May 2, 2013

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You Won't Want to Miss the Next CWA Town Hall Call: May 16

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Join CWAers from around the country on Thursday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m., ET. It's an important call, with updates on everything affecting CWA members and our union.

Register here: http://cwa-union.org/cwacall.

Cohen: 'Every one of us, wherever we come from, have UMWA members in our hearts.'

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CWAers traveled to St. Louis to support their UMWA brothers and sisters.

CWA President Larry Cohen and CWA activists joined more than 6,000 coal miners, their families and supporters from across the country in St. Louis on Monday to protest Patriot Coal's bankruptcy court motion to slash healthcare and pension benefits for tens of thousands of retired miners.

 

In an act of civil disobedience, 16 people blocked the street in front of the courthouse and were peacefully arrested. CWA President Larry Cohen was led away in cuffs, along with UMWA President Cecil Roberts, National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg, Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones, Rev. David Gerth of St. Louis and 11 active and retired UMWA members.

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In an act of civil disobedience, 16 people were arrested.

Below: CWA President Larry Cohen is led away in cuffs.

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Before marching six blocks to the federal courthouse, supporters gathered at an hour-long rally in front of Peabody Coal's downtown headquarters.

Cohen brought every person in the crowd to their feet by declaring, "Every one of us, wherever we come from, have UMWA members in our hearts." He added, "Mine Workers are the patriots, not a company that calls itself 'Patriot.'"

At issue are the actions taken by both Arch Coal and Peabody Energy to offload their obligations to retired miners and surviving spouses by creating a new company, Patriot Coal, in 2007. With 43 percent of Peabody's retiree obligations, but just 11 percent of its assets, it's no surprise Patriot filed for bankruptcy protection. UMWA charges that it was "designed to fail."

Now thousands of retirees suffering illnesses and injuries caused by their work in the mines, including black lung, cancer and crippling injuries could lose their health care coverage if Patriot is able to shed the obligations as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring.

"Our union will absolutely take this fight on as our fight," Cohen said. "We will find ways to be out here by the tens of thousands. We absolutely understand that if the courts of this country can do this, they can do anything. This is something I learned standing with you in the Pittston struggle years ago. One day longer, as long as it takes."

It was the latest in a series of protests from New York to Charleston, W. Va., to St. Louis since Patriot declared bankruptcy in July.

Sign the petition to support the UMWA's efforts to maintain the benefits promised by Patriot, Arch and Peabody.

Bargaining Update

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  • CWA members at AT&T West ratified a new contract by a 2-1 margin. The contract covers about 18,000 workers in California and Nevada.
  • Registered nurses at Kenmore Mercy Hospital in New Jersey have approved a new four-year contract. CWA Local 1133, which represents about 280 nurses, has been negotiating since last November. Read more here.
  • A strike at US Airways Express carrier Piedmont Airlines draws closer as management continues to present unreasonable proposals in bargaining. Piedmont Flight Attendants have been in mediation with management since August 2011 and have asked the National Mediation Board to release the parties into a 30-day "cooling-off" period. The release could come at any time.
  • About 60 Guild members at Consumer Reports marched to the company's cafeteria in Yonkers, NY, to protest the company's new policy requiring them to use vacation or personal time for a number of medical procedures that formerly were covered by their sick leave policy. Read more here.
  • Court interpreters, represented by the California Federation of Interpreters, have voted "yes" to authorizing the bargaining committee's call for a strike. They have been bargaining since July. Read more here.
  • CWA members picketed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's scheme to change Civil Service, eroding protections for workers by eliminating the current system of merit-based promotions. This plan essentially abolishes objective and transparent measures for promotions and replaces them with politically-motivated "advancement." Read more here.

CWA Statement on Appointment of Tom Wheeler to Head the FCC

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CWA issued this statement on President Barack Obama's appointment of Tom Wheeler to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

"CWA looks forward to meeting with Mr. Wheeler and discussing critical policy issues in the telecommunications industry, including affordable high-speed Internet access and how FCC policy should help create stable employment in the industry."

CWAers Rally on May Day for Workers' Rights, Immigration Reform

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CWA local 9423 leads a May Day march in San Jose, Calif.

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CWA members and allies in Richmond stand up for workers' rights and real immigration reform.

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May Day march in Chicago.

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CWAers march with California's Orange County Labor Federation for 11 million aspiring citizens.


Across the country, union members joined with people of faith, immigrant families and community activists on May Day to stand up for commonsense immigration reform. May 1 is the day that working people around the world celebrate and demonstrate for workers' rights. It's a recognized holiday in more than 80 countries.

 

In Richmond, Va., about 100 activists, including members of CWA Local 2201 and other unions, Casa in Action and other groups, rallied at Monroe Park, then marched to the headquarters of the Republican Party of Virginia to make sure their message was heard loud and clear. Activists reminded the Virginia congressional delegations that supporting comprehensive immigration reform was the right thing to do, both for immigrant families and the state's economy.

CWAers also joined events in Phoenix, Lynn, Mass., Chicago, Santa Fe, N.M., and other communities. Check out the photos.

TSEU Coalition Works to 'Save Our Community' at University of Texas

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Members of TSEU, CWA Local 6186, march to the state capitol, then lobby legislators to keep state services, higher education and good jobs.

Below: Members of the Save Our Community coalition protest privatization at the University of Texas.

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The Save Our Community coalition, representing student organizations, faith groups, local non-profit organizations and the Texas State Employees Union, CWA Local 6186, is protesting a University of Texas proposal to privatize and outsource campus services and downsize staff.

At a news conference on April 30, several speakers noted that the proposal was the brainchild of Accenture, which has a poor track record when it comes to providing services that serve the community.

TSEU has extensive experience with Accenture, which in 2005 signed a nearly $900 million contract with the state to do the eligibility determinations for services like health care for poor children. The result: 27,000 poor children lost or were denied health care and 2,700 public workers lost their jobs. Finally, the state had to admit it had made a huge mistake, but only after paying Accenture an additional $246 million settlement, said Anne Lewis, a TSEU executive board member.

Earlier in April, nearly 1,000 TSEU members and allies marched through the streets of Austin and converged on the state capitol to lobby members of the legislature. Participants from more than 60 organizations, all part of the Texas Forward coalition, joined TSEU's annual lobby day. Among the rally speakers were TSEU President Judy Lugo, District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings, Public Sector Vice President Brooks Sunkett, Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller and others from the coalition.

TSEU members from across the state formed 18 teams and met with the offices of 94 state representatives and state senators. Key issues are: an across-the-board pay raise for all state and university workers, a cost of living adjustment for state retirees, no pension or health care benefit cuts for current or future retirees, and restoration of the disastrous 2011 budget cuts in state serves and higher education.

TNG-CWA Calls on Tribune Co. to Keep Objectivity in Newspaper Sale

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TNG-CWA and CWA have called on the Tribune Co. to pledge to sell its holdings to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product.

Tribune is looking to sell its eight regional newspapers, including the country's fourth largest paper, The Los Angeles Times, along with the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.

Among the leading prospective buyers are brothers Charles and David Koch, best known for contributing millions of dollars to right-wing campaigns, Tea Party organizations and political candidates who want to turn back the clock for working families.

"What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion," the statement said.

Pray for the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living

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CWA Local 4900's Joe Alvarez read the names of workers who had died on the job in the South Bend, Ind., area.

In the immortal words of Mother Jones, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." CWA members took to the streets for stronger workplace protections in honor of Workers' Memorial Day on April 28.

Workers' Memorial Day is held on the anniversary of the passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the federal law that made safe workplaces the right of all workers. More than 4,600 workers were killed on the job in 2011, the latest year for which the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has complete data. Immigrant worker fatalities were particularly alarming; more than two Latino workers, many of whom were immigrants, were killed on the job every day in 2011.

Together with families, community members, union leaders, faith groups, and health and safety activists, CWAers attended vigils and rallies to remember and honor those who have been hurt or killed on the job.

Ann Converso, a registered nurse and member of the CWA Healthcare Coordinating Council, was a keynote speaker, alongside Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), at a memorial service in Buffalo, NY. CWA Local 1168 also took part in Workers' Memorial Day activities with WYNCOSH.

CWA Locals 1101, 1103 and 1109 participated in activities conducted with NYCOSH. At one event, activists gathered at 92 Laight St. in Lower Manhattan, the site where Anthony Nahr, a parking attendant and IBT Local 272 member, drowned during Hurricane Sandy.

CWA Local 4900 participated in a ceremony in South Bend, Ind., where a CWA member read off the names of workers in the area who had died.

CWA Local 9003 joined the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and LACOSH in highlighting cases where workers died because safety guidelines were not followed.

CWA Local 9412, together with UC Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program and WORKSAFE, participated in a program about the ongoing struggles for workplace health, safety.

And in Houston, Texas, injured workers and their families gathered to share their stories at the event at CWA Local 6222, as well as push for increased regulatory measures in Texas workplaces. The Houston Chronicle reported:

Adriana Martinez wept as she reflected on the death of her husband, Orestes Martinez, who was crushed in a construction accident near the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2009.

The 29-year-old's picture was featured at a remembrance Saturday for 56 Houston-area workers who were fatally injured in workplace accidents in 2012. The vigil, which also honored other Texas workers killed, was held in recognition of Worker's Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance observed on April 28.

Three years removed from the tragedy, Martinez now aims to help raise awareness concerning worker safety in Texas.

"I will never be the same," Martinez said. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else."

United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities spokesperson Katherine Rodriguez said the ceremony is especially poignant given the recent fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas, which claimed more than a dozen lives.

"Our hearts goes out to all the men and women affected in West," Rodriguez said. "Many more (workers) died in incidents that never made any headlines."

Missouri's 'Paycheck Protection' Racket

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A new EPI Policy Center report finds that Missouri's two proposed "paycheck protection" bills actually do little in the way of protection. In fact, the legislation would silence working Americans' political voice, while leaving corporations free to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.

Missouri's Senate Bill 29 and House Bill 64 what union members and their supporters have dubbed "paycheck deception" bills are part of a nationwide effort to restrict the role of collective bargaining in politics. Supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the National Federation of Independent Business, and other corporate lobbies, both bills would make it more difficult for private and public sector employees to authorize how their union dues are spent.

SB29 prevents the payroll deductions for union dues unless each individual worker signs an authorization form every year. The bill also imposes unnecessary and taxing paperwork requirements on public union employees who want to make voluntary political contributions.

Similarly, HB64 requires annual written authorization before any dues are used for political purposes.

"These 'paycheck protection' proposals reflect corporate lobbies' unabashed attempts to enact a broad corporate economic agenda by crippling the ability of workers to participate in the political process," said EPI Research Associate Gordon Lafer. "Because the labor movement is the only vehicle through which millions of working Americans collectively pool sufficient resources in the form of both financial contributions and organized volunteer efforts to serve as an effective political counterweight to this agenda, eliminating union political activity promises to leave the corporate lobbies with an increasingly free hand to shape economic policy at the expense of workers."

Read the full report.

74th CWA Convention Reports

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Reports and other information from the 74th CWA convention are being posted here.

Check back for updates.

 

 

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