Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

House Approves Attack on Workers' Rights, Senate Can Step Up

Despite strong Democratic opposition, the House of Representatives voted 248-169 to approve a blatant attack on workers' rights as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill. Some 157 Democrats voted against the measure.

CWA President Larry Cohen said that "the FAA Reauthorization Bill contains a cynical attack on organizing rights that should never have even been considered. It is consistent with lobbying by Delta and the leadership of the right wing majority."

The provision provides that a majority of workers has to express interest or support for a union before the representation process can even begin. What is not enshrined in law is that if a majority of workers votes for union representation, those workers get their union.

"This is reprehensible in this or any democracy. Fair minded Senators should reject this bill and return it to the conference. This is not a clerical error; it is a deliberate attack on workplace rights. We are waiting for Senators to stand up for democracy at work!" Cohen said.

CWA activists from the Leg-Pol conference took that message to Capitol Hill this week.

CWA, AFA-CWA and 17 other unions representing nine million workers also joined together to condemn the deal and urge the House and Senate not to gut transportation workers' rights.

CWA President Larry Cohen talks about what's at stake here.

And watch Rep. George Miller (D-CA) stand up on the House floor against this attack on workers' rights.

Activists 'Stand Up, Fight Back' at CWA Leg-Pol Conference

More than 700 CWA activists covered Capitol Hill as part of CWA's Legislative-Political conference in Washington. Their message to senators, representatives and staff: we're fighting back to restore democracy and economic justice for working families. CWA activists visited more than 350 congressional offices.



Larry Cohen

CWA President Larry Cohen talks about what's at stake for working families.




CWA President Larry Cohen said it will take real resistance, "peaceful nonviolent resistance," to confront the attacks on working families. "They attack us in every way, our jobs, our health care, our pensions. They control our political system. In the past we used resistance to overcome this assault. We need that today. We need a path and we will find it."

Click here to watch highlights of the Leg-Pol conference. And get more updates at

Broken Senate Rules

CWA President Larry Cohen said the latest attack on workers' rights the ongoing effort by the Republican minority to rewrite the Railway Labor Act and make it harder for transportation workers to have a union representation election was an outrage and the direct result of our broken Senate rules. "Because of those rules, no single advancement in workers' rights was ever discussed on the floor of the Senate, not for a single second," but the Republican minority can take draconian provisions and put them into law, he said.



Jeff Merkley

Rep. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).




The only advancement in workers' rights we've won was the rule change made by the National Mediation Board last year that finally gave transportation workers the same democratic election process for union elections that is the standard in our country, Cohen said, and now, "this advancement is under attack, as we are, every minute."

"We need to stand up and fight back. We will fight back when we go to the Senate, every single minute that we're up there."

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), as a freshman senator, was a key supporter of CWA's campaign to reform the Senate rules, and told activists he will continue to fight to end the filibuster rule and other provisions that block legislation from ever getting to the Senate floor.

Economic Justice and Ending the Offshoring of Jobs

A bi-partisan bill to end the practice of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to support the offshoring of call center jobs was a big focus of activists' lobbying and speakers at the Leg-Pol conference.



Tim Bishop

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY).




Ron Collins, CWA's chief of staff, led a panel on the bill introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) Local 13100 Vice President Patrice Mears-Swift and a T-Mobile call center worker (who can't be identified because of T-Mobile USA's anti-union intimidation) talked about how their jobs are at risk, as companies like Verizon and others look to send good jobs overseas.

Mears-Swift, who works at a Verizon residential customer service center, said Verizon was one of the biggest opponents of the call center bill. "We need to keep good jobs here in the U.S., to protect taxpayers and communities from being taken advantage of by companies that promise everything when they hope to get tax breaks, but move jobs overseas all too quickly. A $100 billion company like Verizon shouldn't be using its profits to send jobs overseas."

Collins, who joined a media teleconference with Reps. Bishop and Dave McKinley (R-WVA.), told reporters that CWA activists were heading to Capitol Hill to tell members of Congress that U.S. workers need the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act.

Bishop, whose parents both were CWA members, told the Leg-Pol activists that more cosponsors were signing on to the bill every day, with 27 now on board.

The bill makes companies that move call center jobs overseas ineligible for federal grants or guaranteed loans; requires overseas workers to disclose their physical location at the start of a call, and enables consumers to request that their call be transferred to a representative within the U.S.

Getting Corporate Money out of Politics



Keith Ellison

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).




Leg-Pol activists heard from several speakers who outlined exactly how workers can regain their voice in politics, by getting corporate money out of politics and reversing the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of two years ago that opened the door to this democracy-destroying effort.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said we need to build the national will to get rid of Citizens United. "Democracy is not for sale. We need a constitutional amendment that states the obvious: corporations are not people."

Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, said the Citizens United decision is enabling corporations and the wealthy to hijack our government and take away the voice of ordinary Americans. CWA and Common Cause are working together, to restore democracy to the people.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) agreed that "unity is the issue and fight back is the slogan. At the end of the day, there are more of us than them. We can roll over these guys because they have nothing to say about what's important to working families. But we must have a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people."

Voter Suppression



Ben Jealous

NAACP President Ben Jealous.

Below: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS).

Bennie Thompson




Efforts are underway in 38 states to deprive citizens of the rights to vote. This has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with keeping people from voting.

Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, said the "flip side of buying elections is suppressing the vote." As much as Republicans tried to find big examples of voter fraud, they just couldn't, he said, coming up with maybe 25 cases per year over 50 years. "Our ability to defend our rights is leveraged on our ability to vote and turn out big numbers at the ballot box. The other side gets that, and that's why they're fighting hard to keep people from voting."

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said the voting requirements that states are adopting "are intended to discourage people from showing up to vote. I don't have to show a photo id to pay my taxes. We need to set public policy so that it makes sense and that we don't unfairly target people."



Annie Hill

CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill.




A panel with CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, D4 Vice President Seth Rosen and D6 Vice President Claude Cummings, looked at how CWA activists in Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas are fighting back against voter suppression.

Biden: 'We're Going to Make the State of the Unions Stronger'



Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden.




Forty years ago, CWA was the first union to endorse 29-year-old Joe Biden in his campaign to become a U.S. senator from Delaware. At CWA's Leg-Pol conference, Vice President Joe Biden thanked a new generation of CWAers after CWA endorsed the re-election of President Barack Obama and the Vice President.

Read more on the endorsement here.

"Last week, President Obama talked to you about making the state of the union stronger," Biden said. "I want to talk to you about how we're going to make the state of the unions stronger."

Watch Biden's speech here.

Pelosi: 'We Owe It to Our Founders' to Keep the American Dream Alive



Nancy Pelosi

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.




Paying tribute to CWA's historic role in making the American Dream possible, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised CWA members for working hard today to restore the path to the middle class, just as CWA founders some 70 years ago got together to work for better wages, working conditions and benefits.

"That is a value, that is a tradition, that is a vision," she told CWA Leg-Pol activists, and the Democratic Party stands with the labor movement in its commitment to "reigniting the American Dream. Pelosi was greeted with cheers of "best speaker ever" and "you'll be back."

Elections matter, she said. "We owe it to our founders, to keep going for our democracy."

Watch Pelosi's remarks here.

Moving Working Families' Issues Forward



Joe Baca

Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA).




Rep. Joe Baca, (D-CA), said building relationships with members of Congress was critical to getting lawmakers' attention and support on the issues that matter to working families. "We want our families to have the same opportunities that others have, that we can pay our mortgage and send our kids to college."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) outlined his six point plan to get the economy moving again. It includes investing in infrastructure and manufacturing, from smart grids and broadband access to a national manufacturing strategy. Another key point is the financial transaction tax that will fund programs that working families need.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) said when progressives join together with unions, community organizations and like minded people, "you can't break that." And that will be critical in the 2012 elections. "The real prize in 2012 will be protecting our workforce, our environment, social security and retirement benefits. On those issues, the lines are drawn for us."



Crowd Clapping

CWA members are ready to "stand up, fight back."




AFL-CIO's Rich Trumka told CWA activists that "workers are turning the tide against attacks on their organizing and collective bargaining rights by 'turning outrage into mobilization and action.'"

He called CWA's organizing and political action campaigns "models" for the labor movement. "No politician or political party will give us the power, because our power comes from us."

Click here for more highlights from the Leg-Pol conference.

CWA Officers Meet for First Presidents' Meeting

Following the CWA Legislative-Political Conference, the first biennial presidents' meeting was held to deal with appeals. It was well attended by CWA local leaders.

US Airways Flight Attendants Reach Tentative Agreement

AFA-CWA reached a tentative agreement with US Airways this week on a single, combined contract to unite the 6,700 Flight Attendants at the airline from US Airways and the pre-merger America West. The airlines merged in 2005, and union negotiators fought hard to reach a fair agreement in the bargaining, which eventually went to federal mediation.

The AFA-CWA presidents of each pre-merger airline, Mike Flores, representing pre-merger US Airways Flight Attendants and Deborah Volpe, representing pre-merger America West Flight Attendants, issued the following joint statement.

"This is about moving forward. These negotiations have been arduous, frustrating and far too long," they stated, noting "the process began in the midst of an industry restructuring and on the cusp of this new consolidation era. Until we gained the right to federal mediation with oversight by the National Mediation Board, management did not take our members seriously. Now, they do. We have been focused on reaching an agreement that recognizes the contributions of Flight Attendants to the success of the airline and getting that agreement in the hands of members for their consideration. And now, we will."

After a full review, the tentative agreement will be presented to members in a ratification vote.

American Airlines Agent Ad-Hoc Committee Gets Its Day in Court

An ad hoc committee of passenger service agents organizing for a CWA voice at American Airlines convinced a U.S. bankruptcy judge to block a huge multimillion dollar payoff by parent company AMR Corp. to financial firms working on the airline's bankruptcy reorganization.

AMR proposed the multimillion dollars payments to financial advisers despite moving to cut airline workers' jobs and benefits.

Last week the bankruptcy judge blocked the company from entering into agreements to make large multimillion-dollar payments to other advisors until a hearing at the end of February.

Despite having $4 billion on hand, AMR has paid just $6.5 million of the $100 million it owes to workers' pension plan.

One leader of the agents' organizing campaign said that the fact that the agents' Ad Hoc Committee was recognized by the bankruptcy court is gratifying. "This counters the company's claim that our Ad Hoc committee would be powerless," said American Airlines agent Regina Reed. "Organizing together gives us strength."

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