Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power Kicks Off Teach-Ins

 

 

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Are you in?

This week, 99 Percent Spring/Challenging Corporate Power a large coalition of progressive organizations, from Greenpeace to Occupiers to CWA began training 100,000 people across the country to tell the story of how America's economy collapsed and the history of non-violent direct action. These teach-ins will give participants the tools to launch their own progressive actions and campaigns for change.

"We totally oppose Citizens United and that Supreme Court decision," CWA President Larry Cohen told The Ed Show on Monday. "We need to get the money out of politics. We need to restore democracy to where every vote counts, not every billionaire counts. So that's the root of the problem and the problem can be fixed. And we support Constitutional amendments that would do that. Again, that democracy is critical to why we're seeing the 99 Percent Spring training now."

Hollywood stars Olivia Wilde, Penn Badgley, and Zoe Kravitz also began promoting the trainings in a new MoveOn.org video. "Let's all make this a Spring to remember," encourages Wilde.

Activists are meeting at 978 gatherings around the country in homes, community centers, houses of worship, campuses, and public spaces. More than 2,000 CWAers are expected to be a part of the 99 Percent Spring training and join in Shareholder Spring actions, including on May 3, the date of the Verizon annual shareholder meeting. To participate in a training this weekend, sign up here.

Cohen told The Huffington Post that the trainings are focusing on direct, non-violent actions not anger. "We want to take action in a way that inspires a nation rather than be based on anger," he asked. "The anger is understandable. Our goal is to be part of building a coalition of 50 million or more not 5,000. We're not going to build something that will win primarily on anger."

Mobilization in High Gear at AT&T

 

 

Locals 4050 and 4090 - Detroit

CWA activists from Locals 4050 and 4090 hold a candlelight vigil outside AT&T's headquarters in Detroit as the contract expired at midnight.

Local 9510

SEIU families join members of CWA Local 9510 at a rally for a fair contract.

Local 9431

Members of Local 9431 standing strong for the American Dream at AT&T.

 

 

 

As AT&T contract negotiations go into overtime, so has mobilization by CWA members.

CWA members have a lot of creative mobilization actions underway to support their bargaining teams and to stand up for the American Dream of good jobs and good benefits.

In District 9, every Friday has been declared "WTF" (Where's the Fairness) Day. More than 3,000 D4 activists joined a telephone union hall call this week to hear the latest on the fight to hold on to the American Dream. Technologies and Telecommunications members are standing up at call centers, walking through buildings with signs calling for a fair contract and marching in to work together.

In D1, members of Local 1298 are joining with Common Cause, Connecticut Working Families and other advocacy groups to call on corporations, including AT&T, to sever ties with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative lobbying group that finances attacks on bargaining rights, voter rights and other measures in state legislatures harmful to workers and citizens. D9 members also are calling for AT&T to drop its support of ALEC.

This week, AT&T CWA activists are headed to 99 Percent Spring training, and will work with progressive activists from community and other organizations to plan actions that will bring about fair contracts.

GE Workers in Iowa Vote to Join CWA

General Electric workers at an Iowa switchgear plant voted Wednesday on IUE-CWA representation. But the results are still unknown, as the ballots have been impounded due to GE's attempt to pad the bargaining unit.

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board determined the voting unit should include 170 workers from seven departments (materials, fabrication, assembly, quality, facilities, environmental health and safety, and lean manufacturing) at the West Burlington factory. GE contested the decision, arguing that 27 more workers should be included in the balloting, and appealed the board's determination.

That means justice and union representation are on hold until the NLRB makes a determination. "It's enraging," Cohen said.

Just two years ago, the company threatened to close the plant, but production and maintenance workers agreed to drastic pay cuts to keep it running. Then, as an added incentive to stay, GE received thousands of dollars in financial support from local governments.

Workers want to set up a competitiveness and job growth committee, to work with the company on bringing new products and new jobs to the plant. They also want a health and safety committee to address concerns about working conditions, said Jeff Lacher of CWA.

CWA Mourns Former General Counsel

Patrick M. Scanlon, the CWA general counsel who won a $60 million maternity leave settlement on behalf of workers at a former AT&T subsidiary, died on April 4. He was 71.

Scanlon, the third general counsel in the union's history, retired in 2005 after 25 years of service to CWA.

"Patrick's roots in CWA go back to our founding days," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "He worked with the Adair brothers, in their firm, then came to CWA as general counsel. He was quiet but insightful, careful but always helpful. He hired brilliant attorneys to work for us and their work lives on today as part of his legacy. He was physically strong whether running or working; he loved his family, his union and life itself."

 

 

Patrick Scanlon

CWA General Counsel Pat Scanlon at the 1995 convention, his last before retirement.

 

 

 

In what Scanlon considered his greatest achievement, CWA brought a class action suit against Western Electric, the manufacturing subsidiary of the old AT&T, in 1991. The company had been requiring pregnant women to take unpaid maternity leave towards the end of their pregnancies; it only gave female employees 30 days credit toward their seniority while other employees on disability leave received full credit and offered no employment guarantee when they returned from maternity leave.

As a result of the $60 million settlement, 13,000 telephone company workers received back pay and seniority credit. At the time, it was the largest cash settlement ever reached by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Scanlon devoted his entire legal career to organized labor and workers' rights. After receiving his law degree from the Stetson College of Law, he immediately dove into labor and employment law, specializing in the representation of unions. He rose to become president of the firm that bore his name Adair, Scanlon and McHugh.

In 1980, Scanlon was named associate general counsel for CWA District 3 in Atlanta. Shortly after Morton Bahr was elected CWA president in 1985, one of his first appointments was the naming of Scanlon as his general counsel.

"This was new for CWA as for many years we had a law firm act as general counsel," Bahr said. "Pat fulfilled the role brilliantly, from his role as general counsel to the union and legal advisor to the president. I knew I could always rely on him to provide the correct path for us around any legal question we were faced with."

He advised CWA leaders on the legal conduct of strikes, contract details and grievances and supervised all aspects of CWA arbitration, trying more than 200 cases each year. For a number of years he also served as the CWA convention's parliamentarian.

"He was a dedicated and committed advocate for the cause of working people and an important mentor to many labor lawyers at CWA and around the country," said CWA's current general counsel, Mary K. O'Melveny, who was hired by Scanlon to work at CWA headquarters in 1989. "We are all very saddened by this untimely loss."

In addition to his work at CWA, Scanlon served on the board of directors of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and the Lawyers Advisory Panel, a committee of general counsels of major AFL-CIO unions. He was also a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and served as co-chair of the American Bar Association Law Section Council's Equal Employment Opportunity and International Labor Law committees.

Cohen: Build a Framework like Brazil

 

 

Larry Cohen at EPI

CWA President Larry Cohen joins worker rights panel at Economic Policy Institute.

 

 

 

Faced with a nationwide attack on workers' rights and their unions, American workers can learn a lesson from the Brazilians, CWA President Larry Cohen said Wednesday.

"If we don't build a framework like they did in Brazil, I don't think we'll be able to reverse this for decades," said Cohen, speaking on a panel of labor activists at the Economic Policy Institute.

In Brazil 25 years ago, Cohen said, organizers like himself and fellow panelists including Luis Carlos de Oliveira, vice president of the Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, Brazil would have been jailed. But today nearly 40 percent of Brazilians belong to a union. The reason Brazil's Workers Party built a powerful movement that linked together jobs, workers' rights and economic justice. United, workers won the creation of laws that ushered in higher wages, 30 days of paid vacation each year, four months of paid maternity leave and more.

That movement has enabled Brazil to combat corporate greed and the wealthy's colossal political influence, the panel explained. Take for instance the controversy around worker abuse at Foxconn factories. In China, Apple supplier Foxconn has taken advantage of Chinese workers, forcing them to work overtime in deplorable conditions for little pay. Chinese unions are dominated by Foxconn management. Explosions have killed and injured employees, while the militaristic work environment has driven many to suicide.

But at Foxconn's plants in Brazil, employees don't work beyond the maximum 44-hour week established by Brazilian law. Their monthly wages start at roughly $580 a month, while their Chinese counterparts earn as little as $246 a month for similar work, according to data compiled by EPI. In Brazil, Foxconn is working with unions to facilitate more hiring to assemble more Apple products, and its Brazilian factory lines haven't seen a single explosion.

Meanwhile, General Electric workers in West Burlington, Iowa, are struggling this week to organize. In just five years, wages in Shanghai will equal those in US cities, since American production workers haven't seen a real wage increase in more than three decades. Cohen called America's trade policy a "sled ride downhill," as many consumers celebrate Apple and ignore the labor environment that has relocated US manufacturing to countries with few workers' rights.

Cohen encouraged the audience to take action into their own hands, starting with attending a 99 Percent Spring training. "It's not 'how do we speak to our government,' but 'how do we speak to each other,'" he said.

White House Highlights IUE-CWA President as 'Champion of Change'

IUE-CWA President Jim Clark was honored at the White House as a "Champion of Change" Thursday for his advocacy of energy efficiency opportunities that improve green manufacturing, performance and competitiveness.

"I believe manufacturing is the backbone of our economy and our country needs manufacturing to be strong," Clark said. "That's why as president of IUE-CWA I've made it my mission to bring innovative and progressive programs to our shop floors programs that make our plants more competitive and more efficient."

Clark was one of eight individuals recognized by the program, which was created as a part of President Barack Obama's Winning the Future initiative. Each week, the White House commends the leaders of different sectors for their work to serve and strengthen their communities.

"Cutting waste, reducing energy use and operating more sustainably translates to less pollution and lower utility bills for businesses across the country," said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "The leaders we've selected as Champions of Change are proving that sustainable practices work for companies' bottom lines, and work for the health of American communities."

As a member of the Executive Board of the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, Clark steered the creation of a new Green Production Module, which teaches front-line manufacturing workers about environmental practices and regulations related to "green production." The module, launched last year, is the only nationally certified and portable green tech credential.

Within IUE-CWA, Clark has raised awareness among workers about energy efficiency and energy saving opportunities on the job. For instance, an energy efficiency treasure hunt, in which members analyzed energy use in the building systems and production process, cut a dramatic amount of waste. For an average one-time implementation investment of only $34,500, the treasure hunt program saved an average of $97,500 and 779 metric tons of carbon annually, the union said.

T-Mobile Workers, CWA Fight for Jobs, Workers' Rights

 

 

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T-Mobile workers and CWA supporters are taking a message directly to T-Mobile headquarters next week, delivering more than 100,000 petitions to CEO Philipp Humm calling on the company to bring back quality jobs to the U.S.

There's still time to make your voice heard. Sign the petition at http://cwa-union.org/t-mobile.

Union members and other community activists throughout the Seattle area will rally on April 16 in support of T-Mobile workers who want to keep their jobs and want the right to fairly choose union representation.

T-Mobile USA announced it was closing seven call centers, affecting the jobs of 3,300 U.S. workers, even though the company continues to operate call centers in the Philippines and Honduras employing more than 6,000.

The company also has put other workers on notice that its "restructuring" isn't finished; technicians and other technical support workers are likely next to see their jobs outsourced.

Several T-Mobile workers, members of TU, the joint union established by CWA and ver.di, which represents German T-Mobile workers, are making the trip to T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., to make sure the company gets the message loud and clear.

T-Mobile also has taken $14.2 million in taxpayer subsidies in four communities where it's now closing operations: Frisco, Tex., $3.7 million; Brownsville, Tex., $5.3 million; Lenexa, Kan., $3.9 million; and Redmond, Ore., $1.3 million.

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., outside another call center slated to shut down, workers and community supporters also will rally on April 16.

Apply Now for Morton Bahr Online Scholarship at Empire State College

New York's Empire State College is accepting applications for Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarships for the 2012-2013 academic year. The deadline to apply is May 15 and winners will be announced by the end of June for the fall semester.

The scholarship honors CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr and his lifelong commitment to expanding education and opportunity for working people. The program enables students to study online through Empire State's Center for Distance Learning and earn an associate or bachelors degree.

Union members, their families and domestic partners are eligible to apply for the scholarships, which include undergraduate tuition and fees.

Click here for more information and to download the "Bahr application book," which includes the application and other information.

Maryland CWAers Win Victories in Legislative Session

 

 

CWAers in Maryland

Members of seven CWA locals lobby state legislators in Annapolis.

 

 

 

The 2012 Maryland state legislative session closed this week, and CWA members made some real gains for workers and consumers.

CWAers successfully blocked Verizon's attempt to eliminate Public Service Commission overview of a potential sale of Verizon assets. A strong showing of more than 40 CWA members and retirees from seven locals, plus testimony by Paula Vinciguerra, Local 2106, helped ensure that SB 813 didn't make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

With CWA support, the Offshoring Disclosure bill was passed by both the state House and Senate. It requires state contractors to disclose any plans to offshore jobs covered by those contracts and to justify why those jobs would be moved. "In the next session, we'll come back to try and put a stop to this practice altogether," said Jimmy Tarlau, assistant to the president for D2-13.

CWA members and the labor community also fought back and won against another Verizon assault on union members. The Privileged Communications Involving Labor Organizations, SB 797, was passed. It prohibits a labor organization from being compelled to disclose communication or information between a grievant and a union representative unless a criminal proceeding is involved. Verizon tried to block this bill and spent a lot of time fabricating stories about what CWA might know about actions during last year's strike.

The Maryland legislative-political action team did terrific work and is gearing up to take on more campaigns, Tarlau said.

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