Click this photo to view the video of CWA activists marching from
Selma to Montgomery.
About 125 CWA members and leaders from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi
and other states, are a big part of this week's Selma to Montgomery,
Ala., march and rally.
Marchers are sleeping in churches along the way, until they arrive in
Montgomery on March 9 and rally at the steps of the state capitol. CWA
President Larry Cohen and Vice Presidents Brooks Sunkett, Public,
Healthcare and Education Workers, and Claude Cummings, District 6, also
joined the march. Cohen will speak at Friday's rally, along with civil
rights and Latino activists and leaders, and others fighting against the
new assault on voting and civil rights.
The route recreates the march of 47 years ago, and recalls "Bloody
Sunday" in March 1965, when ordinary people were attacked by clubs,
police dogs and tear gas as they tried to cross a bridge in Selma and
continue on to the state capitol in their fight for civil and voting
There's much more at stake than history. "Alabama enacted the
nation's most vicious anti-immigrant law last year, making it a crime to
be in the state as an undocumented worker. Parents are afraid to send
their children to school, police can demand proof of immigration status
at any time, and the law deprives immigrants, many of whom are working
long hours at low wages, of any legal protection against abuse," said
Chris Kennedy, CWA's Human Rights Director, who is marching to
Alabama lawmakers also approved new measures that will suppress
voting, especially among the elderly, students, low income workers and
people of color. Voter suppression efforts are underway in at least 38
states and CWA activists will fight in every state.
"Some 47 years ago, civil rights marchers stood up to hatred. They
wouldn't turn back. We're building a movement that will stand up to
today's hatred and the assault on the rights of ordinary people. And
nothing will knock us down," said CWA President Larry Cohen.
CWA reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Mobility covering 9,300
workers in District 6 — Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas.
The tentative settlement provides wage increases and other contract
improvements, plus the return of at least 2,000 jobs over the four year
"I am pleased to present this proposal to our members, a proposal
that supports a fair standard of living and reflects AT&T Mobility's
acknowledgment of the role our members play every day in the company's
success," said CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Jr. "In
particular, I am pleased that we were able to bring back a significant
number of jobs."
The tentative agreement calls for annual wage increases of 2 percent,
2.5 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent over the contract term, and
maintains existing pension plans without any retrogressive changes. It
also provides for a $1,000 ratification bonus, and creates a transfer
plan for workers to move between Mobility and the core AT&T contract in
The agreement now goes to the membership for a ratification vote.
Hundreds of workers signed a petition calling on AT&T Mobility to
negotiate an agreement that supports a fair standard of living.
CWA President Larry Cohen: To gain economic justice and real
democracy, we must overcome the broken Senate rules, eliminate
corporate money on politics, stop voter suppression, and create a path
to legalization for immigrants.
Below: CWA and USW safety and health activists join Amalgamated
Transit Union members in Pittsburgh at a rally supporting public
transit. The Port Authority wants to cut jobs, cut routes and raise
More than 1,000 activists participated in the joint 2012 CWA-USW
Health, Safety and Environment conference in Pittsburgh this week,
assessing the current state of workplace health and safety and looking
at ways to improve those conditions through our contracts and laws at
CWA President Larry Cohen opened the session with Steelworkers
President Leo Gerard. Cohen stressed that movement building, by bringing
together the millions of people who share our progressive goals, is the
only way we will maintain and expand safe workplaces and safe
communities, and regain economic justice.
Activists joined a noon rally on March 8 to support transit workers
and Pittsburgh residents who are facing big cuts in bus and other
transportation services, fare increases and layoffs.
In addition to workshops and training, CWAers held an activist
meeting with CWA safety and health director Dave LeGrande.
By Bill Freeda
Bill Freeda is president of the Media Sector Retired Members'
"Retirement Heist" is a new book by Ellen Schultz, a former
investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She carefully
describes how companies plunder and wring profits from the defined
benefit pension plans of American workers. It's required reading for
union leaders engaged in bargaining with the country's biggest
Schultz reveals how companies siphon billions of dollars from their
employees' pension plans, not to benefit retirees, but to use these
funds to hide the growing liabilities of their executive pension plans.
At some companies, executive plan liabilities far exceed those of the
regular employee pension plans. These Supplementary Executive Pension
Plans, SERPs, are not supported by a pension trust, and are available
only to a select few of a company's executives.
Ms. Schultz also details how corporations purchase billions of
dollars of life insurance on their workers, and use the policies as
informal executive pension funds, collecting tax-free death benefits
when insured workers and retirees die, all without the knowledge or
consent of the employees or their families.
Several CWA employers are discussed in the book, with whole sections
devoted to GE and Lucent.
Two of the more infuriating statements come from Victor Rice, CEO of
Varity. Although his company's pension fund was overfunded, and the cost
of retiree healthcare was low, Rice still wanted to cut retiree
benefits. A company memo entitled "Philosophies & Objectives" stated,
"the Company is not committed to maintenance of a retiree's standard of
living." When Rice finally found a "legal" way to make retiree medical
coverage disappear overnight, he bragged that he had "loaded all his
losers in one wagon." I suggest that when reading this book, you do so
fortified with a glass of wine, a martini, or as in my case, with a fist
full of blood pressure medication.
Our challenge now is to find a way to put a stop to this egregious
behavior. Legislation is a long shot at this time, and even if new laws
were passed, clever consultants would probably find loopholes, just as
they have found ways around other federal pension legislation.
Nevertheless, everyone interested in ensuring that employees and
retirees are treated with fairness, respect and dignity must work
diligently to find creative ways to expose the disgraceful practices
revealed in "Retirement Heist."
Freeda is president of the Media Sector Retired Members' Council.
Legislation to keep call center jobs here in the U.S. now has 75
co-sponsors, with more members of Congress expected to sign on in the
next few weeks.
The bi-partisan bill bans federal grants and guaranteed loans to
American companies that move call center jobs overseas and requires that
the Labor Dept. maintain a list of companies that send call center jobs
offshore. It also requires that customers be told the offshore location
they are calling and that customers be transferred to a U.S. agent on
It's no surprise that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National
Association of Manufacturers and big corporations like Verizon are
opposing the bill, mainly by complaining that it would take too much
time for an overseas agent to identify her- or himself.
In addition to pressing U.S. legislators to sponsor the national
bill, CWA's legislative-political action teams have been building
support for call center legislation in several states. Bills already
have been introduced in Maryland, West Virginia and Arizona, where the
entire state Democratic caucus is supporting the bill.
In Florida, the state Senate unanimously passed SB 678, the State
Contracts bill, requiring all call-center service contracts with Florida
valued at $35,000 or more to be staffed by agents in the U.S. Now the
push is on to get a vote scheduled in the state House.
LPAT activists need your help. To ask your member of Congress to
co-sponsor the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection bill,
CWA called on the Federal Communications Commission to "stop the
clock" on its consideration of the Verizon Wireless/cable company
spectrum deal until the parties involved provide complete information
about their commercial agreements.
You can make your voice heard too at
CWA called for the release of complete versions of Joint Marketing
Agreements between Verizon Wireless and the four cable companies —
Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and Bright House Networks. The Verizon and
cable filings are full of redactions and are missing critical
information to enable the FCC to evaluate concerns about competition.
"This is about transparency," said CWA Senior Director George Kohl.
"There can be no secret deals related to such an important sale when it
comes to pricing, compensation and marketing agreements, simply because
the stakes to the consumer are too high."
CWA does not oppose the sale of spectrum. However, to ensure
competition, protect consumer choice, and promote job-creating
investment, the FCC should set specific conditions on this application.
The joint marketing agreements will give Verizon and the cable
companies — through their ability to offer a quad play of voice, video,
data and wireless from the top video, broadband, and wireless providers
— the market power to harm competition, raise cable and broadband rates
and reduce incentives for new video entrants to invest in their
networks, leading to significant job loss.
CWA is calling for specific conditions:
- The FCC should require that Verizon continue to offer FiOS
broadband Internet access service, expand its in-region deployment to
cover at least 95 percent of residences and, following the merger,
continue to deploy a set percentage of broadband to rural and low
income areas, with timetables, data reporting and penalties for
- The joint marketing arrangements should not be permitted to put
other marketers of Verizon Wireless service at a disadvantage.
Comparable conditions and terms for the marketing of Verizon Wireless
service should be available to all wireline competitors in a market.
This will even the playing field among competitors.
On March 22, in communities across the U.S., CWAers, Transport
Workers Union members, Jobs with Justice and AFL-CIO activists and lots
of supporters will hold rallies and actions to spotlight the corporate
greed of "Verigreedy" Verizon.
And in New York, in joint actions, CWA and TWU members will protest
Verizon's corporate greed and join the fair contract fight of TWU
members at the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
www.stopverizongreed.org to find an event in your community.
CWA, The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the National Association of
Broadcast Employees and Technicians are urging the Federal
Communications Commission to reject changes to broadcast media ownership
rules unless the outcome will produce greater diversity and competition
in news coverage and local programming.
"CWA members know firsthand how consolidation has harmed the local
news and information market for citizens," CWA and the media sectors
said in comments submitted to the FCC this week.
CWA represents more than 45,000 journalists, technicians, printers,
producers, customer service and sales representatives and other workers
in the media industry. Tens of thousands of other media workers have
been affected by the industry's massive job cuts.
Over the past decade, consolidation of newsgathering has "run
rampant" and newscasts on stations with shared newsrooms have become
indistinguishable from each other, NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said.
"This makes a mockery of the FCC's longstanding media goals to promote
diversity, competition and localism in exchange for a broadcaster's
right to use the public airwaves."
"Most consolidations are being done for efficiencies and that means
less content, fewer journalists and less diversity in both content and
staff," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said.
The solution is to reward content creators, leading to more jobs and
more original information being produced, be it for TV, newspapers or
online. "CWA wants to save news organizations and encourage the growth
of new ones," CWA said.
Specific recommendations to prevent further consolidation and the
damage it causes include:
- Prohibiting shared service agreements (SSAs) that allow stations
to share crews to cover news events.
- Banning agreements that allow one station to eliminate most or all
of its news employees and run news produced by a competing station.
- An increased focus on the lack of ownership opportunities for
people of color and women.
this new organizing video from CWA|SCA Canada, the media sector
representing 8,000 members in the communications industry in Canada.