April 18, 2013

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Standing with Boston

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On Monday, a senseless act of violence rocked the historic Boston Marathon, claiming the lives of at least three people and injuring hundreds more. We're so proud of the first responders, medics, and Guild and NABET members, who put their own lives on the line to spring into action during the horrific events. Our thoughts and prayers are going out to all of those in Boston and everyone coping with the aftermath of this tragedy.

Bargaining Update

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  • CWA Local 6171's bargaining team has reached a new tentative agreement with Verizon Southwest, covering about 2,200 workers in Texas. A ratification vote is being scheduled.
     
  • Spirit Airlines Flight Attendants staged a "send-off party" at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for the AFA Negotiating Team. Dozens of Spirit Flight Attendants assembled as their union bargaining team departed for contract negotiations with management April 16-18.

 

Bipartisan Immigration Bill is a First Step

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Casa de Maryland hosted a press conference highlight Virginia grassroots communities attending the All In for Citizenship rally.

Below: A mother demonstrates her ankle monitoring bracelet, which tracks her movements.

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U.S. Senators, known as the "Gang of Eight" four Democrats and four Republicans who have been working on immigration reform have released a bill that is a first step toward much needed reform of our broken immigration system.

Immigration reform must be fair and should reflect our shared values of opportunity, voice, and justice for all, and must ensure that workers in every industry are protected from employer exploitation.

CWA has many questions about this proposal, and we'll continue to analyze the 844-page bill. We do have some initial concerns and we will work with our allies to help bring about improvements to the bill.

CWA, along with other unions, faith and community leaders, civil rights activists, immigrant organizations and others, looks forward to working with the Senate and President Obama to bring about comprehensive reform.

Full Out Attack on the NLRB

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Last Friday, House Republicans pushed through H.R. 1120, a bill that would essentially shut down the National Labor Relations Board. Piling on a recent Court of Appeals ruling challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the NLRB, the legislation seeks to freeze all NLRB activities that require a quorum of board members. It would also bar the NLRB from enforcing any decisions it has made since Jan. 4, 2012, when Obama made those disputed recess appointments.

The legislation is the latest example of an all-out assault by many Republicans on the NLRB and on basic worker protections. While 10 Republicans stood up for workers' basic protections and voted "no" on H.R. 1120, the vast majority of Republican members of Congress voted for the bill's passage.

In The Huffington Post, CWA President Larry Cohen wrote

How did we get here? The blame mainly falls on the broken Senate rules.

When Obama took office, the NLRB only had two members. In April 2009, Obama nominated three people to serve on the NLRB Mark Pearce (D), Craig Becker (D) and Brian Hayes (R). Yet Senate Republicans' silent filibusters were effective in preventing a Senate vote on these nominees.

In March 2010, Obama recess appointed Becker and Pearce to the board. In June, the Senate confirmed Pearce and Hayes, but continued to block Becker.

When Becker's recess appointment expired on Jan. 3, 2012, the NLRB didn't have a quorum to make decisions. Confronted with Senate Republicans intent on undermining the NLRB's authority, Obama made three recess appointments Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D) and Terence Flynn (R) to guarantee a fully functioning board. These members joined Pearce and Hayes, who left the board in December 2012. (Flynn resigned after an ethics scandal in March 2012.)

Senate Republicans argued the Senate had not formally recessed, but stayed in a "pro forma" session even though no business took place. Later, the Court of Appeals' three-judge panel all appointed by Republicans made their Noel Canning ruling.

But Obama's actions weren't unusual. In fact, every president has made similar recess appointments. More than 300 such appointments were made by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama.

The president didn't have to resort to such measures, if only the Senate had reformed its outdated rules. The ability of Senators to endlessly hold up presidential nominations was a big reason why Fix the Senate Now coalition pushed to overhaul the rules earlier this year. Unfortunately, those reforms didn't happen. As a result, even the Court of Appeals that decided Noel Canning is currently missing three justices, thanks to the broken Senate rules and the determination of Republican Senators to block nearly every judicial nomination made by Obama.

Republicans created this quagmire. And now those lawmakers, beholden to corporate interests, seek to further gut U.S. labor law.

At last count, 87 companies are using Noel Canning to challenge decisions issued by the NLRB and its regional offices, including McDonalds and Starbucks. They're attempting to overturn or block union elections, undo penalties awarded to fired workers and halt subpoenas.

Workers who have been vindicated by the board, following years of struggle against employers with deep pockets and expensive legal teams, are, at best, in limbo and, at worst, likely to lose everything they rightfully deserve.

For example, in 2008, a NLRB administrative law judge found that CNN created a phony reorganization explicitly to get rid of technicians because they had a union, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA. The judge ordered CNN to reinstate 110 workers, restore the economic losses of all 250 workers and recognize and bargain with NABET-CWA. Yet those workers still don't have their jobs, their back pay or their union.

The NLRB will ask the Supreme Court to take up Noel Canning by April 25. If the decision stands, some 600 NLRB decisions could be thrown out.

But H.R. 1120 has jumped the gun. Instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter, it improperly involves Congress in the judicial review of the president's recess appointment powers.

Meanwhile, White House appointments are certain to be blocked by the same obstructionist Republican senators who are determined to keep the NLRB from operating.

This is not what democracy looks like. This calculated weakening of the NLRB potentially harms millions of workers, both union-represented and non-union.

Today the NLRB has no teeth, but if H.R. 1120 has its way, tomorrow it might not survive. A vote for H.R. 1120 is a vote to send this country to a pre-1935 era, before the National Labor Relations Act. It was a time when employers could punish, spy on and blacklist union members. It was a time when employers could legally bribe workers with rewards or promises during union elections.

To protect working Americans, the Senate majority must force confirmation of the White House's package of five NLRB members and general counsel and, if necessary, changing the Senate rules to do so. Otherwise, the United States becomes the only global democracy without any meaningful labor law.

CWA Activists Around the Country

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Members of CWA Locals 6327 and 6450 block walk in Kansas City with Jobs with Justice and UFCW. CWA activists have also been working with the UAW and Missouri AFL-CIO to canvass neighborhoods against SB 29, a dangerous paycheck deception bill moving through the state legislature.

 

 

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CWAers work a phone bank, encouraging GOP state legislators to remain opposed to paycheck deception.

 

 

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Activists from the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions attended the House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing, "TSA's Efforts to Advance Risk-Based Security: Stakeholder Perspectives." Following the hearing, Flight Attendants from Alaska, American, American Eagle, Southwest, United and US Airways met with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), a strong advocate in the fight to keep knives off planes.

 

 

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CWA Political Director Rafael Navar tells New Jersey activists how to recruit members to join PAF.

 

 

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CWA returned to New Jersey this week to host a second Political Leadership Boot Camp for CWA Local 1037. Read more about the trainings here.

 

 

West Virginia Supports Getting Corporate Money Out of Politics

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CWA was instrumental in the West Virginia state legislature's passing of a resolution calling on Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment that will end the corrosive influence of corporate money in politics. The state resolution sailed through with strong support in a Senate voice vote, following a 60-39 bipartisan vote in the House. West Virginia is now the 12th state since Citizens United to support such reform.

"Spending in our democratic process should include disclosure and transparency rules, but that alone is not enough," said CWA Representative Elaine Harris. "Our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder, and constitutional rights should be preserved for individuals, not corporations. With another state added to the list of states calling for a constitutional amendment that will protect constitutional rights for people, we can hopefully apply more pressure on our federal representatives to listen to the wishes of citizens not only in West Virginia but throughout the country."

CWA joined a diverse coalition of good-government groups including AFSCME, AFT, Public Citizen, SEIU, Sierra Club and West Virginians for Democracy.

The Supreme Court's disastrous 2010 ruling in Citizens United has opened the floodgates to corporations and wealthy individuals making unlimited political contributions. In West Virginia, this has resulted in former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who lost his re-election bid, being outspent by a margin of 6-to-1.

We Need Good Jobs, Green Jobs

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CWA President Larry Cohen talks about movement building at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference.

The fight for workers' rights is strongly linked to the fight for environmental rights.

That was the message at the opening panel of the BlueGreen Alliance's annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, DC. On Monday, CWA President Larry Cohen joined Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, USW President Leo Gerard and SEIU Property Services Division Deputy Director Jon Barton in discussing the need for a broad progressive movement to both address climate change and create good jobs. David Foster, executive director of BlueGreen Alliance and president of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, moderated the panel and took questions from the audience, who asked about everything from pipelines to the new Democracy Initiative.

"Let's put together climate change, democracy and workers' rights and stand up and fight back!" said Cohen to loud applause.

The panel agreed that their members were looking for innovative, creative solutions. A strong program toward retrofitting public buildings, starting with our nation's crumbling schools, would create good union jobs and improve energy efficiency. Repairing and replacing old, leak pipelines would be a boon to union workers and also cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The same goes for updating our outdated electrical grid and water infrastructure, as well as fixing our mass transit systems.

But first, the panel stressed, the labor movement and environmental movement need to put away their institutional egos and start training together so union workers and environmentalists can bring muscle to their collective fights. One good place to start: Organizing more joint grassroots training sessions that CWA and Sierra Club are already hosting across the country.

"It will take 50 million people really ready to fight, not just vote," said Cohen.

After the panel, the audience broke out into small groups by state. This is where the real work began, as each group identified the issue areas that our organizations can best work on together and the next steps that are needed to build a stronger economy and cleaner environment.

On Tuesday, participants heard from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. CWAers from Virginia, Texas, Florida, California, DC, Maryland and Minnesota also participated on workshop panels.

To learn more visit www.greenjobsconference.org/.

CWA Challenges NJ Gov. Christie's Lotto Privatization

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) moved forward with his plan to privatize the state lottery last week, awarding a 15-year contract to a private firm to run the lottery's marketing and sales operations.

"At every turn, the Christie administration has steadfastly refused to answer questions and been secretive in trying to slip through their risky, unpopular lottery privatization scheme," said Seth Hahn, CWA's New Jersey legislative director.

Hahn said CWA is planning to take legal action to prevent the privatization.

"True to form, they've decided to release their decision to award a 15-year contract at 4 p.m. on a Friday in the hopes that no one will notice," he said. "This short-sighted, illegal, politically-connected deal needs to be examined in the light of day. As such, we are contacting the head of New Jersey State Lottery immediately to challenge the Christie administration's giveaway, and will take every action at our legal disposal to stop it. This lottery privatization scheme is bad for taxpayers, bad for small businesses, bad for jobs, and illegal."

Read more about the deal here. For more information on lottery privatization and efforts to stop it, visit www.BigGambleNJ.com.

1 CEO Makes 354 Times the Average Worker

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Did you know just one CEO makes 354 times as much as the average rank-and-file worker?

As multinational corporations park their profits overseas and refuse to pay their fair share of taxes, the middle class is shrinking. More and more working people are living hand-to-mouth. The richest 1 percent has more than one-third of the country's wealth while 60 percent of Americans barely have any.

Learn more about this staggering inequality in the United States at www.paywatch.org.

Launched on Tax Day, PayWatch 2013 is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation's largest companies. On the website, you can compare your pay to the pay of top executives. And this year's PayWatch will look at CEOs of the shadowy "Fix the Debt" and Business Roundtable groups, which are pushing for more tax cuts for corporations and the super wealthy, while calling for benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare programs that working families depend on.

We Want to Hear From You!

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CWA locals and members are known for their community support and generous spirit, not just during the holidays but year-round. Tell us how your local has reached out to your community with a few sentences and photos. Send your stories to news@cwa-union.org.

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CWA Local 3974 recently donated Gideon bibles to the Trinity Freewill Baptist Youth Camp in memory of Grady Hayes, father of Danny Hayes, member of the Local. Grady was a member of the Gideons and a longtime supporter of the youth camp in Twin, Ala. From left to right: Youth Camp Director Ashley Culp, Ronnie McCluskey, CWA Local 3974 Secretary-Treasurer Danny Hayes, and CWA Local 3974 President Tommy Gilmer.

 

 

 

74th Convention: Working for Economic Justice and Democracy

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On April 22-23, members will be gathering in Pittsburgh for CWA's 74th Convention.

There will be several important proposals and constitutional amendments to consider. A new CWA web site, http://cwafuture.ning.com, has been created to provide local leaders and members with information about these proposals.

We believe that a free and open discussion of these proposals will lead to changes that will, once again, move our union forward.

For more information about workshops, registration and more check out this page.

 

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