Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act

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AFA-CWA Applauds Completion of Rule Covering Airline Crews

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Since 1993, working women and men have used the law to cope with illness, tend to sick family members and care for a new child 100 million times.

"The Family and Medical Leave Act was an important step forward in helping working Americans juggle the dual demands of work and family," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "It recognized that workers need time for family responsibilities, whether it's to care for a new baby, an ailing parent or other concerns."

Labor unions, women's rights groups and grassroots organizations lobbied for nearly 10 years to win these 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.

But it took more than another decade for the nation's Flight Attendants to have that same right. Under the original law, employees had to work 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify. A typical full-time Flight Attendant logs about 70 to 80 hours in the air each month, making it very difficult for many Flight Attendants to satisfy that threshold.

In 2009, President Barack Obama corrected that by signing into law the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act. Then just this week, the Labor Department provided the guidance needed to establish eligibility requirements specifically for airline flight crewmembers.


"It is fitting that as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the historic legislation that has helped millions of workers care for themselves and their loved ones without jeopardizing their jobs, the Department of Labor announces the final rule that provides the same peace of mind and protections to Flight Attendants and our families," said AFA-CWA President Veda Shook. "AFA has worked tirelessly to ensure that flight crews are treated fairly and qualify for essential FMLA benefits. While working with Congress to implement an effective solution, AFA has been negotiating Flight Attendant contracts to include vital FMLA language. From now on, the unintended oversight of the original FMLA legislation is corrected and off the bargaining table for good."

For CWA, the FMLA has allowed workers to nurse and care for newborns. One member employed as a cable splicer was able to have the knee surgery he needed to be able to continue working in manholes. Another telecom worker was able to take time off work to take care of a son with asthma, an elderly grandmother with Alzheimer's and her own severe health problems.

Still, more needs to be done. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the law. Because the eligibility requirements, the FMLA only covers about half of the workforce, leaving more than 75 million workers with zero protections.

Out of 178 countries, the United States is just one of three that does not guarantee paid maternity leave.

A Labor Department study found that 78 percent of workers who qualified for and needed FMLA leave didn't take it because they couldn't afford to go without a paycheck.

The good news is that a recent survey commissioned by the National Partnership for Women and Families found bipartisan support for new laws "ensuring workers have the right to earn paid sick days creating a system of family and medical leave insurance." Of the Democrats and Republicans polled, 86 percent considered it important, and 63 percent called it very important.

T-Mobile Orders Workers to Carry Out Unethical Sales

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Just last month, T-Mobile USA carried out a mass firing in Brooklyn, terminating 24 retail store workers and six managers working at about 20 stores.

The workers were fired over contradictory sales policies and supervisors' tactics that were set up to generate more store revenue. But the workers got caught in the middle.

Employees in the T-Mobile sales operations were required to meet quotas, as were their supervisors. Employees who didn't meet their quotas would be terminated.

To meet their store quotas, managers told employees to bundle pre-paid phone sales and activation kits. In fact, workers were warned that if they didn't bundle those two products, their sales numbers would decline and they would be subject to discipline. Bundling sometimes benefits customers, because it provides them with specific services that they need. In this case, however, bundling of the pre-paid phone with an unnecessary activation kit was pure fraud.

Workers, who had raised concerns that the practice was unethical and fraudulent because it required customers to purchase unnecessary activation kits, first were ignored. A group email sent by employees objecting to the practice also was disregarded.

But workers faced real repercussions when T-Mobile USA management finally decided that the bundling was a fraud. Some workers who followed management orders to bundle were fired, and others who followed those same orders were promoted to management.

The T-Mobile workers, like most U.S. employees without a union, are considered at-will employees and don't have the right to claim wrongful discharge. With a collective bargaining agreement, workers who knew that fraud was ongoing would have been heard. CWA is calling for all the workers to be reinstated.

Join CWA at the Largest U.S. Climate Rally Ever

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Crippling drought. Devastating wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. Climate change is a real threat.

On Sunday, Feb. 17, CWA President Larry Cohen and activists from around the country will be standing up for workers' and environmental rights. It's time to join with thousands of people to send a clear message to our elected officials in Washington: Protect the future of our children and the entire planet. We can't wait we need action now.

What: The largest climate rally in U.S. history.

When: Feb. 17, 2013. CWA will meet at 11:15 a.m.; the official event ends at 4:00 p.m.

Where: CWA will meet at the main entrance to the National Museum of American History on Constitution Avenue NW between 14th and 15th Street. The closest subway station is Federal Triangle.

Please register and find out about transportation at

Jobs Not Cuts!

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Some in Congress want to make deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other vital programs, while protecting tax breaks for millionaires and wealthy corporations.

On Feb. 12, CWA will be joining AFGE, AFSCME and workers from across the country to tell Congress to stop the attacks on working families and to start making everyone pay their fair share. Our aim is to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Workers want lawmakers to end tax loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2 percent. We're demanding that Congress stop cuts to education, law enforcement, food safety and other important services. We believe the attacks on government workers must stop.

What: Capitol Hill rally.

When: Tuesday, Feb. 12 at noon.

Where: CWA will be meeting in the lobby of CWA Headquarters (501 3rd St. NW, Washington, DC) before walking to Upper Senate Park (corner of Constitution Ave. and Delaware Ave. NE).

Organizing Update

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  • Workers from C&C Air Conditioning Co. in Puerto Rico voted to join CWA Local 3010.
  • Workers at the Warren County, Mississippi, Head Start beat back a decertification drive by a 53-19 vote. Contract negotiations are continuing.


Bargaining Update

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  • CWA District 6 has reached a new tentative agreement with AT&T Southwest, covering 22,000 workers in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. The ratification vote will be concluded by Feb. 27.
  • The contract covering 22,000 AT&T Mobility workers in 36 states and the District of Columbia expires this weekend on Feb. 9. Keep up with the latest here.
  • The contract covering 1,300 workers at Frontier Communications in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois expires Feb. 9. Bargaining began in early January, and the company continues to demand givebacks in pensions, health care, time off and other areas.
  • Hawaiian Airlines Flight Attendants reached a tentative agreement with management on contract terms that would extend to 16 new Airbus A321neo aircraft on order. More than 1,400 Flight Attendants will vote Feb. 8-27.
  • About 75 Newspaper Guild members rallied outside the headquarters of Bloomberg-BNA, calling for a fair contract. This is the first negotiation since Bloomberg bought BNA, a legal information provider, for nearly $990 million in 2011.


World Union Leader Puts Global Spotlight on T-Mobile

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Sharan Burrow, leader of the global union movement, at an earlier conference in Washington, D.C.




Sharan Burrow, leader of the world's largest union organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, will be in Washington, D.C., and Charleston, S.C., next week, to push forward on the global campaign for justice for T-Mobile USA workers.

The ITUC gives voice to 174 million workers in 156 countries.

In Washington, Burrow will raise the issue of workers' rights at her meetings at the IMF and World Bank, and at a press briefing at the AFL-CIO. She also will discuss the ITUC's campaign to focus global attention on the double standard that affects T-Mobile workers, who in Germany have bargaining rights, union representation and are treated with respect, but in the U.S., face harassment and intimidation and the loss of their jobs.

On Feb. 16 in Charleston, Burrow, along with CWA President Larry Cohen, will participate in a workers' forum with T-Mobile workers from the Charleston call center and other participants.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Make Offshoring Even Worse

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A new analysis by the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition has found that Pennsylvania workers were hit harder by offshoring than workers in almost every other state.

The review of Labor Department data found that in 2012, Pennsylvania lost the fourth highest number of jobs of all states, and that even worse, had lost the second highest number of jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994.

The findings were made public at a news teleconference.

"Trade agreements that ship Pennsylvania jobs overseas have been bleeding our communities year after year," said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. "T-Mobile recently shut down a call center in Allentown. That work is being done in the Philippines and Mexico. Our government should not be creating a system that encourages this kind of behavior, but that's exactly what's happening in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations."

The Labor Department certified that 4,539 Pennsylvania jobs were lost due to offshoring or displacement by imports in 2012. Since 1994, that total is 163,503.

Only North Carolina experienced a greater overall job loss from 1994, with 200,732 trade-related job losses certified by the Labor Department.

"Far too many of Pennsylvania's families have already suffered through having their livelihoods shipped overseas as a result of foolish policies like NAFTA and trade preferences for China," said Amy Conahan, director of the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition. "TPP would offshore even more Pennsylvania jobs by forcing local employers to compete with those that exploit sweatshop working conditions in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, where workers are paid just a pittance of what Chinese sweatshop workers earn."

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It would become the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history, and could grow even bigger since it is being negotiated to allow any country in the Asia-Pacific region to join.

Fifteen major rounds of TPP negotiations have been completed, but U.S. negotiators still refuse to tell the American public what they've been proposing, while hundreds of corporate lobbyists have full access to the negotiating texts. CWA and our partners like the Pennsylvania Fair Trade Coalition oppose this kind of back-room deal making.

A Civil Right to Organize

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Union and progressive activists honor Dr. Martin Luther King's commitment to workers' rights.





"Our democracy is corrupted," wrote CWA President Larry Cohen in the latest issue of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council's newsletter. "Money is not speech. Corporations are not people. Our path to change must rely on massive movement-building, uniting economic justice and democracy."

Cohen's comments were part of a discussion forum on the new book "Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right" by Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit.

Read more from Cohen, labor leaders, academics and public interest group leaders and more here.

Violence Against Women Act Returns to the Senate

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At last, the Senate is poised to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that Republicans thwarted last year over provisions for abused illegal immigrants, LGBT couples and Native Americans.

On the vote on the motion to proceed earlier this week, only eight far-right Republicans including Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio voted against even debating the bill.

The updated version of the legislation, which was first passed in 1994 and expired in 2011, is expected to be approved today. The bill has the support of 60 senators enough to dodge another potential Republican filibuster.

Long Lines Disenfranchised 2012 Voters

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The New York Times graphed MIT's findings.


The numbers are in and it doesn't look pretty.

During the November 2012 election, black and Hispanic voters waited nearly twice as long in line to vote as white voters, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis. White voters waited an average of 12.7 minutes, while black and Hispanic voters waited an average of 20.2 minutes.

Shortly after Election Day, a New York Times/CBS News poll reported that 18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans.

And a separate survey by an Ohio State University professor and The Orlando Sentinel, concluded that long lines drove away at least 201,000 Florida voters.

This is in no small part due to voter suppression tactics reducing early voting hours, voter purging and registration restrictions aimed to keep Democrats away from the polls.

But Democrats expect President Obama to address this disenfranchisement head on during next week's State of the Union address, according to The New York Times.

Congressional action could clean up this mess. The Brennan Center for Justice proposes enacting national standards to ensure that every citizen who takes responsibility to register and vote can actually vote. In a new report, the center says, "Our election system should offer the convenience, flexibility, and security that Americans demand from their banks and their retirement accounts. Every American citizen whether retired in rural America, living in a high-tech city, studying on campus, or stationed in Afghanistan should have a fair and equal opportunity to get, and stay, registered to vote. When you move, your registration should move with you. If you're an eligible voter you should be a registered voter period."

Read more about how 50 million eligible citizens would be added to the rolls permanently and states would save money on election administration here.

Apply for Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship

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Empire State College, part of the State University of New York, now is accepting applications for the Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The scholarship honors CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr, who has been committed to lifelong learning and helping to provide educational opportunity. Bahr is an alumnus of Empire State College.

For more information and to download an application, click here.

Since its inception in 2001, the Bahr scholarship has helped 56 students continue their education through distance learning. Union workers, family members and/or domestic partners interested in working toward a degree at Empire State College are eligible.

The deadline for applications is May 15, 2013, and award decisions will be announced by the end of June for fall enrollment. Scholarship awards fully cover tuition, fees and special services for part-time study. New Bahr Scholar candidates are responsible for the cost of course materials.

Students in the program will be eligible for scholarship funding as long as they maintain satisfactory academic progress and enroll in four to eight credits in at least two terms per year. Once enrolled as a Bahr scholar, students also must apply for other federal, state, corporate or union financial aid for which they may be eligible.

The Bahr Scholar Distance Learning Center offers dedicated, disciplined students the ability to earn a degree or upgrade skills with a proven web-based education delivery. Students work with a faculty mentor to develop an individualized degree program that builds upon their interests, life experiences, needs and goals. Students communicate with faculty and course instructors by means of e-mail, telephone and through discussion areas online.

Make Sure Your Voice is Heard as CWA Builds a Movement for Justice and Democracy

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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.

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