Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Cohen: Fix the Dysfunctional Senate

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Fix The Senate Now

 

CWA President Larry Cohen appeared on NewsTalk, a Washington, D.C., public affairs television show, on Tuesday to discuss how the Senate filibuster is undermining democracy.

"The American people need to demand that the majority have rules that mean that key issues of the day are discussed not buried," he said.

Watch the video here.

CWA and progressive allies like Sierra Club, United Auto Workers, Common Cause, NAACP and more, are working for real reform of the Senate rules. Right now it takes 60 votes for the Senate to do anything, turning the country's great deliberative body into a dysfunctional mess. Read more at www.fixthesenatenow.com.

Here's how a simple majority of senators (at least 51 votes) can change the rules on the first day of the new Congress:

1. End the filibuster on the motion to proceed. Currently, a single senator can block Senate discussion of critical issues.

2. Require Senators who want to filibuster a bill to have 40 other Senators with them. The current rules put all of the burden on the majority, it's time that those who want to hold up debate prove they have the votes.

3. Streamline the process for approving judicial nominations and executive branch appointments.

American Airlines Agents Vote!

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After a year of delays, nearly 9,700 American Airlines passenger service agents finally began voting this week in their first union representation election.

Voting, by telephone or over the Internet, runs through Jan. 15.

At stations across the country, workers celebrated the start of the election with "Vote Yes" cakes. In Boston, local elected officials, representatives of the faith community and neighborhood associations rallied with passenger service agents at the American Airlines cargo facility at Logan International Airport, delivering a petition to management asking them to treat employees fairly.

"In the airline industry, if you have no representation, you are considered a weak link and will most likely be outsourced," said Richard Rivera, a 12-year veteran at the airline. "So we need a contract and CWA will help us."

In the middle of its bankruptcy, AMR, American's parent company, has spent millions of dollars trying to derail the agents' union election. It's withheld employees' names and addresses, so voting instructions couldn't be mailed. It's sued the National Mediation Board, and AMR's lawyers even attempted to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, only to be dismissed by Justice Antonin Scalia last week.

Even now, AMR continues to try to rig the election by padding the voting lists with 900 people who haven't worked for the airline for a year. Many are unreachable or were hired in recent months, well after the eligibility cut-off date, in an attempt to dilute the percentage of "yes" votes.

AMR is also seeking to exclude agents who just lost their jobs and have recall rights, as well as those still working during the voting process but have plans to retire. Isn't that ironic? A year ago, this is the same company that actually wanted to give workers fired nearly a decade ago recall rights in an attempt to derail the union election.

But AMR clearly doesn't care about its employees or customers. As the busy holiday travel season nears, AMR continues to outsource longtime employees and replace them with low-paid contractors with little industry experience.

Annette Rocco, a 34-year veteran of the airline, said she was sent to Dallas for five weeks of intensive customer service training. The new low-wage employees get two weeks of training.

"The poor passengers," said Rocco, who was recently laid off at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn. "You have a handful of people working ridiculous hours, people with black holes for eyes, trying to do the job of 50 people."

Renee Similien had worked the First Class check-in counter at Logan Airport for the past 12 years until last month. She said she was working 50-60 hour weeks for the past several years saving for her child's college tuition, and her salary maxed out at $50,000 a year.

"Everyone who was at max pay was kicked out," she said, adding that her replacement is currently making $9 an hour without benefits. "I've received over 20 handwritten cards from first class passengers I've assisted over the years telling me how upset they are with what's happening."

 

Flight Attendants To Have Safety And Health Protections In the Cabin

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AFA-CWA has successfully achieved Occupational Safety and Health protections for commercial aircraft, after tireless advocacy to improve safety and health standards in its members' workplace.

"AFA-CWA looks forward to continuing work with the FAA and OSHA as we finally bring vital safety and health protections to our nation's Flight Attendants. We welcome the opportunity to serve as the voice for Flight Attendants as we close this long overdue loophole," said Veda Shook, AFA-CWA International President. "AFA-CWA Flight Attendants have been forceful advocates for OSHA protections, and appreciate the efforts of FAA and OSHA to ensure safety and health standards for those working inside our nation's aircraft cabins a change that will also benefit the millions of passengers who travel on commercial flights."

In 1975, the FAA claimed exclusive jurisdiction over workplace safety and health for all crewmembers, preventing OSHA, the agency that regulates the safety and health of most U.S. workers, from protecting Flight Attendants and other crewmembers while working onboard commercial airline flights. AFA-CWA has pursued legal and regulatory solutions to extend OSHA safety and health protections to workers in the airline industry. The new FAA policy announcement comes after AFA-CWA aggressively advocated for Flight Attendant safety and health protections to be included in the FAA reauthorization bill that was signed by President Obama in February 2012.

Flight Attendants currently have OSHA protections at work in places other than where they spend the majority of their time the passenger cabin. The new policy statement extends many of the OSHA protections already in place to the aircraft cabin.

The FAA/OSHA policy statement can be viewed here.

CWAers to Demonstrate on Dec. 10 for Fair 'Fiscal Cliff' Solution

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AFL-CIO voter survey shows strong support for safeguarding benefits working families count on and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share.

Below: Members of Local 1103 send a message to Rep. Nan Hayworth.

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CWA members are joining candlelight vigils outside congressional offices, rallies, town hall meetings and many other actions on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, part of a nationwide campaign to make sure that the solution to our country's fiscal crisis makes the wealthy pay their fair share and doesn't cut benefits that working families depend on.

Across CWA, in every district, actions will be held to reinforce the need to keep Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid strong. CWA members can check out events in their area at www.americawantstowork.org. Please send photos of actions to news@cwa-union.org.

As part of the campaign, CWAers also are collecting thousands of "Hands Off Medicare" letters and postcards that will go to members of Congress. To send a message telling your member of Congress "Hands Off Medicare," click here.

"Lots of people have had lots of different agendas, and it's time to unite and bring together organizations that haven't been good government groups, and start to engage in these process issues," said George Kohl, a senior director at CWA, told Roll Call.

CWA Local 1103 got an early start, and handbilled during a local Hudson Valley action, asking New York residents to demand no tax cuts for millionaires and no cuts to Medicare. The Mid-Hudson Valley 99% coalition organized a banner drop at a Beacon, NY, highway overpass asking residents to call Representative Nan Hayworth (R-18) and tell her, as her last act in Congress, to vote against any tax cuts for millionaires. CWA members were a big part of the campaign to defeat Hayworth and elect Democrat Sean Maloney to the seat.

CWA and progressive allies are pressing hard for three principles in the fiscal negotiations: no tax cuts for the top 2 percent of earners, a tax on financial speculation so that those who contribute to excessive Wall Street speculation pay, and no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The financial speculation tax, which CWA and a group of unions and progressive groups support, would discourage, or at least penalize, high-frequency trading (HFT). HFT enables Wall Street traders to make hundreds sometimes thousands of trades per second, and they make money by taking advantage of miniscule fluctuations in stock prices and other factors. These trades largely are responsible for exacerbating the Flash Crash of 2010 a brief market collapse that evaporated millions of dollars in a matter of minutes.

These HFT traders produce zero benefit for working Americans and place pensions at risk when their software glitches send markets into a frenzy. By taxing these kinds of dangerous trades we can level the playing field for good investors and raise revenue for the programs and projects we need most.

Bargaining Updates

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  • At AT&T Southwest, 22,000 CWA members are covered by the contract that expires April 6, 2013. Union and management bargainers have agreed to begin early negotiations on Dec. 8.

     

  • At CenturyLink (the former Qwest operation), 13,000 CWA members in 13 states in District 7 continue to bargain. The contract is being extended as negotiations continue.

     

  • Negotiations are ongoing for CenturyLink workers covered by two separate contracts in Arkansas, members of CWA Local 6171.

     

  • Separate negotiations covering 18,000 CWAers at AT&T West and 3,200 CWA members at AT&T East in Connecticut are continuing.

     

  • At Verizon Southwest, negotiations continue for 1,800 CWA members.

 

CWA/NETT Takes Video Editing Class to Canada

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CWAers learn the basics of Final Cut Pro.

 

CWA/NETT's mobile training lab recently traveled to Canada to teach the basics of Final Cut Pro to members.

Here's what Rosemary Knes, a participant in the editing course in Toronto had to say:

In my 24 years of employment at the Ottawa Citizen, through many company owners, I have never once been given a formal training opportunity such as the educational course I attended in Toronto on behalf of this union.

That it was my union that stepped in to fill this breach is in many ways not surprising to me. In my working career, I have always been fully conscious that my employment conditions are very much the result of a long history of union bargaining and activism.

What I have found surprising, and humbling, is the deep generosity of the Canadian Media Guild and CWA/SCA Canada in providing such a high level of quality in the course instruction and accommodation.

Toronto was just the latest stop on a tour that's included New York City; Minneapolis, Minn.; Cleveland, Ohio; Manchester, NH; and Portland, Maine. More and more TV stations are migrating to Final Cut Pro video editing systems in broadcasting, and many newspapers are moving to video reporting without even training their employees. But that's where CWA/NETT comes in. Instructor Jill Talluto, a former CBS video editor, has trained dozens of CWAers during these three-day workshops on shooting, editing, and mixing video and audio.

CWA/NETT Academy provides instruction and training in state-of-the-art technologies across manufacturing, media and other sectors. Learn more at www.cwanett.org.

CWAers 'Smash the TPP'

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CWA activists joined trade justice advocates for a cross-border action against the Trans Pacific Partnership, an enormous trade deal that amounts to "NAFTA on steroids."

More than 200 people rallied at Peace Arch Park, which straddles British Columbia and Washington State, last Saturday to bring attention to the latest round of closed-door trade talks in Auckland, New Zealand. More than 600 major corporations have had access to all stages of the negotiations, while the public and Congress have had zero input. At stake are good American jobs, environmental standards and consumer rights.

The rally included labor leaders, family farmers, immigration reformers, public health advocates, environmentalists, students, small businesses and more. Watch demonstrators "smash the TPP" in this video from the TPP X Border rally.

These activists are gaining support. This week 23 senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama outlining their concerns with the proposed trade treaty, urging him to include in any agreement, specific provisions that protect American jobs.

"It should be crafted to maximize good job creation and market expansion while minimizing the incentives for further off-shoring of middle class jobs," they wrote.

Read the full text here.

Stand Up for Ohio Trains Grassroots Leaders

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Stand Up for Ohio brought together 52 grassroots leaders from across the state last weekend to work on movement building and organizing plans for 2013.

At the training session, CWAers joined students, union stewards, pastors and community activists. Ideas ranged from occupying the public transit system to mass rallies in Columbus. Building on their election year work, it was one of the best examples of groups coming together to build a movement for change.

CWA District 4 Vice President Linda Hinton is now working with other leaders to hammer out the final details of the 2013 strategy.

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