Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

T-Mobile Exec Attacks Union Supporters on Long Island

T-Mobile USA Regional Vice President Tom Ellefson led an unrelenting, and ultimately, personal attack on technicians on Long Island, N.Y., who wanted a union and bargaining rights.

Ellefson and other top managers camped out at the Long Island facility and held mandatory captive audience meetings with those techs who weren't publicly supporting union representation.  These meetings excluded six techs who are strong union supporters who could raise opposing views or ask pointed questions.

In the meetings with only those who were undecided or opposed to the union, Ellefson personally attacked the integrity, skills and commitment of those workers who have been working for a union voice for more than a year.

Ultimately, the management campaign succeeded in turning a majority against joining the union. The Dec. 30 vote was 6-10, against CWA representation.

CWA is protesting Ellefson's and T-Mobile USA's unacceptable behavior to T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom in Germany. DT executives claim to support the freedom of association worldwide and respect workers' bargaining rights in Germany, but tolerate the abusive behavior of T-Mobile USA management.

That will change. The whole world is watching Tom Ellefson and Deutsche Telekom.

Obama NLRB Recess Appointments Keep Board Alive and Functioning

CWA applauded President Obama's decision this week to recess appoint three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, allowing cases involving violations of workers' organizing and bargaining rights to move forward.

The recess appointments were necessary if the NLRB was going to continue to function. With just two members, the NLRB would be unable to issue any decisions, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, too many members of the U.S. Senate have sought to obstruct the people's business by pledging to block appointments to the NLRB and other important agencies.

The Senate has been virtually paralyzed by the abuse of Senate rules that enables an individual Senator to block action. All measures before the Senate now require a supermajority of 60 votes just to get to the floor for debate and discussion. As a result, progress on the programs and policies that working families need has come to a halt.

"Without these recess appointments to the NLRB, working men and women, for the first time since 1935, would have no place to turn for workplace justice. It's shameful that in the increasingly global economy, U.S. workers' rights lag dramatically behind the rest of the world and too many Republican Senators are determined to block U.S. workers from exercising even limited rights. We applaud President Obama's leadership that gives American workers at least some chance of justice on the job," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Register Now: Presidents' Meeting and Legislative-Political Conference

Register now for CWA's 2012 National Legislative-Political Conference, which will be held in Washington, D.C., Jan. 31- Feb. 2, and for the first CWA Presidents' Meeting, which opens immediately after the LP conference on Feb. 2. The deadline for the special hotel rate is Jan. 8.

CWA activists will take up major threats to our democracy corporate money in politics, broken Senate rules, voter suppression and legalization for immigrants and how we can fight back and restore our democracy.

The Legislative-Political conference opens at 1 pm on Jan. 31. On Feb. 1, after a morning session, activists will spend the afternoon lobbying on Capitol Hill. The conference wraps up around noon on Feb. 2. Vice President Joe Biden, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar, and members of Congress including Reps. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), who has introduced a bill to limit offshoring of call center jobs, and Raul Grijalva (D-Tex.), are expected to attend.

CWA's first Presidents' Meeting, established by delegates at the 2011 CWA Convention, begins at 1 p.m. on Feb. 2. The meeting is held in non-convention years so CWA local leaders can hear members' appeals.

Both meetings will be held at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street in Washington. The registration fee for the Legislative-Political Conference is $25 per participant. Click here to register for both the L-P Conference and the Presidents' Meeting.

The deadline for the special hotel rate is Jan. 8. To make hotel reservations click here.

Unions Ready for Battle as Indiana GOP Rushes to Pass 'Right-to-Work'

Governor Forced to Reverse Order Restricting Citizens' Access to Capitol



Indiana Capitol

The line to get inside Indiana's statehouse stretched down the street and around the block Jan. 4 as activists prepared to fight the GOP's latest attempt to pass anti-union "right-to-work" legislation.




As Indiana's 2012 legislative session opened Jan. 4, CWA members were among thousands of workers who packed the capitol and chanted "Union!" to protest the Republican leadership's renewed and rapid push to pass an anti-union "right-to-work" law.

The fight is expected to be especially intense, with reports that Republicans want to pass the bill before the nation's eyes are on Indianapolis for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

For now, Democratic lawmakers are trying to slow the process by denying Republicans a quorum. Democrats remained in caucus behind closed doors on Wednesday. It's not clear what will happen Friday, Jan. 6, when a joint House-Senate hearing is scheduled on the bill.

Workers scored an early victory Wednesday as Gov. Mitch Daniels was forced by public pressure to overturn an order capping the number of people who could be inside the statehouse. The order, which didn't apply to lobbyists, was designed to impede the large protests that forced lawmakers to table right-to-work legislation last year.

As activists arrived, only one entrance to the capitol was open and the line of people waiting to enter stretched down the street and around the block, CWA Local 4900 Vice President Preston Dorfmeyer said.

Once inside, they were restricted to a single elevator and found a formidable police presence. "At every office entrance I saw, there were two police officers posted," Dorfmeyer said. "I counted at least 70 police officers stationed inside the statehouse and at least two dozen more outside."

Although Daniels' announcement lifting the order came about 10:30 a.m., Dorfmeyer said, "It was after 1 p.m. before I saw the line to enter get down to a manageable level."

As always in right-to-work battles, Indiana Republicans make the tired claim that the law restricting private-sector union rights is necessary to attract business to their state. Not true, says Thomas McKenna, a former director of Indiana's Department of Commerce.

McKenna told the New York Times that it's absurd for the bill's supporters to suggest that even a small number of companies ruled out Indiana simply because it does not have right-to-work status.

"He said that the legislation's supporters had repeatedly refused to cite the name of any company that has taken that position. 'I think they're making it up,' he said," the Times reported.

Cablevision Workers Standing Strong for CWA Voice






Cablevision workers in Brooklyn are standing strong, despite a very hostile and intense anti-union campaign being waged by management. Management has been holding four captive audience meetings per week, every week, up until the Jan. 26 election.

CWA Local 1109 Executive Vice President Chris Calabrese said more than 70 percent of the 280 field technicians, dispatchers and other operations employees have signed cards seeking representation.

The workers also have the strong support of Rev. Al Sharpton, who is inviting them to the National Action Network breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King in Harlem on Jan. 16. Rev. Sharpton also will lead a delegation to meet with Cablevision CEO James L. Dolan.

Check out this great video about Cablevision workers and their determination to get a union voice. 

Felony Charges Filed in 2008 UCLA Lab Fire that Killed CWA Member

Prosecutors Say Professor, University Willfully Violated OSHA Standards



Sheri Sangji

A professor and the University of California are facing felony occupational safety and health violations three years after a UCLA laboratory fire killed UPTE-CWA member Sheri Sangji.




The University of California and a UCLA professor are facing unprecedented felony charges in connection with a chemistry lab fire that fatally injured UPTE-CWA Local 9119 member Sheri Sangji three years ago.

Sangji, a 23-year-old staff research assistant, was severely burned when air-sensitive chemicals burst into flames and ignited her clothing. She died 18 days after the Dec. 29, 2008, fire.

Since then, UPTE-CWA leaders have fought relentlessly for an overhaul of the university's safety and health standards, while pushing authorities to pursue Sangji's case.

"The filing of criminal charges is an important wake-up call for universities and principal investigators (PIs) who often pay less attention to safety than their counterparts in industrial labs," said Joan Lichterman of Local 9119's safety and health committee. "Universities need to ensure that their PIs have the necessary training to ensure the health and safety of employees they direct, and PIs need to be aware of their personal responsibility. They both must be held accountable when experiments go astray."

The Los Angeles Times reports that the L.A. district attorney's office brought the charges after a lengthy investigation of UCLA's lab safety practices and Sangji's training and supervision by professor and researcher Patrick Harran.

Harran and the university each are charged with three counts of willfully violating occupational safety and health standards. Specifically they are accused of failing to correct unsafe work conditions in a timely manner, to require clothing appropriate for the work and to provide proper chemical safety training.

Harran faces 4 years in prison and the school could be fined up to $1.5 million for each of three violations. The Times' research indicates that the criminal charges are the first of their kind for an academic lab accident.

The potential penalties far exceed the $31,875 that Cal/OSHA fined UCLA in 2009 after ruling that Sangji hadn't been trained properly and wasn't wearing protective clothing.

At the time of her death, Sangji was a recent college graduate who took the laboratory job while applying to law schools. Her devastated family has been pushing investigators to bring charges, calling it the "the first step toward any kind of justice."

"It won't bring Sheri back, but we do hope this will help keep other young people safe and keep other families from being destroyed," her sister, Naveen Sangji told the Times.

But UPTE-CWA activists say attitudes, as well as safety standards, must change to truly protect workers.

In a Times letter to the editor, Local 9119 member Lynn Kessler said not all supervisors are taking UCLA's improved rules seriously. She described doing research in 2011 with radioactive material and being "harshly ridiculed by my supervisor for insisting that I receive radiation safety training, wear protective clothing and a badge dosimeter to keep track of my radiation exposure."

Still Time to Cast Votes in CWA Web Poll of 2012 Presidential Candidates

An online poll is seeking input from members to help the CWA Executive Board decide on a possible presidential endorsement in 2012.

"If we endorse a candidate, he or she will have the full weight of CWA's political resources, so your vote is extremely important," CWA President Larry Cohen said. The Board will discuss an endorsement Feb. 2.

Local unions are being asked to reach out to members and invite them to take CWA's Presidential ePoll and share it with co-workers. Locals can share the ePoll information on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

The website with the poll also features a wealth of information about the candidates and their stands on jobs, collective bargaining, retirement security and other issues essential to workers and their families.

Find the poll at

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