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Worker Power Update

June 1, 2023

Reward Work Act

Last year, corporations spent $1.2 trillion buying back their own stock. CWA members have spoken out for many years about the importance of ending this practice, which diverts money that could be used to raise wages or invest in better equipment or services into the pockets of CEOs and wealthy shareholders.

Last week, two CWAers joined Representative Chuy García (D-Ill.) for the reintroduction of the Reward Work Act, which bans stock buybacks and increases worker power by requiring public companies to allow workers to directly elect one-third of their company’s board of directors. The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Val Hoyle (D-Ore).

Isabela Gonzalez, a Genius worker at the Apple Washington Square store in Portland, Ore., said that “as an employee, it's hard to reconcile the reality that Apple is investing billions of dollars into stock buybacks instead of compensating workers for their skills and contributions to the company.” She continued, “Apple has bought back over $388 billion in stocks since 2018 and just this month announced that it would be investing another $90 billion into stock buybacks. These are profits that we, the workers, helped to make happen, but we reap very little of the benefits of those profits. This bill would put an end to that rigged system and force companies to reward employees for their hard work.”

Alissa Dillon, a United Airlines Flight Attendant and member of AFA-CWA Local 22021, noted that in the decade leading up to the pandemic, U.S. airlines spent 96 percent of their free cash flow on stock buybacks, while ticket prices and fees got higher, seats got tighter, and airlines tried to force workers to accept deep concessions. “Banning stock buybacks will force corporations to stop focusing on this quarter’s profits and invest for the long-term — that’s good for all of us,” Dillon said. “It will also require that employees get a real voice on corporate boards — meaning that when it comes time to make important decisions, workers will have a real voice at the table. The Reward Work Act will help rebalance our economy so that growth is invested in people, not a few billionaires on Wall Street.”

Reward Work Act Event
Apple worker Isabela Gonzalez (center) and AFA-CWA Local 22021 member Alissa Dillon (second from right) joined Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) for the reintroduction of the Reward Work Act.


CWA General Counsel Shares Personal Testimony About the Union Difference

In this short, must-see excerpt from a U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing held last week, CWA General Counsel Angela Thompson shares the moving story of the difference her mother’s union job made in her life. Thompson’s mother, a white woman, was fired from a job after her employer learned that her daughter was Black. “The next job, when she got her union job, people might not have liked that, but they couldn’t fire her for it. She was protected by her union contract and her union family. And it made all the difference in the world.”

Angie Thompson Testimony

During the hearing, Thompson, a former CWA member who was a customer sales and service representative for Bell Atlantic, also detailed the important role the National Labor Relations Board plays in enabling workers to organize in fair and efficient ways and advocated for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.


Bipartisan Legislation Would Increase Protections for Flight Crews Pumping Aboard Aircraft

On May 19, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Ore.) announced new bipartisan legislation that would allow flight crews to pump breastmilk aboard aircraft safely.

“No one should be forced to stop nursing by their employer,” said Merkley. “I won’t stop fighting until all working mothers, in every sector, have the protections to remain in the workforce and continue pumping to provide for their infants.”

The PUMP Act of 2022, also sponsored by Sen. Merkley, guaranteed millions of mothers the right to pump at work, but a loophole left flight crews out of the legislation. The AIR PUMP Act would extend pumping protections to thousands of Flight Attendants and pilots.

AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson praised the proposed law. “I pumped while working as a Flight Attendant,” said Nelson. “Sadly, Flight Attendants have been threatened with discipline for doing what is best for their health and the baby in order to sustain their milk supply.”

A summary of the legislation can be found here.