Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power Is Coming

CWA activists are headed to spring training.

Next month, 2,000 CWA activists will be attending training to lead nonviolent, direct protests aimed at reigniting the enthusiasm and passion of Occupy Wall Street and Wisconsin uprisings. CWA joins more than 60 progressive groups collectively called the 99 Percent Spring that will be training a total of 100,000 activists at 700 trainings in 48 states.

"We call on our members in CWA, across labor, across all progressive groups to answer the call the call for training in April and the call to march on all spring. To say to the 1 percent, 'You have peaked. We are back. We are standing up and fighting back,'" said CWA President Larry Cohen on a media conference call.

The 99 Percent Spring activists will be targeting at least 40 companies, including Verizon, Chevron and Wells Fargo. In what's been dubbed "Shareholder's Spring," activists will protest at shareholder meetings including the Bank of America's annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Other actions will include home occupations to prevent foreclosures and student-led protests against Sallie Mae and other entities that have profited from student loan debt.

Jake Lake of CWA Local 1111 trained in DC this week with 100 other participants to be a 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power trainer during the week of April 9 to 15. Next week he'll continue with coalition training in New York City, where 1,100 people will be preparing to launch the April workshops.

"We definitely need to have people power and grow our coalition," he said. "That's key to our future as middle-class Americans and the 99 percent. There's already a lot of commonalities between the groups, which is cool."

On the media call, organization leaders highlighted the erosion of union bargaining rights, voter suppression, attacks on immigrants and corporate money in politics.

"It's time for us as the 99 percent to really talk about, imagine, demand and organize around our vision for a new economy," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice.

Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, said history is already on our side.

"From the labor movement to the struggle for civil rights, we have this incredible shared history in America of everyday folks using their own power and using nonviolent, direct action to create change at the moments that our country most needed it," said Ruben. "And we think that's what has to happen now, again."

Click here to see why CWA members identify with the 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power movement.

Find Out More About 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power on Tonight's Town Hall Call

During CWA's union hall call tonight, we'll hear reports from today's National Day of Solidarity for Verizon Workers and we'll talk about the next step: participating in the 99 Percent Spring training program. On the call, you'll have the chance to let us know if you want to participate.

This training will help activists:

 

  • Tell the story of our economy: how we got here, who's responsible, what a different future could look like, and what we can do about it.
  • Learn the history of non-violent direct action.
  • Get into action on our own campaigns to win change.

Click here to sign up for tonight's call.

If you can't join tonight's call but want to know more about the training, click here.

CWAers Across the Country Rally Against Verizon Greed

 

 

Local 2108

Members of CWA Local 2108 rallied early this morning outside the Verizon Silver Spring, Md., facility and used CWA's mobile billboard with a message for Verizon: It's time to deliver a new contract!

 

 

 

Across the country, CWA members turned out for the National Day of Solidarity for Verizon Workers, joined by union, progressive and community allies at hundreds of rallies and events.

 

 

Newspaper Ad_Support VZ Workers

This ad, showing the support of hundreds of national and local educators and faith and community leaders, ran in major newspapers today.

 

 

 

March 22 became the unofficial kickoff to 99 percent spring/challenging corporate power, when union members and others will again join forces in actions to gain economic justice. At many rallies today, unions across the labor movement joined each other's fights, with support from progressive and community activists who know what's at stake.

As the CWA newsletter went to press, CWAers and supporters were still going strong at rallies in Long Beach, Calif., Irvine, Tex., Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., New York City, and many other places.

 

 

DC March 22

Hundreds of DC union members and activists join the national day of solidarity and get ready to march to the Verizon Center.

Below: In San Francisco, a giant crowd of union activists, elected officials and community leaders marched through the city streets to protest corporate greed and the 1 percent.

San Francisco March 22

 

 

 

Other locations got an early start; members of CWA Local 2108 rallied beginning at 7 a.m. at the Verizon Silver Spring, Md., facility.

CWAers also leafleted outside Verizon Wireless stores from Seattle to Omaha to Orlando, standing up for Verizon Wireless workers who also are fighting for a fair contract.

 

 

Larry Cohen in DC

President Cohen at the Washington, DC rally, in front of Verizon Center.

 

 

 

"Today, Americans across the country are saying enough is enough with corporate America's race to the bottom. Corporations like Verizon are squeezing the middle-class in an endless push toward low wages and no benefits. Today, we are demanding that the American economy start to work for the 99 percent again, not just for the Verizon top 1 percent," said Ron Collins, CWA chief of staff.

"Companies like Verizon represent all that is wrong with our economy today: billions in profits, millions for executives, and cuts for everyone else. Today's Day of Action is about more than the 45,000 Verizon workers still without a contract, this fight is about the future of the middle class itself."

For more about Verizon and Verizon Wireless bargaining, go to www.unityatverizon.com.

CWA Loses Two Retiree Activists

Ray Myers, Chuck Latimer made CWA and Workers' Rights Their Life-long Cause

 

 

Ray Myers at Platts Protest

Above: Ray Myers (r.)

Below: Chuck Latimer.

Chuck Latimer

 

 

 

This past week, CWA lost two committed members, two men who spent their working lives and their retirement years building CWA and supporting the rights of working people. Both died as they lived, as CWA activists.

Ray Myers, executive president of the Retired Members' Council, died March 15 in Lancaster, Pa., at age 73. He was editing an email to his retiree chapter members when he had a fatal heart attack.

Chuck Latimer, vice president of RMC District 9, died a few days earlier in San Diego, after returning from an Alliance for Retired Americans meeting in Las Vegas, where he represented CWA. Latimer was 81.

Myers began his lifetime of work with the labor movement in Pennsylvania in 1957, working for Bell of Pennsylvania, now Verizon, and as a member of now CWA Local 13000. Elected president of Local 23 of the Federation of Telephone Workers of Pennsylvania covering the Chester and Delaware counties area, Myers continued to serve in that position following the merger of that organization with CWA in 1984.

He was an activist throughout his working years and well into retirement, never missing the opportunity to join workers on a picket line and to build and support CWA's retiree efforts. He was elected executive president of the RMC in 2010 and also was president of the RMC for District 13.

"Ray Myers was a wonderful RMC leader," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "I enjoyed every minute working with him as RMC president and as an active CWA leader in Local 13000. His enthusiasm, energy and commitment couldn't be matched."

"He always knew that upon retirement, you didn't end your life as a union member," said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney.

Latimer was a longtime member and previous vice president of CWA Local 9509 who began his career as a technician with Pacific Bell. And although he retired 26 years ago, local president Bob Borunda said, Latimer remained active in the union ever since.

As vice president for the District 9 RMC, Latimer served as the voice of retirees everywhere. He also was a longtime and active delegate to the San Diego Labor Council.

"Chuck Latimer was a tireless advocate for workers, retirees and his beloved CWA family," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "Although he retired 26 years ago, Chuck never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life's work."

Fittingly, CWA Local 9509 voted this week to rename its union hall the Chuck Latimer Hall, in recognition of the work he did to fix anything and everything, from lighting to phones to the dishwasher, said Secretary-Treasurer Melinda Hawkins.

The families of both men have asked that contributions be made to the Jobs with Justice Education Fund, 1325 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005.

 

Growing Support for Bills Penalizing Offshoring Call Center Jobs

 

Several bills that would penalize American companies for moving their call center jobs overseas are gaining momentum.

In Congress, Reps. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-W. Va.), have garnered 97 co-sponsors for the CWA-supported bill, "US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act." Under the bill, companies outsourcing call centers would lose their federal grant and loan eligibility for five years, and the Labor Department would create a "bad actors" list of firms that make a practice of it. It also would require companies to tell American consumers the location of the call center employee to whom they are speaking and give the consumer the right to ask that the call be transferred to a US-based customer service representative.

California, Maryland, Florida, Arizona and New Jersey state legislatures are also considering similar legislation.

On a media call organized by CWA on Wednesday, New Jersey Assemblywoman Connie Wagner called her proposal, which would bar companies that outsource call center jobs from receiving state tax breaks and subsidies, a "common sense bill" that would help her state bring down its 9 percent unemployment rate. "Those are good paying jobs," she said.

But there is opposition. On the CWA-led call, Bishop said that India and the Philippines two countries that have benefited immensely from outsourcing and now boast large call center industries have launched an "extraordinary" lobbying campaign against his bill.

"If U.S. call center jobs going offshore is such a big component of the Filipino or Indian economy, then we're losing a ton of jobs over there," he told reporters. "If it's important to their economy then it's important to ours."

Over the past four years, the United States has lost at least 500,000 call center jobs as companies shifted operations offshore, Bishop said.

Click here to urge Congress to pass the bill and save and restore American call center jobs.

CWA Members Tell Congress to Stop Verizon Wireless Cable Deal

 

 

Congressional Hearing

CWA members from District 1 attend a Senate subcommittee hearing on a proposed deal by Verizon Wireless and cable companies to share spectrum.

Below: CWAers deliver thousands of petitions opposing the VZW-Cable deal to Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

CWAers with Sen Schumer

 

 

 

Five New York CWA activists spent the day on Capitol Hill Wednesday, lobbying lawmakers to stop the deal between Verizon Wireless and a coalition of cable companies that would create an unchecked monopoly in the industry.

The members, along with IBEW activists, delivered thousands of handwritten letters to New York Sens. Charles Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), calling on them to oppose the deal. They also met with Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) and the staffs of other New York members of Congress.

"They will kill competition. They will kill jobs. They will kill our union," warned Mike Gendron from Local 1108 in Patchogue, NY.

The push came ahead of Wednesday's hearing to scrutinize the deal before the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. Verizon Wireless and Comcast executives testified, while the five CWA members watched and tweeted from the audience.

At issue is Verizon Wireless's announcement last December to buy spectrum currently unused and held by cable operators, including Comcast and Time Warner. At the same time, Verizon Wireless and Comcast announced an agreement to cross-promote each other's products and services.

The deal has the potential to not only hurt union workers, but also consumers. For instance, Gendron said that only half of Suffolk County residents had access to FiOS TV and Internet, while everyone else is forced to pay higher rates for worse service. If the deals move forward, Verizon won't be expanding FiOS services that compete directly with the cable companies.

"They should be serving communities," said John Muddie of Local 1122 in Buffalo. "Instead they're abandoning communities."

OSHA Faults Verizon in Death of Technician Douglas Lalima

 

 

Doug Lalima Local 1109

CWA Local 1109 member Doug Lalima with his family.

 

 

 

Federal officials slapped Verizon with a heavy fine Monday for "repeat and serious" workplace safety violations linked to the death of technician Douglas Lalima, a member of CWA Local 1109, last fall.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for 10 violations totaling $14,700 the maximum penalty under the law after it failed to provide Lalima and his fellow technicians with life-saving equipment, such as insulated gloves. Lalima, a 37-year-old father of four, was in a cherry picker installing steel suspension strands in Brooklyn last September, when he was electrocuted and burst into flames.

The inspection found that the steel suspension strands had not been grounded during installation. Employees were not wearing hard hats, and protective equipment had not been inspected. The technicians including Lalima, a 15-year veteran of the company had not been adequately trained in safe work precautions.

Furthermore, Verizon neglected to list Lalima's death as a fatality in its requisite records.

"OSHA's fines and citation against Verizon confirm what thousands of technicians on the ground already know: Verizon's culture of indifference puts profits over workers' safety," said Chris Shelton, vice president of CWA District 1. "There is no way to sugarcoat this: if Douglas Lalima had the proper equipment and training, he would still be alive today."

In 2007, Verizon had been cited for similar hazards following the death of a Rhode Island worker who was also doing work near exposed live wires. Another New York lineman was electrocuted doing work similar to Lalima's in 2002, and other Verizon workers have been fatally electrocuted in recent years while working at sites in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland.

"The recurring nature of some of these hazards is disturbing," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

 

 

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