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Membership Gains Approach 2,000 in First Quarter

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CWA increased by more than 1,700 new members in January, February and March and could soon draw several hundred more, the largest numbers coming in the wireless, health care and public safety sectors.

Cellular One — Boston

Local 1298 cracked open the almost entirely nonunion wireless market in New England on March 6, submitting union authorization cards from about 315 workers, more than 60 percent of the 500 employed by Cellular One in the Boston area.

Recognition is a given under CWA’s card-check agreement with parent company SBC, pending verification by the American Arbitration Association.

District 1 Vice President Larry Mancino praised the cooperation of Local 1298’s organizers and executive board, the national union and locals in upstate New York and Maryland that supported the campaign.

“Particularly, I want to congratulate the inside committee members who talked one-on-one with their colleagues and convinced them to choose CWA,” Mancino said.

CWA Representative Steve Early called the victory “an important breakthrough” that could lead to organizing at other wireless companies in Massachusetts.

Early, CWA Representative Dennis Trainor and Ed Sabol, administrative assistant to Mancino, worked on the campaign with local organizers.

Local 1298 conducted the drive under the card-check and neutrality agreement CWA has negotiated with SBC Commun-ications. SBC is the parent company of Southwestern Bell Mobile Communications, which owns the Cellular One brand in the region. Its competitors, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Sprint and AT&T Wireless, are almost entirely nonunion.

A Cellular One worker first contacted Early about a year ago, expressing interest in a union. The campaign got underway in September 1999, when local organizers began to build an inside committee.

Local 1298’s Paula Samolik and Erin Bowie got the word out to 350 service representatives at the Westwood call center. One worker, Adrian Thomas, hosted a first meeting in his home. As the pace quickened, about 15 out of 40 inside committee members attended weekly meetings at an area restaurant.

“We phone banked and constantly updated lists — there’s a high turnover at the call center,” Bowie said.

Samolik said people often left because of mandatory overtime and difficulty getting time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. “They (management) really weren’t educating the workers that FMLA leave was available to them,” she said. “People with families and people taking care of their parents, they would put on notice and let go rather than trying to work around their situation.”

Local organizers Mike Petrone and Peter Hoyt worked with 130 technicians at eight retail centers. “They were very pumped up on the whole idea of having a union,” Petrone said. “People I talked to as committee members were very good at getting lists, talking to other people and going forward and getting the cards signed.”

Inside committee members included Thomas, Jerry Cincotti, Joe Nuovo, April Vassill, Dave Houlihan, Joanne Twiss, Patricia Lucero, Gigi Grasso, Cam Morin, Gary Tucker, Bill Ortiz, Wayne St. Peter, John Manning and Mark Hollman.

Also assisting, Bowie said, were Local 1298 President Paul Hongo, organizer Jim Bartlett, Vice President Pat Telesco, Secretary-Treasurer Glen Kalata, executive board member John Miceli and Tom Kelley, a Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages ad salesman from Local 1301.

Roger Morin, president of Local 1298’s Cellular One bargaining unit in Rhode Island, and cell techs Bill Parry and Gary Menard also lent support to the campaign. Local 1298 represents 6,700 workers at Southern New England Telephone in Connecticut and has a Cellular One unit of about 40 workers in Providence and Warwick, R.I.

CWA Kaleida Scope

Nurses United/CWA Local 1168 has successfully parlayed two first contracts with the Kaleida health system into additional organizing victories. Continuing to build momentum after winning card-check recognition for 480 technical workers at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital in January, the local at CWA News press time was preparing to file cards with the American Arbitration Association on behalf of 300 technical workers at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.

The Suburban unit will be the eighth organized by the local in little more than a year under a card-check agreement negotiated under the leadership of local President Debbie Hayes two years ago.

That pact eased the way for the merger of several Buffalo, N.Y. area hospitals.

The victory will bring the total to more than 2,000 workers organized at Kaleida health, in addition to 2,500 the local already represented, all under the leadership of local Organizing Director Helen Cyrulik and organizers Terry Shelter and Michele Murray.

“It’s incredible work, it shows extraordinary persistence,” said District 1 Organizing Coordinator Jeff Lacher. “As soon as they’re done with one campaign, they’re in the middle of two new ones.”

Local organizers and a strong inside committee had powerful ammunition for the Suburban campaign: the two short-term first contracts, negotiated with the help of CWA Representative Dave Palmer.

On March 6, 132 technical workers at the Millard Fillmore Center for Laboratory Medicine, who gained CWA representation in June 1999, overwhelmingly ratified a contract bringing immediate average wage increases of 6 percent, reductions in employee health care contributions, overtime pay after 37.5 hours and time-and-a-half for holidays. In addition to other improvements, the pact limits the employer’s ability to downsize full-time and part-time employees. Toni Evers and Dawn Mele, members of the CLM bargaining committee helped spread the word among the technical unit at Suburban.

Then, on March 20, more than 1,000 registered nurses at Gates and Suburban voted by a 7-1 ratio to ratify their first contract bringing a broad range of wage gains for all RNs, weighted to benefit nurses with the least seniority. Similar to the CLM contract, it also includes breakthroughs on health insurance, an increase in shift differentials and job security provisions.

Both contracts, which expire in August, establish precedents for the covered units, which will bargain a new contract along with all CWA-represented employees at Kaleida this summer.

United for Public Safety

CWA’s National Coalition of Public Safety Officers will represent more than 200 officers in three new units in Florida and Arizona, reported NCPSO Director John Burpo.

A strong inside committee led Kissimmee, Fla. patrol officers to vote 45-10 for representation by the Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, Local 3196, an NCPSO affiliate. Jim Wiggins, Local 3196 staff representative, worked with the committee, Burpo said. Seventy-two officers will be represented. In addition, the local has filed with the state labor board to gain representation for 13 sergeants.

On March 13, a unit of 51 officers in Claremont, Fla. also voted for representation by Local 3196 in a Public Employee Relations Commission election. Burpo credited Wiggins and local President Andrew Welch for work on the campaign. Though the actual vote count was unavailable as the CWA News went to press, Burpo said, “It was overwhelming. There wasn’t any doubt about it.”

In February, the 86-member Police Officers of Scottsdale Association joined the Arizona Coalition of Public Safety Officers, “our fastest growing law enforcement local,” Burpo said. The membership potential in the Scottsdale Police Department is 350 officers.

AZCOPS/Local 7077 has grown from 350 members two and one-half years ago to more than 1,600 today, Burpo said.

“We’ve worked on this campaign for the past year,” said local President Chuck Foy. “This is a major breakthough in our organizing efforts in the Phoenix area.”

Burpo said AZCOPS will work with the Scottsdale unit to help them build the political pressure necessary to convince the city council to agree to collective bargaining. Three other units — Tucson, Peoria and El Mirage — have been successful in similar campaigns.