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
watch Rep. George Miller (D-CA) stand up on the House floor against
this attack on workers' rights.
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.
CWA President Larry Cohen talks about what's at stake for working
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
NAACP President Ben Jealous.
Below: Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS).
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."
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
Biden: 'We're Going to Make the State of the Unions Stronger'
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
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
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
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.
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.
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."