Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

CWA Union Hall Call Tonight

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You won't want to miss tonight's union hall call tonight at 7:30 pm ET. We'll get updates from CWA activists on CenturyLink, Cablevision and US Airways and other issues. CWA President Larry Cohen will also join the call. To tune in, dial 855-246-7043.

T-Mobile Workers Testify About Work Conditions to Global Panel

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CWAers are joined by Sharan Burrow, head of the ITUC, in leafleting outside the Charleston, S.C. T-Mobile call center.

Below: At T-Mobile Speak-Out, T-Mobile workers Joyce Bellamy, left, and Roland Ellis, second right, with Sharan Burrow and Larry Cohen.

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Call center workers from T-Mobile USA held a "Speak Out" in Charleston, S.C., to expose the extreme differences in working conditions and respect for workers between the U.S. and Germany. Check out these videos: Trying to Get Peace of Mind and Do the Charleston, and Stay Strong.

The forum followed a week-long visit by Berlin-based call center workers, members of ver.di, Germany's largest union, representing 2 million workers. The visit was a continuation of the support campaign by ver.di and the global union movement to expose the double standard at T-Mobile and help U.S. workers gain a union voice.

The panel included elected officials, community leaders, students and others active in workers' rights and worker justice. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democratic House leader, expressed his support for the T-Mobile workers. "Fight. Don't give up this fight," he said.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 174 million workers around the globe, said Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Oberman and the German Government must listen to the voice of workers, and they have a responsibility to fix the abuses in their company.

"There are companies respected in Europe, behaving badly right here in the U.S. The German people need to know what is happening to workers in the USA. They would be appalled to think the company they are so proud of, that bears the German name, could be treating workers to fear and intimidation. We're saying to T-Mobile, we expect better of you. Workers' rights don't stop at the German border, they're for all people," she said.

CWA President Larry Cohen said, "Workers doing the same job for the same company deserve to be treated the same. Why does one set of workers in the U.S. face threats and intimidation for wanting to be represented by a union, while others in Germany get a seat at the management table?"

Brutal local management methods in the U.S. have included having workers being forced to wear a dunce cap to humiliate them when performance measures slipped.

Workers spoke about the culture of fear and pressure every day to keep responses to customer calls under 360 seconds, even though they often have to resolve complex issues for customers. Felicia Smalls, a call-center worker in Charleston told the panel, "I want to keep my job, and make it better."

Tomas Lenki, a ver.di union member from Berlin, said, "We have gathered numerous stories of attacks on workers' rights and passed them on to our board of Human Resources. We've been told they are isolated cases and the behavior has stopped. What we have seen in first hand conversations in Charleston this week is in stark contrast to what Deutsche Telekom has told us. We feel betrayed and lied to by the board of Deutsche Telekom. We tell you 2 million ver.di members have your back."

The global campaign — 'We expect better' — in 2013 will include more worker exchanges between Germany and the U.S. and political pressure on Deutsche Telekom's largest shareholder, the Germany Government, in an important election year.

Organizing Update

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University of Akron Workers Vote for CWA

Nearly 400 clerical workers and other support staff at the University of Akron voted for CWA representation this week. CWA now represents about 600 workers at the university, including skilled trade and service staff.

Issues for the staff included increasing workloads, job security, health-care costs, the lack of opportunities for advancement, barriers to job transfers, low starting wages and no way to resolve the issues with management.

CWA Local 4302 President Todd Leyda said negotiations will begin as soon as the vote is certified by the State Employment Relations Board on March 14. "We're very excited for the staff," he said.

Members and stewards from Local 4302 were a big part of the campaign, along with Local 4309 retirees, organizers from United Campus Workers/CWA Local 3865, AFA-CWA members from AFA Council 5 and members of Local 4322 and IUE-CWA Local 84755.

CWA already represents clerical staff at Toledo, Shawnee State and Cleveland State Universities, and at the Ohio State University.

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CWA Organizes New York Non-Profit

CWA Local 1180 won an organizing drive at Community Voices Heard.

The vote was 5-1 in favor of the union, with one abstention. The unit of seven members adds to the many non-profit shops CWA Local 1180 has organized in New York City. Staff Representative Ray Laforest led the campaign.

Bargaining Update

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The CWA Local 6171 bargaining team has reached a tentative agreement with Verizon Southwest, covering about 2,200 workers in Texas. The tentative contract provides for an 8.77 percent compounded wage increase over the four-year term and a bonus on ratification of $1,100, among other provisions. Results of the ratification will be announced March 14.

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IUE-CWA members at industrial battery manufacturer C&D Technologies have ratified a new contract. The agreement covers 250 workers in Indiana. Read more here.

New Mexico Workers Testify for Ban on Captive Audience Meetings

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Workers and CWA activists testify before a New Mexico House committee on the need to ban employer captive audience meetings.

 

CWAers, including current and former T-Mobile workers from Albuquerque, testified before a House committee of the New Mexico state legislature in favor of a bill barring employers from holding captive audience meetings in the workplace.

House Bill 277, introduced by Rep. Christine Trujillo, would prohibit employers or their agents from requiring workers to attend any meeting, "the purpose of which is to express the employer's opinion about religious or political matters."

Lynda Parrish, a current T-Mobile USA worker, testified about the mandatory meetings at the call center. "We were advised that we shouldn't worry about union representatives or supporters being able to interact with us, as T-Mobile personnel would be patrolling the grounds to prevent any interaction. I felt so intimidated after the meeting and since then it has created a consistent, underlying sense of fear in me."

Glenda Winternheimer, an organizer with CWA Local 7011, presented testimony from George Ramirez, a former T-Mobile USA worker who was forced to resign due to the company's continued harassment over his support for CWA, and Candace Harrison, a current T-Mobile USA worker.

Ramirez's testimony recounted a captive audience meeting of a year ago, when the team manager called workers off the phones for about 5 minutes to read a letter that supposedly had the "facts" about joining a union, from lies the union would tell to union dues. No one was permitted to ask any questions. Ramirez and two other co-workers already had written a letter to management about their support for a union at the Albuquerque call center.

Harrison's statement summarized a mandatory meeting in March 2012, when workers were required to stay at the end of their shift. The managers told workers they could not have any conversations about the letter that would be read, nor could they respond to the letter in any way. Harrison interpreted this letter as a warning; so did other workers who were very reluctant to talk about how a union can improve working conditions.

"I don't think it is a company's right to force people to listen to its one sided statements without giving employees the right to discuss issues right then and there. These meetings are designed to intimidate workers, and management is very successful at it," Winternheimer said.

Coming Together

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Leaders of nation's largest labor unions gathered in Washington, DC, for AFSCME's 2013 Legislative Conference last week. AFSCME President Lee Saunders (center) moderated a panel on movement building featuring (seated, from left) CWA President Larry Cohen, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO) President Sean McGarvey and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

 

Sluggish Appliance Sales Furloughs 500 GE Workers

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An unexpected slump in appliance sales is forcing General Electric to furlough 500 workers, as it shuts down the second shift of a new refrigerator line for five weeks.

IUE-CWA members are eligible to receive a package of unemployment compensation which amounts to about 75 percent of their take home pay, while GE will also continue medical and other employee benefits, IUE-CWA Local 761 President Jerry Carney told the local newspaper.

About 84 new factory hires, who were slated to start work this week, never stepped foot into Appliance Park. However, GE will hold their jobs, and they will be able to collect unemployment benefits.

"They had to call them [Monday] and tell them they didn't have a job," Carney told the newspaper. "We got that part worked out. That is why having a union is important. Now we've just got to get this economy going."

The refrigerator line was one of four new products launched at Appliance Park last year. The company hired 2,500 new workers to expand production.

Mexico Day of Action Spotlights Attack on Workers' Rights

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CWAers join the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and others in protesting outside the Mexican consulate in Washington, DC.

Below: CWA President Larry Cohen stands up for the rights of Mexican workers.

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CWA President Larry Cohen and local activists rallied in front of the Mexican consulate today as part of a week-long, worldwide protest against the pervasive attack on workers' rights in Mexico. The group delivered a letter to Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto calling on the government to help end the persecution of workers who want democratic bargaining rights.

More than 10,000 activists mobilized for workers' rights at embassies and consulates around the world during the Days of Action. The events spotlight the desire by Mexican workers to form democratic unions, particularly at Atento, where workers want to join the Mexican Telephone Workers Union (STRM) but have been blocked.

Changes in Mexican labor law have meant dire conditions for workers who want to form democratic unions, the letter said. "One of the best ways to guarantee inclusive economic growth is by guaranteeing the fundamental rights of all workers," it said, calling for the rights of all workers to be rigorously protected and enforced.

In today's global economy, bargaining rights matter, whether for U.S. workers, workers in Mexico or anywhere around the globe.

Comment on Convention Proposals

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Check out this CWA web site: http://cwafuture.ning.com. It was created to provide local leaders and members with information about proposals and constitutional amendments that will be considered at CWA's 74th convention in April. We want to hear from you.

Employers Must Post OSHA Logs February 1 Through April 30

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Beginning February 1 through April 30, 2013, employers must post a summary of the total number of work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2012. This information, contained on the OSHA 300A Log or an equivalent form, will provide an indication of the employer's provision of safe and healthful working conditions.

CWA leaders and workplace safety and health activists should review the posted information to ensure it includes all of the OSHA recordable cases of workplace injuries and illnesses. Also, local occupational safety and health activists should go one step further by requesting a copy of the OSHA 300 Log. This Log contains more detailed information about the summarized data contained on the OSHA 300A Log,

If local leaders and activists identify cases that should have been included on the Logs, please contact the nearest office of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or, in states with state-administered plans, the appropriate state office and bring this issue to the agency's attention. If you need assistance in completing this process or have questions or comments regarding the injury and illness logs or a related issue, please contact the CWA Occupational Safety and Health Department at www.cwasafetyandhealth.org or 202-434-1160.

CWA Calls for LGBT Equality

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CWA has joined civic and civil rights groups in launching the Garden State Coalition for Equality, a new coalition dedicated to advocating for same-sex marriage legalization and the expansion of anti-bully initiatives in New Jersey.

The coalition expands the work of Garden State Equality, the state's largest LGBT organization. It includes the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, and the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey.

Read more here.

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