Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

T-Mobile Workers Rally to Keep Good Jobs in Kansas

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Workers tell T-Mobile that they're standing together.

Below: In the middle of a snowstorm, AFT and CWA members encourage T-Mobile not to outsource good union jobs. Photo by American Federation of Teachers-Kansas.

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Workers in Kansas expect better.

This past weekend, CWA 6402 joined forces with AFT, Sunflower Community Action and Interfaith Worker Justice at a rally outside of T-Mobile USA's call center in Wichita, Kan. Their goal: Preserve the call center's 350 jobs.

The FCC recently approved the merger between T-Mobile and MetroPCS, the country's respective fourth and fifth largest wireless providers. The concern is that both companies will continue their destructive business practice of sending jobs overseas. CWA has been fighting to keep good jobs at home ever since T-Mobile closed seven call centers last summer, displacing more than 3,300 workers. And MetroPCS currently outsources 100 percent of its customer care, billing, payment processing and logistics operations.

CWA Local 6402's Tammy Chaffee, T-Mobile employee Josh Coleman, Sunflower Community Action Executive Director Sulma Arias and Rev. David Hansen, who runs the Kansas chapter of Interfaith Worker Justice, all addressed the crowd.

And despite the sleet and snow, dozens of protesters turned out to wave signs that read "Stand Up, Be Heard" and "Organize Now."

"People were really enthusiastic and I know it caught the attention of T-Mobile," said Chaffee.

This week, CWA launched a new video series "Voices of T-Mobile Workers." Watch T-Mobile workers discuss working conditions and why they are joining together for justice and respect. 

Bargaining Update

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  • NABET-CWA has reached a tentative agreement with ABC-Disney on a new four-year contract to replace the Master Agreement, which expired on March 31, 2011. It's the result of a 15-hour mediation session at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Covering 2,500 staff and daily hire employees in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C., the tentative agreement includes wage increases and improved retirement benefits. A ratification vote is being scheduled.
     
  • CWA members at AT&T West rejected a tentative agreement, voting to support a strike if necessary. Following meetings last weekend, CWA-elected local leaders authorized Vice President Jim Weitkamp and the bargaining committee to return to negotiations beginning March 25.
     
  • AT&T Mobility members are voting now on a tentative agreement covering 22,000 workers in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The voting period goes through next Friday, Apr. 5. More information here
     
  • A New York City bankruptcy court judge rejected TNG-CWA's objections to the Journal Register Co.'s sale of its assets to 21st CMH Acquisition Corp. Read more here.
     
  • Registered nurses at Kenmore Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY, will meet with a federal mediator on April 9. Nurses, represented by CWA Local 1133, recently rejected a tentative contract for the second time. Read more here.

CWA, ATU Locals Join Forces in Palm Beach County Contract Fights

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CWA Local 3181 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 are both facing some tough bargaining with the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. So, the two locals have joined forces in a media and community support campaign, calling on the county commissioners to "do the right thing" by bargaining fair contracts that include real wage increases.

CWA Local 3181 represents about 1,400 county employees who work as electricians, maintenance workers, parks employees, animal-control workers and in other jobs. ATU Local 1577 represents about 380 Palm Tran paratransit drivers, mechanics, store clerks and maintenance workers. This joint campaign is a great example of how these partnerships build workers' power in bargaining.

CWA Local 3181 President Rick Poulette said that county workers had lost as much as 20 percent of their compensation over the past four years, because of inflation, a wage freeze, health care increases and a new pension payment required by the state. And ATU hasn't been able to get anywhere over the past four years in bargaining a new contract. The drivers are forced to work 12-14 hours a day with no break, currently have no health care benefits and have been fighting for back wages.

"We knew it was time to take our message public and we knew we would be stronger working together," he said. "We want the public to know that we're asking the county commissioners to do the right thing" and to treat workers with some respect.

The joint campaign includes billboards (top left), bus ads (bottom left), and a newspaper ad, plus calls from community supporters — all Palm Beach County residents — and state and federal legislators to the county commissioners' offices.

"Together we are committed to holding our local elected officials accountable for a fair and equitable contract that will show the value of public service workers whether a secretary, sanitation worker, park ranger, maintenance worker, bus operator, building trades person or any other job," said ATU's Local 1577 President Dwight Mattingly. "Our members work hard to keep the critical County services going for the residents of Palm Beach County, Florida."

The county commissioners will meet next week, with more bargaining scheduled for April 3.

The unions also are encouraging union members and community allies to sign a petition to the Palm Beach County Administrator and the County Commissioners' bargaining chair to negotiate fair contracts and fair wages for county and transit workers.

Public Workers' Lobby Day in Missouri

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CWA Public Sector Vice President Brooks Sunkett and CWA Local 6355 President Bradley Harmon stand on the Capitol's steps with District 6 staff Mike Neumann, Mike Gross and A.J. Villegas.

Below: On Wednesday, 300 Missouri state workers — including CWA District 6 VP Claude Cummings and members of CWA, SEIU and AFSCME — lobbied their legislators on a number of bills including right-to-work for less, paycheck deception and the state budget.

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Why is Negotiating a First Contract So Difficult?

House Democrats Ask Cablevision Techs for Answers

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CWAers packed the policy forum in Brooklyn, NY.

Below: House Democrats participating in the forum included Reps. Rob Andrews, Rush Holt, Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velazquez.

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Cablevision's anti-union campaign has been so brazen and ruthless that Democratic members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a forum about the ongoing labor dispute to illustrate the challenges of negotiating first contracts after workers unionize.

"Good labor relations promotes job growth. Bargaining in good faith promotes good labor relations," said New Jersey's Rep. Rob Andrews (1st District) at Monday's forum in Brooklyn, NY. "When there isn't good faith bargaining, we need a legal remedy such as binding arbitration that results in a first contract that is fair to the employer and the employees."

Watch the full policy forum here.

In January 2012, Cablevision workers in three facilities in New York and Brooklyn voted 180-86 to join CWA. The NLRB certified the bargaining unit the following month. But management and workers still have not finalized a first contract more than a year later.

Instead, management locked out and fired 22 Cablevision workers seeking a meeting with management to discuss lack of progress in negotiations this past January. The technicians had intended on taking advantage of the company's much-touted "open door" policy. But while they waited for the meeting, a Cablevision-Optimum vice president informed the workers that they were being "permanently replaced." Public outcry about the firings followed, and the company rehired all 22 workers this month. (Read more in the New York Daily News.)

Meanwhile, the struggle for a first contract continues.

On Monday, employees described the company's tactics to delay negotiations and intimidate workers. For instance, if a contract is not reached after a year of bargaining following certification of an election, a window opens for workers to file a decertification petition to eliminate the union. After the one-year mark was reached at Cablevision, a decertification petition was filed.

In the wake of the 22 unjust firings, a number of employees who had supported joining CWA were terrified. Some even told union supporters that they signed the decertification petition because they assumed that management would see the petition. They said that support for the union dropped because it has not been able to get a contract and because of the firings.

C. John Cicero, a professor at the CUNY School of Law, testified that this case "fits a pattern or blueprint well-worn into the fabric of union avoidance." But House Democrats pledged to work on ensuring more protections for workers.

"Federal law is designed to protect the ability of the American worker to unionize, organize and bargain collectively. Throughout the country, however, in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, the right to collectively bargain is under assault," said New York's Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (8th District). "We cannot let that happen in Brooklyn. Congress, as the custodians of our democracy, has an obligation to make sure that our laws are not blatantly violated. That is an obligation that we take seriously, and we will continue to be steadfast in this regard until the Cablevision situation has been resolved."

Two Cablevision employees, District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton, New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt (12th District) and New York Rep. Nydia M. Velแzquez (7th District) also joined the discussion. CWA Locals 1109, 1101, 1102, 1105 and 1120 were joined by members of New York Communities for Change, Occupy Wall Street and Make the Road New York in packing the forum.

While Cablevision was also invited to participate in Monday's discussion, the company declined to do so.

To learn more about the forum, check out New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz's commentary. The Brooklyn Downtown Star also covered the meeting.

As they continue to bargain for their first contract, Cablevision workers are building support on Facebook. Please "like" and share your thoughts on the Cablevision99 Facebook page.

NLRB Shut Down

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Scores of businesses are attempting to void, ignore and block National Labor Relation Board decisions.

Ever since a court decision that found President Barack Obama's board appointments unconstitutional, companies — both big and small — have decided the rules no longer apply. Companies are exploiting the lack of a fully functioning NLRB. They're seeking to overturn union elections and avoid paying compensation to unfairly fired workers. They're blocking organization drives and stalling talks on contracts.

Starbucks, Time Warner, Domino's Pizza, CNN America and McDonald's are among the 87 companies going to court in attempts to undo NLRB decisions, according to The Wall Street Journal. A story in the Huffington Post describes how UMWA workers are still waiting for the backpay and job reinstatement that federal officials ordered last year.

Freshman Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) recently took to the House floor to decry this state of affairs. He clearly laid out how Brooklyn technicians' recent struggle at Cablevision is connected to the toothless NLRB and the broken Senate rules. Pocan, who is a member of the Painters Union, also pointed out that this abuse of workers' rights would have never happened if Congress passed the Employee Free Choice Act.

Watch his speech here.

A No-Fly Zone for Knives

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Today, AFA-CWA Vice President Sara Nelson has a must-read op-ed in The New York Times. She writes why Flight Attendants, air marshals, airline executives, pilots and rank-and-file officials from the Transportation Security Administration oppose a new policy allowing passengers to carry knives with blades of up to 2.36 inches, beginning next month:

It didn't take Sept. 11 to convince us in the industry that knives of all sizes should be banned. In 2000, an Alaska Airlines passenger, later found to be suffering from a rare reaction to encephalitis and in possession of a 2.36-inch knife, flew into a rage and attacked Flight Attendants, breached the cockpit door and attempted to destroy the aircraft before being tackled by passengers and crew.

While cockpit doors are now reinforced and virtually impossible to breach, mayhem in the cabin caused by an out-of-control passenger with a knife would still ensue. My fellow Flight Attendants and I face potentially violent passengers every day, passengers who are angry, depressed, intoxicated or frightened while we're cruising in an aluminum tube miles above the ground.

Just last month, as a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta began its final descent, a 2-year-old boy sitting on his mother's lap started crying because of the change in cabin pressure. As the boy's mother tried to soothe him, the man sitting next to them reportedly used a racial slur and told the mother to "shut up" her son, then turned and slapped the toddler with an open hand. The man was arrested upon landing and charged with assault.

It is our job to address such passengers, de-escalate the situation and, when necessary, enlist other passengers to help contain the problem. The scenarios are already overwhelming: what if we have multiple unruly passengers? What if they are working in concert? What if a passenger trying to help gets hurt and instinctively retaliates?

These are not hypothetical situations; they have all happened in the past, and experience tells us we will face them again sooner or later. Allowing a 2.36-inch knife into these scenarios makes us less safe.

And there is something cynical in the T.S.A.'s position that knives will not "result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft." Does that mean that anything less — the death or serious injury of a Flight Attendant or a passenger, for example — is acceptable?

Read the full op-ed here.

And sign our petition asking the White House to block the TSA's move to allow knives in aircraft cabins at www.noknivesonplanes.com.

Gay Marriage Supporters Rally at the Supreme Court

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.

Below: Staff from CWA headquarters joined thousands of protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court, as the justices took up the issue of same-sex marriage.

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Bipartisan Reform Introduced for H-1B, L-1 Visa Programs

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Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013 last week, to build in real safeguards for U.S. workers and ensure that workers are paid the same wages for the same work.

The bill sets new requirements for employers to show that they have tried to hire U.S. workers first, sets a formula for determining the prevailing wage that must be paid to H-1B visa employees, prohibits employers from outsourcing their visa workers to other companies, among other needed reforms.

"Reform of the H-1B and L-1 visa program is long overdue," said George Kohl, CWA senior director for policy and legislation. "The current system has too many loopholes that allow employers to bypass U.S. applicants, pay visa employees lower than the prevailing wage and not follow annual reporting requirements. Oversight of this program also must be strengthened. Employers are looking to expand the number of H-1B visas as part of comprehensive immigration reform. This reform, which must include a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, also must improve conditions for all workers, both immigrant and non-immigrant, affected by the H-1B and L-1 visa program."

Grassley said, "Somewhere along the line, the H-1B program got side-tracked. The program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment. When times are tough, like they are now, it's especially important that Americans get every consideration before an employer looks to hire from abroad. The legislation will benefit the American worker, while still ensuring that U.S. companies get the specialized workers they need."

Save the Date: Immigration Rally on April 10

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Both Democrats and Republicans agree that our immigration system is broken and needs reform. Our immigration laws allow unscrupulous employers and recruitment agencies to exploit workers who lack legal status. That hurts all workers.

On Wednesday, April 10th, tens of thousands of union members, immigrants, supporters, faith leaders and community advocates will be sending that message to our lawmakers. Starting at 3:30 p.m., the Rally for Citizenship will be held on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building.

We will educate, march, rally, pray and knock on the doors of Congress until commonsense immigration reform that includes a realistic path to citizenship gets to President Barack Obama's desk for signature.

For too long, our communities have suffered under a defective and outdated immigration system that depresses wages for all workers, makes political scapegoats out of immigrants and tears families apart. Once undocumented workers are covered under labor laws, together we can build a united movement of working people to raise the living standards and fight those who want to drive wages down for all working people in America.

CWA joins our partners — CCC, CASA de Maryland, SEIU, CARECEN, NEA, UAW and many others — in supporting this event.

For more information on the rally and transportation to Washington, D.C. visit www.citizenship-now.squarespace.com/.

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day

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Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality — winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.

On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe workplaces. This year we will come together to call for good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy. We will seek stronger safeguards to prevent injuries and save lives. We will stand for the right of all workers to raise job safety concerns without fear of retaliation, and for the freedom to form unions and speak out and bargain for respect and a better future.

What You Can Do on Workers Memorial Day?

  • Organize a rally to demand creation of good jobs and safe jobs in your community.
  • Hold a candlelight vigil, memorial service or moment of silence to remember those who have died on the job and to highlight job safety problems in your community and at your workplace.
  • Conduct workshops to educate workers about job safety hazards and how to exercise job safety rights. Invite union members, nonunion workers and community allies to participate.
  • Create a memorial at a workplace or in a community where workers have been killed on the job.
  • Hold a public meeting with members of Congress in their home districts. Bring injured workers and family members who can talk firsthand about the need for strong safety and health protections and the freedom to join a union. Invite local religious leaders and other allies to participate in the meeting.

Go to www.aflcio.org/Issues/Job-Safety/WorkersMemorialDay for more information and materials to order.

 

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