Remarks of President Shelton to the District Seven Leadership Conference

Thank you, brothers and sisters. It’s great to be here with our District 7 activists and with you, Brenda. 

I appreciate your leadership and your vision which are uniting District 7.  You are a great leader for our union and all of us thank you for the work you do every day. 

Brenda, I’m proud you came to Washington to engage in direct civil disobedience to save our democracy.  That’s what makes CWA so special — we are there for each other, and I am proud to call you my sister.  

Here in Omaha, Congressman Brad Ashford voted wrong on the Fast Track vote despite our great work.  CWA retirees and leaders like Al Mumm blocked his labor endorsement as a result.  Al and our retirees, if you are in the room, stand up and let us appreciate your work. 

We don’t forget and across District 7 so many of you worked tirelessly to beat Fast Track and the TPP.  Stand up and be recognized.   Together, we will hold every elected leader accountable and, united, we will start winning again.

District 7 activists also have been on the frontlines of organizing new members.

Since April of last year, District 7 has won 21 elections for 1,454 workers in both the private and public sector.

Under the AT&T neutrality agreement, 350 Cricket members in 7 state-wide units joined CWA. 

Your work led to 270 new members at Envoy airlines.

And I want to give a special shout out to “Quad 7” and President Audrey Deguio [DIG-EE-O] for your innovative organizing work with the 800 taxi drivers to form the Green Taxi cooperative.  Plus let me thank Quad 7 for giving us Lisa Bolton, who’s been a terrific addition to our National Executive Board.

Most recently, 32 Locals, 16 District Staff, 12 Organizers from other Districts, and 3 from Headquarters have been involved in the DirecTV organizing campaign.

In D7, we’ve been certified for tech units in Oregon and New Mexico, and now have a majority at the Denver call center.  That’s worth celebrating.

But this campaign also reminds me that management is management, no matter what company we’re talking about.  AT&T chose to undercut our neutrality agreement by giving the same terms to the IBEW. Then it sat back to watch us fight with each other. 

In the remaining unorganized call centers, especially Boise, Idaho, we need to work as hard as we can to bring CWA representation to DirecTV workers.

CWA gets it done, and that’s what all working families need.

As you know, we’re on strike at Verizon after going 10 months beyond expiration.  It may be a long one. 

We have lots of other bargaining taking place too -- AT&T and District 9, bargaining at United Airlines, and many other contracts. 

Verizon is the poster child for corporate greed.

Verizon makes $1.8 billion a month in profit — that’s billion with a B. That’s pure profit, after every last bill is paid. It made over $39 billion the past three years and for this greedy management, it’s not enough. 

At Verizon, we and the IBEW are 40,000 strong….and concentrated in the remaining union densest states in the U.S.

Public support has been amazing.  Politicians have been lining up to support us.  And 20 U.S. Senators from the region signed a letter telling Verizon to bargain with us.  

Senator Chuck Schumer, the next leader of the U.S. Senate, joined the picket lines. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader joined the picket lines. Both Democratic presidential candidates stopped by our picket lines, and former President Bill Clinton stopped by in Buffalo.

But, I have to give a special shout out to Bernie Sanders. Bernie walked the picket line daily.  He joins our large rallies, AND he lifts up CWA at HIS rallies.

The press has been amazing. They’ve gotten the issues right:  Verizon made $39 billion in profit and still wants to close call centers and send more jobs overseas. It wants to contract out our work and transfer techs away from home for up to four months at a time.

At the bargaining table, Verizon demanded significant health care cost shifting and we came back with proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings. But big surprise, Verizon lied on its pledge to clear the table of all of its garbage demands.

This strike will mark the beginning of our country’s turn around. We will restore the American Dream for working families.

That’s what all of us are fighting for.

When we stop corporate greed at Verizon, it will lead to more wins at our other bargaining tables.

But we cannot simply stand by and root the home team on to victory.  We must all jump in and take up this fight as our own.

On May 5, Verizon is holding its annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now maybe Verizon is thinking that the farther it gets from striking CWA members, the less likely it is that CWAers will be there to call out the company for its corporate greed.

Big mistake.  Verizon, you can run but you can’t hide.

I know your members will be out at this shareholder meeting, holding greedy Verizon accountable.

Another way we’re going after Verizon is by focusing on Verizon Wireless stores. We will be expanding Verizon store picketing throughout the country.  In District 7, Susie McAllister will coordinate this activity.

Each Local must “adopt a store” and commit to on-going events and picket lines.  These picket lines should include our political friends and allies who stand with us against corporate greed.  We need solid commitments and real picket schedules, and I expect District 7 to be among the best in CWA.

Brothers and sisters, we are a union where every member has every other member’s back.  We are a union where every Local joins with every other Local and there are no phony dividing lines between Districts and Sectors or from one occupation to another.

This is our time to stand up and fight together.

We were all taught in school -- that we have a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people.

But today, companies like Verizon or billionaires like the Koch brothers can use their riches to buy politicians and subvert our country.

Their money has polluted and perverted our democracy. We’re becoming a nation controlled by corporations and the elite one percent.

There’s an old saying “money is like manure.  Spread it around and it does some good.  Pile it up in one place and it stinks.”

These guys and their money definitely stink. It’s up to us to stop corporate greed.

Year after year, big money interests have focused on weakening unions.  They’ve attacked bargaining rights in the Midwest and are trying to expand Right-to-Work for less laws in more states.  

They’ve waged relentless war against public employee bargaining as our folks in New Mexico know so well.

But we are pushing back.

We’re fighting against the attack on public and private workers’ bargaining rights.

We’re signing up non-members in our bargaining units.

The Fight for $15 and a Union Campaign has taken root.

We’ve passed legislation for paid sick days and family leave. 

In Seattle, voters passed a referendum to support fair elections so that regular people can donate and have a real voice in political campaigns.

Oregon, with our support, adopted automatic registration for voters.

In Minnesota, CWA leaders and members have led our union in adopting and expanding our LPAT model for Legislative and Political engagement and building a real movement to take back our country from the one percent. 

Our activists there have gone from being Minnesota nice to civil disobedience -- most recently blocking morning rush hour traffic with hundreds of others to draw attention to abusive practices of U.S. Bank. 

That’s why and how labor and working families must be involved in politics. 

We don’t take part in political campaigns to support Democrats or Republicans. 

We’re involved to protect our members and advance the interests of working families.

In fact, you should all know that in Florida, CWA is supporting the challenger running against the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

When she was first elected, Wasserman Schultz claimed to be pro-labor.  Today, she supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the financial buzzards behind payday loans. 

Some have criticized our endorsement of her challenger because she is the Chair of the Democratic Party.  

But for me, the decision of our Florida Locals to support her challenger, Tim Canova, is a badge of honor.  And I wear it with pride.

The simple truth is we need leaders who will work on our problems, not politicians who pocket big corporate campaign contributions and do their bidding.

And that’s what our members saw when they looked at Bernie Sanders.  

I couldn’t agree more with what Larry said about Bernie.  His campaign is raising our issues.  He is speaking with our voice.

Now on the other hand, not a single Republican candidate has been to our picket lines, even though their lead candidate calls himself the voice for working people.

But I know Donald Trump from my days in New York and he is a phony, a huckster, and worse.

As a candidate, Trump criticizes free trade but he sends work overseas. Check out those expensive Trump ties - they are all made in China.

In New York City, when Trump built the Trump Tower, he hired 200 Polish immigrants to do his demolition work.  They were paid $5 dollars an hour less than U.S. workers and had to sue to claim their wages.

Trump is the candidate who says U.S. workers’ wages are too high.  He loves right to work for less.  Here’s a direct quote:

"I love the right to work … It is better for the people. You are not paying the big fees to the unions. The unions get big fees. A lot of people don't realize they have to pay a lot of fees. I am talking about the workers. They have to pay big fees to the union. I like it (Right to Work) because it gives great flexibility to the people. It gives great flexibility to the companies."

This is not a candidate our members, or working people, should be supporting. In Trump, some may see a man who’s saying a lot of things they believe, like:

The government has stopped working for ordinary people.

Trade deals are costing jobs.

Today’s kids are going to grow up and do worse than their parents did.

But the Trump Republican solution to these problems will drive a stake in the heart of labor and push our members’ wages and benefits down further and further.

A worker voting for Donald Trump is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders!  And if he gets elected, we are guaranteed to get fried!

I’d like to leave you with one last quote; this one from Martin Luther King: “The time is always right to do what is right.” 

And doing what’s right is what our union is all about.

Last week in Washington D.C., 1,500 people, including myself, Lisa Bolton, Brenda Roberts, Jay Boyle, leaders and members of our Civil Rights and Equity committee, the National Women’s committee, Next Gen, and many other CWAers, participated in civil disobedience to focus attention on the state of our democracy.

It felt good to be surrounded by our allies marching shoulder to shoulder and demanding that the people’s democracy be restored.

In my speech to the marchers, I told them no matter what your cause — be it the environment, workers’ rights, civil rights, wage inequality, or fair housing —none of us can achieve our goals by going it alone.

Divided we will fail; but if all of us join together, we can force change.  

Most politicians tell us they spend up to 60 percent of their time dialing for dollars to get re-elected. 

You know who they are calling: the corporations and the billionaires — the same folks who ARE NOT supporting workers’ rights, civil rights, organizing rights, fair wages, fair trade agreements, and paid sick leave.

But on April 18 we gathered together to do something about that — to make sure that the politicians heard our voices.

It was one beautiful day in what will be a long fight. 

Sisters and brothers, we are going to make a political revolution to take this country back for the workers who built it!

The time is always right to do what’s right!

Are you ready to fight for the rights of working families?

Are you ready to take back our democracy?

Are you ready to stand up and fight back?

We’re ready!

We’re CWA!

Who are we?  CWA

Who are we?  CWA

Who are we?  CWA

We are proud, strong, and united, and together, we will win!

Thank you.