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CWA members from several California locals were outside Walmart
stores on Black Friday, supporting Walmart workers fight for fair
wages, hours and treatment. Members of UPTE Local 9119 joined the
crowd at the Richmond store, along with Rep. George Miller, ranking
member of the House Education and Labor Committee and part of the
House Democratic leadership.
Below: CWAers were part of a huge action in Milwaukee that hit
three Walmart stores. Activists gathered outside the stores, then
marched inside to show their support for Walmart workers.
CWA members were out in force on Black Friday, standing strong with
Walmart employees who are fighting against the company's mistreatment of
workers. Walmart routinely cuts workers' hours so that they're not
eligible for health care; many Walmart employees earn so little that
they are eligible for food stamps to make ends meet.
CWA members joined UFCW activists and other progressive allies at
prayer vigils and store demonstrations from New York to Colorado to
California. At many demonstrations, the groups delivered letters to
management calling on Walmart to stop its mistreatment of workers.
In Milwaukee, members of CWA Local 4603 were part of an awesome labor
action at several stores. Dru Zellmer, assistant chief steward at the
Local, reported: "We started off at the Capital Court store. The police
were out in force and restricted us to the sidewalk. The hundreds in
attendance chanted and walked the line. We all piled into buses and
moved to the next store. We arrived at the E. Capital store to a police
greeting. We surged up the front of the store chanting 'WE SUPPORT THE
WALMART WORKERS!' Looking around, we got lots of smiles from the
associates on duty. We made our point at that store and headed for the
last stop, the 27th Street store. We arrived again to a police greeting.
This time there were four cars and two wagons. The officers pulled out
their batons and threatened the group as we entered the parking lot.
They grabbed a couple of us in front. We pushed by and into the store.
We walked around every aisle in the store chanting and waving to all of
the associates. One of the women working actually was moved to tears;
just seeing that people would stand up for her and her family got to
her. It makes it all worth it to provide hope and let these workers know
there is a support system out there."
In Reno, Judy Jensen, a member of the CWA Local 9414,
told the News Review, "I'm out here to support the workers, not just
in Reno, but nationally."
Jensen said, "There's a lot of intimidation going on. I think Walmart
can do a much better job of paying their people...You know, they say
they give them health care, but there have been at least three studies
that show that their workers because of the wages are having to live
on public assistance."
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TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer was among featured speakers,
including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, on a press call Wednesday to demand
that the FCC hold public hearings before rushing into another damaging
rollback of media ownership rules.
"People need more time to talk about what kind of media they want and
what kind of policy affects that," Lunzer said, stressing that everyone
has a stake in diverse news coverage, diversity in hiring and diverse
ownership of media companies. Currently, women own less than 7 percent
of all broadcast outlets and people of color own just 3.6 percent of all
TV stations and only 8 percent of radio stations. Much of the rest are
controlled by media monopolies.
The lack of diversity would get even worse under the new rules, which
would allow a single company to own a daily newspaper, two TV stations
and up to eight radio stations in a single market. The company could
also be a community's Internet provider.
"Our democracy is supposed to be bottom up, not top down," Jackson
said. "When too few people own too much media, it is not healthy."
For more information about what's being proposed and what's at stake,
To listen to the news conference, click here.
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CWA and its progressive allies are reuniting an advocacy coalition to
build support for substantive Senate rules reforms at the start of the
CWA, Alliance for Justice, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause,
Sierra Club, and United Auto Workers will continue the work begun in
2010 when Democratic Sens. Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley and Tom Harkin led an
effort to overhaul the filibuster:
Facing unparalleled challenges a languid economic recovery,
crushing debt, and threats at home and abroad the country cannot
afford another two years of inaction fostered by outmoded and broken
In recent decades, Senate conventions have devolved to remove
incentives for bipartisan comity, collegiality, and compromise.
Whereas Senators once resorted to filibustering only in rare and
exceptional instances of intense opposition, rampant obstruction has
now transformed standard operating procedure. Today, majority rule in
the Senate is the exception, not the rule.
We believe that common sense reforms will end routine and reflexive
obstruction and will ensure that the Senate will once again be able to
address the critical issues facing our country.
After the announcement,
CWA President Larry Cohen told MSNBC.com that Reid's reforms won't
immediately allow the labor movement to pass priorities like the
Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). In 2009, the GOP used a filibuster to
prevented EFCA from being debated on the Senate floor despite majority
support. But that doesn't mean the reforms wouldn't do some good, he
said. MSNBC.com explained:
Merely forcing the Senate to debate bills, rather than being able
to filibuster up front, would be in the public interest.
"It's not so much about what are we going to enact," Cohen said,
noting that Republicans control the House anyway. "It's about, is the
Senate going to discuss anything?"
Forcing Republicans to talk while filibustering would focus
attention on their opposition to popular measures, like the DREAM Act.
"They'd actually have to say: 'For the first time ever in this
country, there's no American Dream for immigrants,'" Cohen said.
Cohen portrayed the prospective changes as part of a longer-term
strategy along with other good government measures like campaign
finance reform to fix what many progressives see as a broken
democratic process. Only when that's done, they argue, will it be
possible to enact a genuine, far-reaching progressive agenda.
"This is a linchpin in terms of how do we start to get a democracy
in this country again," Cohen said. "It's got nothing to do with labor
issues per se."
"The lowest hanging fruit on that tree are the Senate rules," he
added. "So it's a starting point."
Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell spent a number of days
this week in a heated debate over Reid's plan to prohibit filibusters
for "motions to proceed" to a bill, which allows debate on the floor to
"To the average American, these reforms are just common sense," Reid
said. "Americans believe Congress is broken. The only ones who disagree
are Mitch McConnell and Republicans in Congress."
To learn more, check out
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Raising the Social Security retirement age is a lousy idea.
Sure, this proposal to "fix" Social Security seems to have gained
momentum. But look closer and you'll see it's mostly among columnists,
CEOs, politicians and policymakers people who get paid way more than
average Americans, love their jobs and probably aren't counting down the
days until they get to stop working. These certainly aren't blue-collar
workers with physically demanding jobs.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein writes:
That's what's galling about this easy argument. The people who make
it, the pundits and the senators and the CEOs, they'll never feel it.
They don't want to retire at age 65, and they don't have short life
expectancies, and they're not mainly relying on Social Security for
their retirement income. They're bravely advocating a cut they'll
Just take a look at this graph (right).
Since 1977, the life expectancy of male workers retiring at age 65
has risen six years in the top half of earners. But the bottom half of
the income distribution saw their life expectancy grow just barely a
So raising the retirement age is neither simple nor fair.
In the words of
Nobel laureate economist and Social Security expert Peter Diamond:
What do we know about the people who retire at 62? On average,
shorter life expectancy and lower earnings than people retiring at
later ages. If anyone stood up and said, "Instead of doing uniform
across the board cuts, let's make them a little worse for people who
have shorter life expectancies and lower earnings," they'd be laughed
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The CWA Executive Board applauds Rosemary Capasso, a passenger
service agent at Dallas Ft. Worth Airport.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia one of the most "business
friendly" justices has cleared the way for nearly 9,700 American
Airlines passenger service agents to vote on union representation.
Denying the airline's last-ditch plea for an appeal, the high court
finally put an end to attacks on workers' democratic right to an
Sample instructions were sent to CWA and American Airlines management
this week, and on Dec. 4, voting instructions will be sent to agents,
with voting conducted by telephone or Internet. The National Mediation
Board will tally votes at 2 pm on Jan. 15.
This was just the latest legal challenge to employees' struggle for a
union voice. For more than a year, American Airlines has been battling
workers and CWA over agents' democratic right to vote, ignoring
declarations by leading members of Congress that agents were entitled to
vote, two decisions by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and previous
directives from the NMB setting an election date.
The stakes for agents are high. American Airlines has been cutting
and outsourcing jobs, completely closing operations in at least seven
stations and cutting agents' wages and benefits, all with more than $5
billion in the bank. Ken Merker, a 20-year airport agent in Miami, says
agents have fought long and hard for their right to vote. "When we start
voting on Dec. 4, it will have been a year since we filed for this
election and what a terrible year it has been. American in bankruptcy,
our pensions frozen, our retiree medical gone, our medical costs
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied the airline's request for a
hearing without comment. But American Airlines hasn't stopped trying to
interfere with workers' rights.
"American is trying to disenfranchise agents' right to vote, by
seeking to exclude from the voting lists agents who just lost their jobs
and have recall rights, as well as those still working for American
Airlines during the voting process but who have plans to retire. And
it's trying to pad the voting lists by adding nearly 900 workers.
American Airlines has had a year to make its claims about changes to the
lists, but doing it now, on the eve of the election, makes its true
motive clear. American Airlines wants to throw another monkey wrench
into the process, but agents are ready," said Sandy Rusher, CWA
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Here's an easy and fun way to take a stand against money in politics.
The website www.StampStampede.org is part of the movement to amend
the Constitution to get money out of politics and to make it clear that
corporations are not people and money isn't speech. It was started by
Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame, and has lots of supporters,
including CWA allies Public Citizen and People for the American Way.
And it's 100 percent guaranteed that others will get the message.
StampStampede sells stamps (at cost, about $8) with several messages,
including "Stamp Money Out of Politics" and "Corporations are not
people, money is not free speech." When you stamp a dollar bill which
is completely legal it will be seen by 875 people over the next 2.5
years, he estimates. Ben Cohen calls it "a petition on steroids."
Several thousand stamps already have been sold, Ben Cohen says, with
ordinary Americans taking a stand against money in politics and joining
the fight to return our democracy to the people.
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CWA President Larry Cohen and Greenpeace USA Executive Director
Philip D. Radford wrote the
following op-ed in The Huffington Post:
Even in good weather a major threat looms over many of our largest
cities. The threat is in the form of poison gases stored at thousands of
U.S.-based chemical plants. In the event of an accident, terrorist
attack or another climate disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, millions of
lives could be put in jeopardy. Although a worse case chemical disaster
didn't happen this time, it easily could have. For example, it was
widely reported that Sandy knocked over a 22-car freight train adjacent
to the New Jersey Turnpike in one of the most densely populated areas of
the U.S. If just one of those rail cars was carrying a poison gas such
as chlorine and it had ruptured, over a million people would be at risk
of immediate injury or death. Trains routinely service major chemical
plants. There are 38 high-risk chemical plants in New Jersey, New York
and Pennsylvania that each put 100,000 or more workers and residents at
risk of a poison gas catastrophe. When these plants suddenly lose power,
they can become even more dangerous. Last year a sudden power failure
triggered a "shelter-in-place"
warning to Texas City communities surrounding BP, Valero and
Hurricanes and human error aren't the only threats to chemical
facilities. On October 11th,
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a chilling warning saying
that these same chemical plants and other sectors are vulnerable to
cyber attacks, "The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be
a cyber Pearl Harbor."
In the wake of the horrific September 11th attacks, the nation's
chemical facilities commanded the attention of both political parties.
Leaders such as Governor Christine Whitman (R-NJ)
gave voice to this problem from inside the Environmental Protection
Agency. Chemical facilities near the nation's capitol transitioned from
deadly chemicals to safer alternatives. Bills were drafted in Congress
to ensure that the millions of Americans who live in the shadow of a
chemical plant would never be exposed to harm.
But the oil and chemical lobby and their allies in Congress
(including Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Representative Paul
Ryan) and the Bush White House
opposed promising legislation (H.R. 2868) and even helped scuttle
Whitman's plan to use the Clean Air Act's "Bhopal amendment" to prevent
chemical disasters at high-risk chemical plants. Now, over a decade
later, these plants still pose a threat to us, in major cities and small
towns, every single day.
One in three Americans lives in the shadow of one of these
facilities, spread out across the country. In fact, the danger zones of
these plants often extend so far that you might not even know you live
or work in it. Due to the volume of chemicals stored at these
facilities, an accident or an attack could release a cloud of poison gas
that could endanger people 14 miles down wind. Many of these facilities
are more vulnerable to storms because they are located in ports along
our coasts. They are both environmental and security risks the
U.S. Army Surgeon General estimated that an attack on just one U.S.
chemical plant could kill or injure up to 2.4 million people.
Fortunately, there are proven affordable solutions. Since 2009,
The Clorox Company converted all of their plants to safer processes.
Yet the industry as a whole has demonstrated a gross failure to act.
If Hurricane Sandy had also triggered a chemical disaster, it would
have exponentially increased the already historic impact it has already
wrought. It's time to get serious about these hazards. President Obama
and the EPA can use the Clean Air Act to safeguard people working and
living downwind of our nation's highest risk chemical plants.
Environmental and labor organizations
stand behind this common sense proposal. It's also smart politics,
and it would have the support of anyone who's concerned about protecting
the safety and security of their city, their job and the environment.
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Antionia Peel and Laurie Rivard celebrate election results at
Purple Communications in Oakland, Calif.
More than 225 eligible certified American Sign Language interpreters
at Purple Communications, the second largest video relay service
provider in the country, voted to join The Newspaper Guild yesterday in
California, Arizona and Colorado.
Purple Communications call centers are the first video relay service
providers in the country to unionize. Workers who led organizing at
their sites said the votes marked the beginning of a new set of
professional work standards for video interpreters and new opportunities
to advocate for the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.
"Everyone at CWA has given us our Capitol 'V' in Voice. History has
been set. We only have the stars to shoot for! Let's show everyone what
we can do. United we stand!" said Antonia Peel of Oakland, Calif.
The interpreters will become part of TNG-CWA Local 39521, the San
Francisco-based Pacific Media Workers Guild, which also includes the
900-member California Federation of Interpreters.
Next up: Interpreters at Purple Communications in Chicago are
scheduled to vote on Dec. 14th.
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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 in just a few sentences
and photos, if possible. Send your info to
Here are a few examples to get the ball rolling:
- CWA Local 1040, the statewide New Jersey local, collected supplies
for the Mercer Street Friends food bank for Hurricane Sandy victims,
and members now are participating in the Coats for Kids project.
- CWA Local 4100 in Detroit works with a local church to help the
homeless, and members and stewards are geared up for the annual
Adopt-a-Family program that makes sure needy families will have
holiday toys and gifts.
- In New York City, CWA Local 1180's annual toy drive is underway,
with shop stewards and members collecting toys at every work site. The
unwrapped toys will be donated to children from the Black Veterans for
Let us know what your local has been doing this year! Send your
photos and a few sentences to