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On CWA's 30-minute town hall call tonight, AFSCME President
Lee Saunders will join CWA President Larry Cohen for a candid
discussion on the challenges that face workers and retirees
and the future of the labor movement. They'll talk about what
we have learned from our recent bargaining and other
campaigns, and what we can do to take on these challenges.
Thousands of AFSCME members will also be joining us on the
Don't forget, when you sign up for the final CWA town hall
call this year, in December, you will be entered in a drawing
for a personalized iPad Mini! The winner will be announced in
the CWA News and e-newsletter.
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Today, Senate Majority Leader Reid and nearly every
Democratic Senator have acted to end Senate gridlock and
obstruction on Presidential nominations.
Activists from CWA and other groups that make up the
Democracy Initiative, a group representing 20 million members,
mobilized and told their Democratic senators that "enough is
enough, it's time to fix the Senate."
Click here to send a thank you to Leader Reid.
CWA commends Leader Reid for his leadership in ensuring
that the President's executive and most judicial nominations
get an up-or-down vote and said that the Senate action
restores an important principle of our democracy. The Senate
majority's procedural action means that President Obama's
nominations will get confirmation votes.
"The Senate action re-enforces the intent of Article II,
Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly
states that the Senate's obligation of advice and consent is
based on majority support, not super majority support. This is
a good first step toward restoring a Senate that functions as
an integral part of our democracy," said CWA President Larry
Contrary to Republican claims, the procedure used by Leader
Reid isn't new and there's nothing "nuclear" or revolutionary
about it. Instead, it is the Republicans' recent strategy of
preventing up-or-down votes on qualified nominees without
respect to their merits that has been a radical departure from
Republicans have been blocking votes on qualified executive
and judicial nominees as part of a larger strategy to
undermine laws and agencies they disagree with, and to deny
President Obama his constitutional authority to fill
After months of Republican empty promises and broken
agreements, Leader Reid had no other choice but to put forward
the procedural motion. The Senate has changed application of
the rules at least 18 times in the last 35 years, though not
necessarily regarding nominations. In 1980, then Majority
Leader Byrd used the exact same procedure to eliminate
filibusters on a motion to proceed to nominations.
Most recently, the Republican minority has refused to move
to an up-or-down vote on President Obama's nominations to the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; there are at least
100 nominations awaiting Senate action.
Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Judge Robert Wilkins
have all received the highest possible rating from the
non-partisan American Bar Association. They have broad
bipartisan support, and no one has questioned their
qualifications. Senate Republicans have blocked all three from
getting a yes-or-no vote and have made no secret as to why:
Senate Republicans don't want any appointments by President
Obama to this court. They want a conservative leaning court
that will keep issuing decisions like the Noel Canning case,
which found that the president's recess appointments were not
The same is true for Congressman Mel Watt, nominated to
head the Federal Housing Finance Administration, and critical
of the effort to stop unfair foreclosures. This marks the
first time that a sitting member of Congress has been blocked
from getting an up-or-down vote on a nomination.
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Orlando Sentinel: U.S. Senate Republicans,
who hold 45 of 100 seats in the chamber, have increasingly
taken advantage of filibuster rules that allow as few as 40
members to stop action on legislation or nominations. A
left-leaning coalition, Fix the Senate Now, has been pushing
for a package of rule changes that would make it much harder
for the chamber's minority to block votes.
Larry Cohen, president of the 700,000 member Communications
Workers of America, is one of the coalition's leaders. In an
email interview with Sentinel Opinions Editor Paul
Owens, Cohen argued that the changes are needed so that
senators can "do their job."
Q: The current filibuster rules have been around for
decades. Why does the coalition think they need to be changed
Cohen: The Senate rules are being abused. The rules
have changed many times over the years, and today, a
supermajority of 60 votes is required to move any Senate
business forward. When Lyndon Johnson was majority leader,
there was just one filibuster. During current majority leader
Harry Reid's first term, there were 386. The so-called
filibuster, though it doesn't require any lengthy speeches, or
frankly any talking at all, now blocks nearly all debate and
As we've seen recently, one senator can block debate on a
presidential nominee for some unrelated or undisclosed reason.
It's fine to vote no on a nominee, but the president deserves
a vote on his executive and judicial nominations.
Q: Defenders of the current rules say it's not
supposed to be easy for the Senate to pass things. Do you
Cohen: The American people expect their senators to
do their job. Today's Senate barely functions. Last year, at
least 15 bills with majority support didn't get a minute's
debate on the Senate floor.
Q: Defenders also say that the current filibuster
rules preserve the rights of the Senate minority. Does the
coalition not believe in those rights?
Cohen: Our coalition believes in democracy and the
Constitution. The president has the responsibility to make
executive and judicial nominations, and the Senate's
obligation is to advise and consent on those nominations.
Article II of the Constitution provides for Senate
confirmation by majority vote. The Constitution also specifies
that a supermajority (60 votes) is required for treaties.
However, procedural delays used by the Senate minority mean a
60-vote supermajority is required for virtually every action.
Q: Both supporters and opponents have called
changing the filibuster rules "the nuclear option." Aren't you
afraid it would do serious damage to the Senate as an
Cohen: The nuclear option gives the presiding
officer authority to override Senate rules by making a ruling
that is then upheld by a majority vote. Our coalition supports
common-sense changes to the rules at the start of a new
legislative session. We also support use of a procedural
motion (used 18 times since 1978) that enables nominations to
get an up-or-down vote. It's Senate gridlock that is doing
serious damage to our democracy.
Q: If this is not a partisan exercise by the
coalition, why aren't any Republicans supporting the call to
change the rules?
Cohen: Republicans have said they will change the
rules when they have the majority.
Q: Wouldn't a change now destroy any meaningful
prospect of bipartisanship in the Senate, at least for the
Cohen: Is there bipartisanship? Today's Senate is
marked by party polarization and intentional gridlock. Our
coalition of workers, environmentalists, civil-rights and
good-government activists pushed for confirmation of nominees
to the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency and
others. More than 2 million people were mobilized, and we
Without real change to the Senate rules, gridlock will be
the norm for many years.
Q: Couldn't a rule change come back to bite
Democrats if they lose control in the Senate after the 2014
Cohen: We need to change the rules so that the
Senate carries out its constitutional obligations and
functions as it should in a 21st century democracy.
Republicans have said they will change the rules.
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Turning Texas Blue
CWA District 6 VP Claude Cummings with Wendy Davis, who
is wearing CWA red to celebrate the endorsement by CWA Texas
locals for governor.
CWA Locals in Texas have endorsed Wendy Davis for Governor.
CWA has a long relationship with Davis and was the first
organization to support her when she first ran for the state
Senate in 2008. The conventional wisdom was she couldn't win
but Davis, with CWAers' help, pulled off a big upset.
Recently, Wendy electrified Texas voters with her
filibuster to block a Republican measure attacking women's
health care rights.
LPAT Training in Iowa
Last week in Iowa, about 30 CWA Legislative and Political
Action Team activists attended a comprehensive training on the
legislative process and how to build our movement to achieve
Participants got valuable advice from congressional staff
and political candidates on what works – and what doesn't –
and how to get the attention of elected officials on CWA
issues. Legislative grassroots tools, movement building and
coalition work were a big part of the training.
CWA LPAT activists talk movement building.
Participants discussed CWA's Political Action Fund program
and worked on skills needed to improve participation of CWAers
Also joining the session was the Iowa Citizens for
Community Improvement, a key CWA partner, and participants
discussed issues that both will work on together, particularly
money in politics. Citizens Action and Alliance for Retired
Americans also joined the training.
A session on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal ended
in everyone writing letters to their representative and
Senators calling on them to oppose fast track authorization
for the deal.
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KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore.
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill and CWA AT&T Mobility
members rally for fair contracts for NABET-CWA members in
CWA AT&T Mobility activists took a break from their
strategy sessions and marched to television station KOIN TV in
Portland, Ore., to rally with NABET-CWA members and protest
management demands to cuts jobs and compensation.
The 50 news photographers, technicians, graphic artists,
web producers, assignment editors at the station, and until
recently master control operators, are members of NABET-CWA
Joining CWAers were Portland Jobs with Justice activists
and other union members. CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill
rallied the crowd, among other speakers.
A positive bargaining relationship fell apart when Rhode
Island-based LIN Media purchased the station in 2012.
Bargaining for a new agreement is underway, however management
has tried to discredit and undercut the union, and has refused
to provide information for bargaining.
CWA members at Verizon West have ratified a new four-year
The agreement, which covers 4,500 workers in California,
increases wages 8.77 percent over four years, limits
outsourcing of FiOS work and returns contracted out jobs to
the CWA bargaining unit.
SuperShuttle Drivers at DIA
Support the SuperShuttle drivers at Denver International
Airport who are in tough bargaining with management.
Like them on Facebook here.
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Minnesota OSHA, CWA District 7 and CenturyLink are
implementing a new landmark settlement agreement covering work
with lead cable.
CenturyLink received nine citations for violations of the
OSHA lead standard this year. As a result, CWA, Minnesota OSHA,
and CenturyLink agreed to a landmark lead abatement program.
It includes provisions for notification and training; coverage
of safe and healthful work practices and procedures;
appropriate engineering, administrative, and personal
protective equipment to prevent and control lead exposure;
medical surveillance; and personal hygiene.
Also last month, CWA District 7, the union's Occupational
Safety and Health Department, and CenturyLink negotiated an
agreement to expand the Minnesota OSHA settlement agreement to
include District 7-wide implementation of the company's lead
abatement program, including notification, training, and
medical surveillance for affected technicians. CWA's
Occupational Safety and Health Department and CenturyLink have
agreed that the program will cover all affected CenturyLink
technicians throughout the country.
Lead is a carcinogen that can damage workers' brains,
nerves, red blood cells, kidneys and reproductive systems.
This new program will ensure CenturyLink technicians who work
with lead-encased cable and other lead products are provided
safe and healthful working conditions.
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Conference attendees at a strategy session in Portland, Ore.
This week CWA's AT&T Mobility Leadership Conference brought
together about 200 members from across the country to
During the general session, members heard from AT&T
Mobility workers in New York City who helped organize the very
first MetroPCS retail store. "Everyone needs a fair chance.
Everyone deserves a voice on the job," said Tiffany Rosario of
CWA Local 1101.
The entire conference gave Ellen Brackeen, a TU activist
who was unfairly disciplined at work because of her union
activity, a standing ovation. Earlier this month, the National
Labor Relations Board announced that the U.S. government would
prosecute T-Mobile US for violating U.S. labor law.
"There's power in numbers and there's power in people," she
Ellen Brackeen works at a T-Mobile call center in
Brackeen told them, "We need your help. It says a lot when
I can tell my coworkers that these aren't just union people
out there, these aren't people completely unrelated to our
cause. These are AT&T employees. These are people who do our
job. These are people telling us that we can have better.
These are competitors, but they're people in our industry who
are trying to support us."
Attendees also went to workshops on movement building, the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, online organizing and new member
orientation. They pulled out their wallets and helped stamp
big money out of politics by legally stamping that message on
our nation's currency. And activists picketed outside of
Portland's local broadcast station, KOIN TV, which has brought
in union busters following the NABET-CWA contract expiration
and sent good union jobs to right-to-work (for less) Indiana.
The Unity@Mobility campaign kicked off this past fall with
a push to educate Mobility members, many of whom aren't
familiar with unions or the benefits of having a union