Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

In Alabama, Voting Rights, Civil Rights Still Under Attack

 

 

Selma to Montgomery March

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.

Check out this video.

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 rights.

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 Montgomery.

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.

AT&T Mobility, D6 Reach Tentative Settlement

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 agreement.

"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 District 6.

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, Steelworkers Join Forces at Safety and Health Conference

 

 

Larry Cohen at OSHA Conference

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 fares.

Pittsburgh Rally

 

 

 

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 every level.

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.

New Book Exposes the Worst of Employer Pension Schemes

By Bill Freeda

 

 

Bill Freeda is president of the Media Sector Retired Members' Council.

 

 

 

"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 corporations.

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.

Help Keep Good Call Center Jobs in the U.S.

 

 

Call Center Bill Flyer

 

 

 

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 request.

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, click here.

CWA: 'No Secret Deals' for Verizon Wireless, Cable Companies

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 http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-verizon-wireless-secret-spectrum-deal.

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 non-compliance.
  • 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.

 

Mark Your Calendar for the Verizon National Day of Action

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.

Go to www.stopverizongreed.org to find an event in your community.

CWA Media Sectors Urge FCC to Reject Media Ownership Changes

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.

 

New CWA|SCA Organizing Video

Check out this new organizing video from CWA|SCA Canada, the media sector representing 8,000 members in the communications industry in Canada.

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