Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Trade Deal Negotiators Secretly Meet We'll Be There

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Don't forget: This weekend CWA is rallying against NAFTA on steroids.

On Sept. 9, the latest round of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership the biggest Free Trade Agreement in U.S. history is heading to Leesburg, Va. CWA activists will be rallying with labor, environmental, public health, Internet freedom, consumer, Occupy and other social justice organizations at 3 p.m. outside the negotiation site at the Lansdowne Resort at 44050 Woodridge Parkway in Leesburg.

Right now, the TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors. Only a handful of corporate lobbyists and trade officials have been able to see the details of the trade pact. This exclusive group includes lobbyists from Verizon, who want to make sure that the TPP makes it even easier to offshore call center and tech support jobs. It would create even more incentives for corporations to offshore manufacturing and service sector jobs and put even more pressure on workers' wages, benefits and collective bargaining rights.

The deal now includes Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada and Mexico, but Japan has also indicated that it wants to join. To learn more visit

It's time for the negotiators to hear from the people who will be most affected by this deal.

There will be a free shuttle bus to "TPP: Out of the Shadows! Rally for Good Jobs, Affordable Medicine and a Healthy Environment" from downtown Washington, DC. It's is scheduled to leave from the Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

President Cohen: Workers Have Been 'Bain-ed'

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Ed Schultz interviews CWA President Larry Cohen in Washington.




Mitt Romney's vulture capitalism is threat to middle-class, working Americans, said CWA President Larry Cohen on "The Ed Show."

"Mitt Romney brought us a new verb in the English language called 'Bain-ed,'" he said during the Labor Day interview. "Workers know they are Bain-ed when their jobs are sent out of the country. They're Bain-ed when their pay is cut. They're Bain-ed when they lose their pensions and health care. That's what Mitt Romney is about."

In contrast, President Barack Obama has affirmed his commitment to protecting collective bargaining rights. But to win workers' votes in the upcoming election, he needs to take that vow a step further, Cohen said.

"What workers want to hear is that he's ready to expand bargaining rights since they're now at the lowest levels since 1900," he said. "It's bargaining rights that raise pay. It's bargaining rights that allow workers to have a voice in this economy. It's bargaining rights that could help bring the economy back as people lift themselves up."

Watch more here.

Verizon Named a Severe Safety Violator

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OSHA just confirmed what workers have been saying for years: Verizon ignores worker safety.

Verizon is among 332 of the nation's employers that landed last week on OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program list. Created in 2010 to get tough on employers, the list calls out companies with willful, repeated and egregious workplace violations.

Verizon earned this ghastly distinction after federal officials discovered "repeat and serious" violations connected to the tragic death of Verizon technician Douglas Lalima, a member of CWA Local 1109. OSHA cited the company for 10 violations totaling $14,700 the maximum penalty under the law.

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 Verizon failed to provide Lalima and his fellow technicians with life-saving equipment, such as insulated gloves. 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 safety procedures. Furthermore, Verizon neglected to list Lalima's death as a fatality in its mandatory records.

Listen to Brooklyn Cablevision Workers' Labor Day Rap

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Jerome "Jaywalk" Thompson, Jr. raps about workers' struggles to join CWA.




Brooklyn Cablevision workers kicked off the Labor Day weekend with a powerful music video about their struggles to join CWA.

The song, "We Are The Union," features two Cablevision technicians, Jerome "Jaywalk" Thompson, Jr. and McDaniel "Grimm" Paul, and a former customer-service agent, Shatoya Thomas-Flemmings.

"I'll be a pain in the colon / For your boy Jimmy Dolan," Thompson raps, name-checking Cablevision's CEO. "His pockets are swollen / Reaping what my labor's sowing."

Thompson, Paul and Thomas-Flemmings have been performing live versions "We Are The Union" at rallies all year, but they were finally able to immortalize their song thanks to videographer Anna Mumford. A number of red-shirted Cablevision technicians make appearances as extras in the music video, including Lawrence Hendrickson as the song's guitarist.

In January, 282 Brooklyn Cablevision workers joined CWA Local 1109, becoming the company's first employees to unionize. Since then, workers at Brooklyn Cablevision contractors Vision Pro and Falcon Communications have voted to join CWA.

Watch the video here.

Capote: Bring Call Center Jobs Home

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Offshoring call center jobs devastates the economy, CWA Local 3122 Executive Vice President Hector Capote wrote in a Miami Herald letter to the editor.

Here's what Capote, who also represents District 3 on the CWA National Civil Rights and Equity Committee, said:

The U.S. call-center industry is an underappreciated economic engine one that has been devastated by offshoring. The industry represents approximately 3 percent of our overall workforce, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, offshoring is largely responsible for more than 500,000 industry job losses between 2006 and 2010.

Closer to home, T-Mobile closed a Fort Lauderdale-based call center earlier this year, eliminating more than 500 jobs in what amounted to Florida's second-largest layoff of 2012. While T-Mobile shuttered the call center, it expanded call-center operations in the Philippines and Honduras. Unfortunately, T-Mobile isn't alone in sending jobs overseas. This trend depresses our economic recovery and hits particularly hard in areas struggling to rebound economically. This trend also looms over 386,000 Florida call-center workers still employed in the industry.

Companies say that offshoring maintains shareholder value, and that cheaper operations mean more money to invest in the United States, creating jobs in the process. However, companies such as AT&T and U.S. Airways repudiate the value claim, having brought back customer-service jobs in recent years, while maintaining value to their shareholders.

While the political world is just starting to pay attention to this issue, some lawmakers have already developed legislation to strengthen the domestic call-center industry. In Florida earlier this year, the state Senate unanimously passed legislation requiring all call-center service contracts with Florida valued at $35,000 or more to be staffed by agents in the United States. Unfortunately, the Florida House hasn't advanced the bill.

In the U.S. House, the bipartisan U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would bring some jobs back home and provide consumers with more rights and accountability, including being told the location of the center with which they are speaking. The legislation would ensure that companies engaged in offshoring jobs would be ineligible for certain federal grants. However, the bill hasn't been considered for discussion on the floor of the House.

Unlike some issues that emerge in today's political news cycle, the focus on shipping these jobs overseas is neither manufactured nor inconsequential. Let's hope we continue to focus on the underappreciated importance of the call-center industry in Florida and nationwide.

Workers Launch Hazardous Chemicals Database

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Workers often ask, "Can this chemical affect my health?" and "Are there safer alternatives?" Now those answers are available at the touch of a button.

The newly launched Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolkit, or ChemHAT, database allows workers to quickly look up the risks of exposure for 10,000 commonly-used chemicals. The free online tool identifies how workers commonly come in contact with the potentially hazardous materials, safety precautions and alternative solutions.

"Workers around the country deserve to know what dangers are presented by the chemicals they work with every day, but that information was too difficult to come by in many cases," said IUE-CWA President Jim Clark. "Working with the BlueGreen Alliance, we were able to help jumpstart this important resource that is easy-to-use and ensures no worker ever has to be caught unaware of the dangers their workplace poses to them and their community."

ChemHAT was designed in consultation with 130 rank-and-file union members represented by CWA, IUE-CWA, United Steelworkers and UAW who deal with chemicals every day.

"ChemHAT is exactly what we need to make sure we can easily get the knowledge we need to be safe on the job," said Ernest Pacheco, CWA District 9's energy/environmental program coordinator. "Perhaps even more importantly especially in light of our inadequate current toxics regulations is that it helps to reframe the issue to what it should have been for decades now to: 'What should we be using instead of this dangerous chemical?'"

Representatives of the IUE-CWA, BlueGreen Alliance and the ChemHAT Working Group will be holding a webinar on Sept. 25 at 12:30 p.m. ET. To learn more about how to use this new database, register here.

United Flight Attendants Prepare For Single Contract Negotiations

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Flight Attendants at the new United Airlines have started preparing for negotiations on a single contract covering over 25,000 workers.

These historic negotiations will unify Flight Attendants from pre-merger United, Continental and Continental Micronesia under one agreement. Earlier this year, Flight Attendants from each airline ratified separate contracts, paving the way for combined negotiations.

"Unifying under the world's largest Flight Attendant agreement is crucial as we continue to build our future together at the world's largest airline. We are committed to combining the best of our contracts and experiences into an industry leading agreement that best represents all Flight Attendants at the new United Airlines," said Greg Davidowitch, Marcus Valentino and Suzanne Hendricks, AFA presidents at United, Continental and Continental Micronesia, respectively.

CWA Activists Attend Democratic National Convention

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CWA West Virginia Staff Representative Elaine Harris, who is also a state party national committeewoman, accepts an award on behalf of CWA and President Larry Cohen from Progressive Democrats of America. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern (left) praised CWA's commitment to health care for all.

Below: Sylvia J. Ramos, assistant to the vice president in District 6, smiles next to Texas State Rep. Joaquin Castro, a favorite to win a seat in Congress, at the Latino Leaders Network luncheon. Later that day, Castro introduced his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the first ever Latino keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. "The opportunities Latinos now have under President Obama's leadership, from health care to education, are incredible," said Ramos, who is attending her first convention as a delegate. "He's opened doors for all ethnicities."




Florida CWAers Take Message to RNC Delegates

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CWA Local 3108 marches on the Republican National Convention.




More than 200 union workers marched on downtown Tampa last week during the Republican National Convention.

"We're fighting for the middle class," said CWA Local 3108 President Steve Wisniewski. "We feel like we're not being heard, especially by the Republican Party. They only care about the elite."

"Someone needs to represent the worker. It doesn't matter if you're union, non-union," said Kat Petty of CWA Local 3108. Watch Petty and more interviews with the protesters here.

Albany Guild Members Speak Out: We Need a Raise!

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Albany Times Union Reporter Mark McGuire.




Marking five years without a raise at the Times Union newspaper in Albany, N.Y., TNG-CWA Local 31034 has posted a new video of members speaking out about the hardship, and telling the company, "It's about respect."

Stress and sorrow is palpable among the workers featured. "I often come to work sad with the realization that I probably won't be able to finish my career here, because I can't justify it financially," says 22-year reporter Mark McGuire. "I can't pay the medical bills because of the insurance we have. I can't stretch it financially because we haven't had a raise in five years."

Click here to watch the video, or go to

Save The Date: Change Champions Awards on Sept. 20

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The Center for Community Change will be honoring CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen on Sept. 20 for his tremendous work in building labor partnerships. The awards event starts at 6 p.m. at AFL-CIO Headquarters at 815 16th St., NW, Washington, DC. If you can't attend, it will also be live streaming at For more information, email

Rosen tragically drowned this summer while vacationing in North Carolina. His passion to help workers gain a voice on the job could been seen not only at CWA, but also in his work with Stand Up For Ohio, Jobs with Justice and Policy Matters Ohio.

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