Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

CWA Workers to Build Up to 900 Los Angeles Buses

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CWAers at New Flyer will soon start manufacturing up to 900 environmentally-friendly compressed natural gas buses for Los Angeles, creating about 150 jobs at the Minnesota plant and 50 jobs at a new California service center.

"It's a big boost for us because we're in contract negotiations in three weeks," said John Desm, president of CWA Local 7304.

The $302.9 million contract from LA Metro -- finalized just last week -- was the result of a strong movement building campaign.

It all started last summer with Desm's work with CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson to pressure members of Congress to pass a new transportation bill. That bill freed up federal funding so cities could purchase new buses, and New Flyer put in a bid with LA Metro.

When Blue Green Alliance, a partnership between 14 of the country's largest unions and environmental organizations, heard through the grapevine that New Flyer was a finalist for the LA Metro contract, it immediately reached out to CWA Local 7304. Brian Lombardozzi, a senior policy analyst at the alliance, gathered material to paint a clear picture of what these manufacturing jobs in Minnesota meant for workers, but also the greater community. It was a great narrative: This contract could potentially create an extra third shift in production that would boost employment at the factory and give a big boost to the local economy. Los Angeles taxpayer dollars would go towards employing high-skilled, union workers working with cutting-edge technology.

CWA President Larry Cohen worked to get that information into the hands of Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. And Durazo sent a letter to LA Metro supporting New Flyer's bid.

"We have heard from a representative group of workers form the New Flyer facility in Minnesota," she wrote. "According to these workers -- who we have encouraged to separately write to you -- the facility in Minnesota is completely unionized, provides good wages, benefits and excellent working conditions and provides ongoing training and career path opportunities for all their employees."

Desm began taking transit officials on tours of the factory in St. Cloud, Minn. At the same time, CWA, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and AFL-CIO rallied workers for a flyer campaign and actions in California to raise awareness about New Flyer's bid.

"I thought, 'Wow, look at this network. We have people who we don't even know supporting us there,'" said Desm. "For me, it's an eye opener. Look at the power."

New Flyer is planning to start hiring workers for the St. Cloud manufacturing facility in April, and it's preparing to open a new service center in Los Angeles, which will employ another 50 workers. Under the contract, LA Metro has ordered 550 buses with an option for another 350 buses in the future.

"Everything is hand built. We practically build Lamborghinis -- in other words, no automation in our plant and everything is built here in America," said Desm. "You can't get more Build America than what we're doing right now."

Now the goal is use LA Metro and New Flyer as a model for other large transportation projects.

"Victories take a long time to get," said Lombardozzi, who has been working on getting transit agencies to buy domestic products and support good union jobs since 2010. "But hopefully we can build on this one get some more."

Cablevision Illegally Locks Out, Fires 23 Workers

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Illegally locked out and fired Cablevision workers, clergy and New York City elected officials including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn rally outside a Cablevision garage. Management refused to let workers in or talk with any of the group. Workers reminded management that "we'll be back."




Brooklyn Cablevision/Optimum illegally locked out and fired 23 workers who were attempting to discuss the lack of good-faith bargaining by the company with management. This activity is protected by federal law.

CWAers and progressive activists are rallying around the 23 workers and sending a message to Cablevision CEO James Dolan. Sign that petition here. And check out this video. 

Nearly 300 Brooklyn Cablevision technicians and dispatchers joined CWA Local 1109 a year ago, by an overwhelming vote. They had the support of elected officials and community leaders from throughout New York City. The company has given all non-union technicians raises ranging from $2 to $9 an hour, to stop organizing among other Cablevision workers, but in bargaining with the Brooklyn workers, the company has refused to discuss economic issues yet.

CWA has condemned Cablevision/Optimum's action as an illegal and outrageous attack on workers. Last week, CWA filed unfair labor practice charges over the company's bad-faith bargaining. Keep up with the latest at here 

"Over the last year, Cablevision/Optimum has demonstrated it not only lacks respect for its Brooklyn employees who have chosen to stand up for their rights as workers, but also for federal labor laws and the entire borough of Brooklyn," said Chris Shelton, CWA District 1 Vice President. "Cablevision has illegally failed to negotiate in good faith with its Brooklyn workers, illegally intimidated workers in other boroughs, and today brazenly violated federal law by illegally locking out and terminating workers for protected activity."

This wasn't Cablevision/Optimum's first violation of federal law. The company recently settled NLRB charges that it violated the Brooklyn workers' rights, and CWA expects a Board complaint to be issued on other acts of intimidation and harassment.

Mailers Ratify Contract with Washington Post

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Mailers from CWA's Printing, Publishing and Media Workers sector and members of CWA Local 14201, protest outside The Washington Post in Nov. 2004. It was the start of long, hard-fought negotiations that ended last week with a ratified new contract.




After more than a decade of bargaining for a new contract, Washington Mailers Local 14201 ratified an agreement this week with The Washington Post.

"I can't say enough about the membership holding strong all these years and all of their perseverance," said PPMWS President Dan Wasser. "The bargaining committee and Sector Counsel Richard Rosenblatt were instrumental in reaching this new deal and getting it ratified. It has been a tough road for this local."

The three-year agreement, ratified by a more than 5-1 margin, lays a solid foundation for the Local going forward. While most contract negotiations at other newspapers involve concessions and zero raises, the Local was able to negotiate bonuses and immediate wage increases at the Post. It includes a voluntary buyout package of three years pay, $4,000 a year for health care and up to 10 years added to their age for pension purposes.

For more than 30 years, helpers and mailers operated in two separate jurisdictions. But the new agreement allows joint jurisdiction, meaning employees can do any work within the department, so that the Post can utilize every worker in a more efficient manner.

Also, priority, vacation and sick time remain unchanged, despite the Post's insistence on radical cuts. Workers will keep their old break schedule, but will lose their coffee break after the first year.

"I had to fight for that third break," said Bill Shiflett, president of the Local. "It's the only department at the newspaper where you're tethered to a machine and need to work the speed of that machine. Because the work is so demanding, you just cannot work on this machine without having a break."

Workers had gone 10 years without a raise.

The last agreement expired in May 2003, and the Printing Sector, in conjunction with the Local, started a corporate campaign against the Post to aid in reaching an agreement.

A comprehensive tentative agreement was reached in December 2009, but it was rejected by the membership. The Post declared impasse, yet did not implement many portions of the rejected agreement because of lifetime job guarantees. Negotiations continued, but stalled in April 2010 until recently.

"The vast majority of people are very content, even people in their 40s and 50s who know they'll be staying," said Shiflett.

Big Victory for Lucent Installers On Company's Age Discrimination

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From 2002-2004, Lucent Technologies (now Alcatel Lucent) was discriminating against senior installers by forcing them to permanently move long distances as part of "permanent transfer" contract language. After 10 years of investigation and hearings, a settlement was reached that calls for 193 installers to share a $1.4 million award.

For three years, Lucent was using the transfer language to force more senior installers to relocate, in an effort to get them to resign or retire. At the same time, Lucent kept less senior installers at work in their home locations. These forced transfers were a real problem for workers, and many were transferred more than once, often to a location that didn't require their work skills.

CWA T/T Vice President Ralph Maly and the CWA bargaining team eliminated this language in 2004 contract bargaining. It took eight more years for installers to get justice, but they did.

In 2003, Local 4090 (now Local 4050/4090) President Mike Klein filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After seven years of fact finding and investigation, the EEOC found cause to support the installers' claim of age discrimination.

A class action lawsuit and nine years of hearings, research, interviews and statistical analysis pushed the company to mediation, with the $1.4 million settlement reached in December 2012. A judge is reviewing the settlement and how the award will be allocated among the 193 installers.

AFA-CWA Reaches Tentative Contract with US Airways

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AFA-CWA reached a tentative agreement with US Airways management for a contract covering all US Airways mainline Flight Attendants, about 7,500. The tentative agreement, reached under the supervision of the National Mediation Board (NMB), calls for immediate economic improvements and would provide all US Airways Flight Attendants with the strongest position possible for any discussions related to the next merger.

"This agreement provides US Airways Flight Attendants with a strong position for our future. We secured immediate improvements as well as a process for additional gains through discussions related to the pending merger. Doug Parker's plan for a US Airways/American merger provides the best opportunities for US Airways Flight Attendants - and we are now poised to make the most out of those opportunities," said AFA-CWA US Airways Presidents Roger Holmin and Deborah Volpe. "We are incredibly grateful for the leadership of the National Mediation Board and especially the skilled oversight of Board Member Puchala and Mediator Mackenzie."

The tentative agreement was unanimously endorsed by the AFA Joint Negotiating Committee and elected Flight Attendant leaders. AFA-CWA will hold "roadshows," or informational meetings, at all four bases: Phoenix, Washington National, Charlotte and Philadelphia. Voting begins on Feb. 7 and closes on Feb. 28.

This AFA-CWA video has more information on the tentative agreement. 

Meanwhile, the merger between US Airways and bankrupt American Airlines will likely be finalized and announced very soon, according to AP reports.

Together the two carries would have nearly 100,000 employees, 1,500 aircraft and $38.7 billion in revenue, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  It would become one of the world's largest airlines.

Bargaining & Organizing Updates

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  • CWA members turned down a tentative agreement with AT&T Southwest. CWA and company bargaining committees will meet this week to discuss issues. CWA represents about 22,000 workers at AT&T Southwest.
  • Bargaining continues for a new contract covering 22,000 workers at AT&T Mobility. Mobility members are joining town hall calls to learn more about the issues and get updates on bargaining. To sign up for the Feb. 3 call, click here. To sign up for bargaining updates, click here. 
  • CWA District 9 began negotiations on Jan. 28 for a new contract covering nearly 5,000 workers at Verizon West in California. Updates are available here
  • CWA Local 7103 has won raises for workers in the Woodbury County Secondary Roads Department in Sioux City, Iowa. Read more here.
  • CWAers joined mine workers and retirees in a protest against Patriot Coal Corp., a company spun off from Peabody Energy. To survive Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company wants to get out of its obligation to pay pension and health care benefits to 20,000 mine workers and their families. Read more here.

Stand Up for Ohio

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Leaders from union, community, civil rights, student, faith and many other groups met in Columbus, Ohio at CWA Local 4320 to lay out plans for 2013. CWA D4 Vice President Linda Hinton and Kirk Noden, the executive director of Ohio Organizing Collaborative, chaired the session. Stand Up for Ohio was launched in March 2011 to fight the attack on public workers' bargaining rights and to stand up for good jobs and strong communities. The broad coalition has been leading a movement building program on jobs and economic opportunity across Ohio.




Make Sure Your Voice is Heard

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Check out the latest videos on CWA's movement building website!

CWAers are talking about how they're building our movement and sharing those stories. From a CWA-Sierra Club partnership in Texas to Stand Up Ohio to work with Jobs with Justice in communities across the country, we have stories to tell about the work we're doing.

By joining forces with other organizations, like civil rights groups, women's organizations, students, religious groups, environmentalists and many more, we grow stronger. That's the way we'll reach our goals. If we don't work together, we won't make any progress on our core issues: good jobs, retirement security, health care and bargaining rights.

At, you can download resources and learn more about our fight for economic justice and democracy. Just as important, you can share your story that will be posted on the interactive map and will inspire more activists to join in.

It's easy to do. Just click on the "Share Your Story" button and follow the instructions to make your own message. Stories should be between 1 and 2 minutes.

Without the NLRB, Workers Have No Path to Justice

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On Jan. 25, three members of the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit invalidated President Obama's three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board made in January 2012. We're just beginning to realize the consequences of that action, and the potential harm to millions of workers. How did this happen? The blame falls on the broken Senate rules that allow Senators to block nominations to agencies like the NLRB and judicial appointments.

The D.C. circuit court is missing a few judges, thanks to the broken Senate rules and the determination of a few Republican Senators to block nearly every judicial nomination made by President Obama. The decision itself disregards 190 years of precedent as to how a president may fill vacant jobs.

President Obama made the three recess appointments -- two Democratic members and one Republican -- to keep the NLRB functioning. From January 2008 to March 2010, the NLRB was operating with just two members. Why: because new members could not be confirmed under the broken Senate rules that allow obstruction at every turn. The Board issued about 600 decisions on cases where they could agree; other cases were set aside. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the two-member Board did not have the authority to decide cases.

Some Republican Senators continue to see this as an opportunity to keep the NLRB from ever acting on workplace disputes, and the broken Senate rules makes this possible.

The NLRB is the only path that workers have to any degree of workplace justice. Last week's decision again blocks workers from the justice they are due. The latest example: the 23 Cablevision/Optimum workers who were illegally locked out and fired just yesterday. The only way to fix this, the only path to justice for workers, is to get those NLRB members confirmed by the U.S. Senate. But too many Senate Republicans will block that, because they want to make the Board completely powerless and ineffective.

Workers who have been vindicated by the Board, following years of struggle against employers with deep pockets and expensive legal teams, are at best in limbo and at worst, likely to lose everything they rightfully deserve. Because obstruction is the rule in the U.S. Senate, justice is delayed and wrongly denied for millions of Americans. That's not what democracy looks like.

Obama Advocates Path to Citizenship for 11 Million Immigrants

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CWA commends the Obama administration on its determination to create a path to citizenship for 11 million adults and their children who contribute to the economic life of our nation every day.

The president laid out a framework of broad reform this week. It has four parts:

  1. Create a path for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
  2. Continue to strengthen border security with infrastructure and technology
  3. Crack down on businesses that hire undocumented workers
  4. Streamline the nation's legal immigration system by rewarding those who play by the rules

The Senate is also working on its own immigration plan. Unfortunately the Senate majority's failure to substantially democratize the Senate rules will make it substantially harder to place legislation on the floor for discussion and debate that provides a clear, simple and quick path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants and their children.

But the president offered some hope of swift action. In his speech advocating comprehensive immigration reform, Obama encouraged senators to end its long record of obstruction and gridlock.

"Now, of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details, and every stakeholder should engage in real give and take in the process. But it's important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place," he said in Las Vegas. "And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

CWA looks forward to working with the Obama administration and members of Congress. We realize, as do all involved, that this is a complex issue and we will be focused on the details of the plan. We must have an overall immigration process that works for working families. That's why CWA will monitor any proposed changes to visa programs like the H-1B visa, which are sought after by business but have cost U.S. technicians and other workers tens of thousands of jobs.

Isabella's Song -- Sandy Be Not Proud

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This story was written by Dan Cunningham, a member of CWA Local 1180 who works at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Isabella Burns, who shares her experiences of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, also is a member of Local 1180. 

The sun was about to set on Staten Island on Monday, October 29, 2012. A storm called Sandy trolled the waters off the Midland Beach neighborhood. Wherever Sandy had landed, she left death and destruction in her wake. Drawing first blood in the Caribbean, she fueled her appetite in the Carolinas, the Virginias, and Maryland. She served another deadly dose of savagery along the Jersey Shore. But by sunset on the 29th, the monster off Midland Beach was a behemoth, at the height of its fury, meaner, more murderous than ever. Little did the residents of Midland Beach know that they were about to receive Sandy's most lethal brew of storm and surge.

As darkness fell, 60-year-old Isabella Burns of 164A Grimsby St. scurried around her one-story bungalow. She closed windows, sealed doors, and took out her three shop vacs. No water on the street yet, hardly any rain falling, and it was well past sundown. She decided to stay and ride out Sandy with her darling cats. Her neighbor, 79-year-old Beatrice Spagnuolo, also stayed. She lived in the attached bungalow at 164 Grimsby St. with her daughter, Lucy. The majority of Midland Beach residents decided likewise. Those who stayed admitted hearing the warnings. But they had heard the same about Hurricane Irene, and Irene never did much damage in Midland. "There have been storms here since I can remember," one old-time resident was heard to say. "We always get by without much fuss." Sandy would be no different, many assumed. The reasons people stayed varied -- stubbornness, denial, a false sense of security, defiance, certainly disbelief. Most just didn't believe the warnings.

Isabella Burns had no idea that she was smack in the middle of Sandy's crosshairs. She didn't know that the eight-block area around her bungalow would be Sandy's maximum-kill zone. She didn't know that eight of her neighbors would die. Sandy beckoned for Isabella as well, but she spurned the offer. To paraphrase a poem by Dylan Thomas, she did not go gently into the night, she raged and raged against the dying of the light.

Read the full story and interview here.

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