find the next generation, let’s go out and find the new stewards, let’s go out and get leads for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile-USA.  
*************************************
We’ve entered the presidential political season.   As part of that process, and our democratic tradition, we’ve launched an online poll to give our members an opportunity to tell me and the Executive Board if we should endorse in the Primary, and if so, who. You have a flyer on your table which gives you the website where members can weigh in on whether the union should endorse a candidate and can choose their first, second and third choice for President. You can vote at http://cwavotes.org.
Not only should you vote, but you should move the flyers through your worksites and ask members—no matter what their political views—to vote in the poll, and to volunteer for the election or contribute to PAF.  I want to hear from you because it’s your opinion that matters the most to me.  And I know that our Executive Board wants to hear from you—all of you!   An endorsement without member support is a useless endorsement.
On the website, any member can find information on each of the major candidates who answered our poll.   We put to them questions about the issues we care about – trade deals, the right to bargain and organize, fair workweeks, a higher minimum wage, and paid sick and family leave time.  These are our issues and we should encourage our members to look at their candidate to see how they stack up.
I know there is support for Sanders, Clinton, and even some for the man with the Big Hair.  We are a democratic union. And unlike some others, I’ve said that we will endorse the presidential candidate our members choose.  But, I want you to know one more thing.  If our members vote to endorse Donald Trump, I’m going to have to find another union.
*************************************
 This presidential election will be important for many reasons but I want to focus on one of them:  the Supreme Court.  Most likely, whoever is elected will appoint a new majority for the Supreme Court.  The current Supreme Court has endorsed the billionaires in their drive to roll back citizens’ rights and expand the attack on Unions.  
The current court has said money is speech and corporations are people. 
The current court has said home healthcare workers don’t have the right to organize.
The current court has said we don’t need to protect voting rights.
And now the Supreme Court is going to reverse 50 years of history and make the entire public sector “right to work.”  This will weaken unions and working families’ ability to bargain a better wage.
Remember that these are the same conservative judges who, for decades, have been denouncing “activist” judges.  They’re against judicial activism—except when it comes to screwing working people, black people, Latinos, and women.  Then they are as active as they can be.
********************************
No matter who is elected President, we will need to continue to push our agenda.   I was just at the White House and heard our President make the best speech ever on collective bargaining.   He talked the talk, but will he walk the walk in his last 16 months?   He will if we mobilize and make him.  But it’s up to us to make him or the next President sign our issues into law.  
******************************************
Through the trade fight against the TPA, we built a vast network of political allies and activists and, going forward, we need to work with them and unite to build a new independent political party.  
In my home District, over the past 15 years, we’ve worked with the Working Families Party to build independent power for working people.  Our own political party, that stands unequivocally with us on every issue, whether it is the fight against TPP; the fight to raise the minimum wage, or to enact Paid Sick Days legislation; or the fight to raise taxes on the wealthy and to get corporate money out of the political system; or expand voting rights --- they are there. 
It is an organization that we built and that working people and their allies run.  And most important, it has the capacity and the willingness to take on the corporate Democrats who oppose us.      
Building an independent political party is critical and I'm proud of the work CWA did to launch it and to grow it in what will soon be 11 states; and, with your support, to take it nationwide.  In some states, an independent party runs candidates in primaries.  In others, candidates can be listed on two ballot lines:  Democrat and working family parties.  
I look forward to the day when we can cast our votes for even President under the banner of a  party that truly reflects our values, that stands with us on picket lines, that isn't afraid to go after corporate sell-outs or BOTH major parties when they vote for the TPP.
******************************************
But to take back our democracy we need to get rid of the big corrupting influence of money in politics.   Our battle cry: Money out, voters in! 
There are several paths to kicking big money from polluting our system:  a democratic election in the Fall of 2016 will ensure a majority of Supreme Court Justices who will seize the opportunity to overturn Citizens United and declare money does not equal speech.
At the local and state level, we can enact Public Financing for elections. This reform provides matching contributions for community or small donor contributions to a campaign.    
I want to take the fight against big money to every battlefield we can find in this country because literally, American democracy is at stake.  And this is a reform that we can bring to our cities and states. 
This year, Seattle will take up a ballot measure to give every voter a voucher to donate to the candidate of their choice.  In Maine, there is a ballot initiative to clean up election financing and accountability.  We’ve invested in both campaigns and I hope to read the headlines after this November election day:  From Coast to Coast – Seattle to Maine – people have spoken to take back their political process.
**************************************
Brothers and sisters, we are a union.  We fight for workers’ rights and workplace benefits.    But we can only achieve our top priorities if we stop letting the one percent pollute our politics, and get big money out and all voters in.   We must engage in these broad movement fights and make these number two on our agenda. Our first agenda is improving our members’ standard of living and building our union.   But we must make time too, with others, to tame Wall Street, kick big money out of politics, and ensure everyone has the right to vote again.  Once we have achieved these reforms, we will have laid a democratic foundation on which we can bargain better contracts.  
******************************************
We live in challenging times, but we are strong and I am confident we can confront whatever challenges are in front of us.  We must do this together. Any and every organization that supports the working class has to come together and fight like hell.  
We know we must stand with the 99% against the 1%.  It’s our government, not theirs.It’s NOT government by and for the corporation; it’s the government by and for the people.It’s our government and we will take it back.
Join me and stand up and fight back.  Stand up and fight back.  Stand up and fight. That’s right, we need to kick some ass. CWA is ready and I know mobility workers are ready.   
Thank you. 

Sisters and brothers, I’m glad to be here in San Diego.

The weather here is beautiful; I only wish it was as pleasant at all of our bargaining tables. 

It’s maddening to read the papers and see the wealthy getting richer. Wall Street is doing well, but those of us on Main Street are still struggling to keep our heads above water.  

We are the richest economy in the world, but our economy is delivering millions and billions to the wealthiest of the wealthy, and the banks and Wall Street want only to leave crumbs for the 99 percent.

Inside the 99 percent, we are the lucky ones.  We can bargain, but 93 percent of American workers cannot.  They must take what the companies offer and work under the terms the boss dictates, at the pay he decides, and without job security and just cause.

Ninety-three percent of Americans are not organized.   Most of them want to join a union, but their management fights them tooth and nail.

At Mobility, we are working on building our Union.  We have to build it in the workplaces and with our high turnover units, we have to keep on building it. 

I want to recognize the Vice Presidents who are here and I want to thank Vice President Dennis Trainor for taking on the assignment to coordinate our mobility work.   He’s not here today as his sister-in-law died suddenly; way too young -- at 64.  Dennis has asked Pat Telesco to take on this work and she will continue to draw on the team from each district, as well as the mobility education team.  Please stand and be recognized.   Coordination isn’t easy, but it is essential.  I think we have the team to do it and I’ll fully support the process. 

Unity at Mobility will continue as our union building vehicle.  We need to match our resources with the goals.  We have set our goal at educating 10 percent of our membership and we need to focus on this in each Local.  It doesn’t help us to have 20 percent trained in one Local and none trained in another. The education program is good and it’s a critical step in building union members in this young, high turnover workplace.  It is a slow process, but we are moving forward.

******************************************

In the worst atmosphere for organizing in 100 years, we are growing in wireless -- at Cricket, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile USA.  

In the past year, over 1,200 Cricket workers in 150 stores joined our union through card check.  We have had 80 Verizon Wireless workers in seven stores withstand a blistering anti-union campaign to join our union in Brooklyn, New York, and Everett, Massachusetts.  We have had hundreds of T-Mobile members join TU, overcoming massive management pressure.

Last week, I was at the White House Summit on Workers’ Voice where we had a T-Mobile worker, Abbey Parrish from Wichita, speak about what it is like to work in a non-union shop. She was amazing.  We all know non-union work doesn’t pay well and we hear it every time we negotiate with our own employers.  Abbey talked about it from her guts, saying she has personally seen six cars repossessed in the employee parking lot over the last eight months.  She talked about the culture of fear at T-Mobile and how you can be loyal to your union and want your company to succeed.  But at T-Mobile, the managements’ ruthlessness and their willingness to fire even the best performers makes most people afraid to talk about the Union.  

As Southwestern Bell bought up many other telephone and wireless companies and changed their name to AT&T, that agreement became a nationwide one. As a result, workers at AT&T operations, whether wireless or Internet Services, or whatever comes next, will be able to freely choose a union voice.  

Our AT&T Mobility members are helping other workers try to organize.  Both, because many of you have heard the stories about how much T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless workers need a union, and because every time you sit across the table and bargain with AT&T, you know that the gains you can make are limited as long as most of the rest of the wireless companies remain with no or minimal union presence. 

It matters that AT&T Mobility is union-represented while T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless management try to keep a vicious hold over workers’ rights to a union. It matters because at the bargaining table, our strength depends on what the rest of the industry is doing. Sometimes, it’s as though every non-union worker is seated across from us in bargaining, as well as our employers. To build our power, to build our bargaining strength, we need to expand union representation across wireless. 

That’s what will help us gain more settlements with the improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions that our members deserve. That’s what will help us counter an employer’s push to move our customer service or tech support jobs offshore. 

************************************

Our German union colleagues at ver.di feel this same pressure on a global scale.  That’s why they are so interested in helping us stop anti-union activity at T-Mobile. I was in Germany a month ago and spent a whirlwind four days at the ver.di Convention in Germany.  It was an amazing experience. They worked from 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 P.M.   Convention time, workshop time, discussion time.  Imagine 1,200 resolutions to consider!  They want to help us organize Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile subsidiary. They are embarrassed that their company treats workers like T-Mobile does. And those of you who have worked at a non-union wireless company have some idea of just how bad it can be.    

I met with many Bundestag members talking about the difficulties of organizing in the US and why they need to take responsibility for T-Mobile -- which is owned in part by the German government.  Our colleagues have been rachetting up the pressure.  Now, the Bundestag (the German Congress) will launch an investigation into their union-busting on November 30, thanks to the hard work of so many activists who gathered over 50,000 signatures both in the US and in Germany. 

Just as our German ver.di union colleagues have been motivated by their partnerships with T-Mobile workers here and see the need to build unions to raise up wages, we, too, in the US are building partnerships. Here in the US, AT&T Mobility workers have partnered with T-Mobile workers to build a broad wireless organization.  AT&T Mobility members building these partnerships let our T-Mobile - our members hear first-hand that work can be different in this industry and why we support raising conditions across the industry.

So I want to thank: 

Local 6116 in Oklahoma City, partnered with Wichita, Kansas T-Mobile; 

Austin, Texas Local 6132, partnered with Mission Texas T-Mobile;

Memphis Local 3806, partnered with Nashville, Tennessee T-Mobile; 

Joplin, Missouri Local 6313, partnered with Springfield, Missouri T-Mobile; 

New York City Local 1101, partnered with New York City, T-Mobile/MetroPCS; 

Denver Local 7777, partnered with Colorado Springs, Colorado T-Mobile; and 

Pueblo, Colorado Local 7702, partnered with Albuquerque, New Mexico T-Mobile.  

It is a great display of solidarity and these are the kinds of things we need to broaden and deepen our movement in the US and worldwide.   For nowhere do we have more potential for growth and for strengthening our existing contract than in the wireless industry. We have received literally hundreds of organizing leads from our AT&T Mobility members in dozens of locations, but we need to dig deeper and do more.  To organize effectively, we must engage all of our AT&T Mobility members in the fight to grow stronger and bigger. Stronger in our existing contracts at AT&T Mobility, and bigger by reaching out to our non-union friends and neighbors.  Our youngest and potentially most militant members of our union are in wireless.

Our job is to visit every AT&T Mobility store at least once per month. We must find the activists, we must train them and invite them to become the leaders they are. They can become stewards, they can sit on our Executive boards, they can join NEXT GEN,  they are the future.

When we DO consistently visit the stores and have a presence in our call centers, we find members who want to fight the boss to make improvements at work. We find members who used to work at T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless. We find members who want to get engaged.  We build our union.

We commit malpractice as union leaders if we fail to visit the stores, if we fail to have a presence in the call centers.  We have 50,000 members in Mobility. Let’s go out and find the next generation, let’s go out and find the new stewards, let’s go out and get leads for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile-USA.  

*************************************

We’ve entered the presidential political season.   As part of that process, and our democratic tradition, we’ve launched an online poll to give our members an opportunity to tell me and the Executive Board if we should endorse in the Primary, and if so, who. You have a flyer on your table which gives you the website where members can weigh in on whether the union should endorse a candidate and can choose their first, second and third choice for President. You can vote at http://cwavotes.org.

Not only should you vote, but you should move the flyers through your worksites and ask members—no matter what their political views—to vote in the poll, and to volunteer for the election or contribute to PAF.  I want to hear from you because it’s your opinion that matters the most to me.  And I know that our Executive Board wants to hear from you—all of you!   An endorsement without member support is a useless endorsement.

On the website, any member can find information on each of the major candidates who answered our poll.   We put to them questions about the issues we care about – trade deals, the right to bargain and organize, fair workweeks, a higher minimum wage, and paid sick and family leave time.  These are our issues and we should encourage our members to look at their candidate to see how they stack up.

I know there is support for Sanders, Clinton, and even some for the man with the Big Hair.  We are a democratic union. And unlike some others, I’ve said that we will endorse the presidential candidate our members choose. But, I want you to know one more thing.  If our members vote to endorse Donald Trump, I’m going to have to find another union.

*************************************

This presidential election will be important for many reasons but I want to focus on one of them:  the Supreme Court.  Most likely, whoever is elected will appoint a new majority for the Supreme Court.  The current Supreme Court has endorsed the billionaires in their drive to roll back citizens’ rights and expand the attack on Unions.  

The current court has said money is speech and corporations are people. 

The current court has said home healthcare workers don’t have the right to organize.

The current court has said we don’t need to protect voting rights.

And now the Supreme Court is going to reverse 50 years of history and make the entire public sector “right to work.”  This will weaken unions and working families’ ability to bargain a better wage.

Remember that these are the same conservative judges who, for decades, have been denouncing “activist” judges.  They’re against judicial activism—except when it comes to screwing working people, black people, Latinos, and women.  Then they are as active as they can be.

********************************

No matter who is elected President, we will need to continue to push our agenda.   I was just at the White House and heard our President make the best speech ever on collective bargaining.   He talked the talk, but will he walk the walk in his last 16 months?   He will if we mobilize and make him.  But it’s up to us to make him or the next President sign our issues into law.  

******************************************

Through the trade fight against the TPA, we built a vast network of political allies and activists and, going forward, we need to work with them and unite to build a new independent political party.  

In my home District, over the past 15 years, we’ve worked with the Working Families Party to build independent power for working people.  Our own political party, that stands unequivocally with us on every issue, whether it is the fight against TPP; the fight to raise the minimum wage, or to enact Paid Sick Days legislation; or the fight to raise taxes on the wealthy and to get corporate money out of the political system; or expand voting rights --- they are there. 

It is an organization that we built and that working people and their allies run.  And most important, it has the capacity and the willingness to take on the corporate Democrats who oppose us.      

Building an independent political party is critical and I'm proud of the work CWA did to launch it and to grow it in what will soon be 11 states; and, with your support, to take it nationwide.  In some states, an independent party runs candidates in primaries.  In others, candidates can be listed on two ballot lines:  Democrat and working family parties.  

I look forward to the day when we can cast our votes for even President under the banner of a  party that truly reflects our values, that stands with us on picket lines, that isn't afraid to go after corporate sell-outs or BOTH major parties when they vote for the TPP.

******************************************

But to take back our democracy we need to get rid of the big corrupting influence of money in politics.   Our battle cry: Money out, voters in! 

There are several paths to kicking big money from polluting our system:  a democratic election in the Fall of 2016 will ensure a majority of Supreme Court Justices who will seize the opportunity to overturn Citizens United and declare money does not equal speech.

At the local and state level, we can enact Public Financing for elections. This reform provides matching contributions for community or small donor contributions to a campaign.    

I want to take the fight against big money to every battlefield we can find in this country because literally, American democracy is at stake.  And this is a reform that we can bring to our cities and states. 

This year, Seattle will take up a ballot measure to give every voter a voucher to donate to the candidate of their choice.  In Maine, there is a ballot initiative to clean up election financing and accountability.  We’ve invested in both campaigns and I hope to read the headlines after this November election day:  From Coast to Coast – Seattle to Maine – people have spoken to take back their political process.

**************************************

Brothers and sisters, we are a union.  We fight for workers’ rights and workplace benefits.    But we can only achieve our top priorities if we stop letting the one percent pollute our politics, and get big money out and all voters in.   We must engage in these broad movement fights and make these number two on our agenda. Our first agenda is improving our members’ standard of living and building our union.   But we must make time too, with others, to tame Wall Street, kick big money out of politics, and ensure everyone has the right to vote again.  Once we have achieved these reforms, we will have laid a democratic foundation on which we can bargain better contracts.  

******************************************

We live in challenging times, but we are strong and I am confident we can confront whatever challenges are in front of us.  We must do this together. Any and every organization that supports the working class has to come together and fight like hell.  

We know we must stand with the 99% against the 1%.  It’s our government, not theirs.It’s NOT government by and for the corporation; it’s the government by and for the people.It’s our government and we will take it back.

Join me and stand up and fight back.  Stand up and fight back.  Stand up and fight. That’s right, we need to kick some ass. CWA is ready and I know mobility workers are ready.   

Thank you.