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The Fix the Senate Now coalition is planning a full-scale lobby day
next Wednesday to urge senators to adopt real reform of the Senate
On Dec. 19, members of CWA, Sierra Club, United Auto Workers, Common
Cause, NAACP, AFL-CIO and more will be calling their senators. For a
reminder and instructions on how to participate in the call-in, text
FIXIT to 69866.
"We had enormous majorities. A great Congress. The best speaker ever,
Nancy Pelosi — that's what we call her. And Pelosi and the Congress
passed 435 pieces of legislation that never got discussed in the Senate
for a second,"
CWA President Larry Cohen told The Daily Beast. "At least the
American people will see a debate. We are entitled to a debate. We are
entitled to make people talk."
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
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.
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A new poll released today finds
overwhelming public support for reforming the Senate rules.
Conducted by Public Policy Polling in 10 states — Arkansas,
California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North
Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont — the survey found:
- A whopping 81 percent of respondents said the Senate "does not
deal with important issues facing the country in a timely manner,"
while only 14 percent believed the Senate does.
- Overwhelmingly, 61 percent of the public supports their senator
voting to change the Senate rules to "reduce gridlock." Only 25
percent wanted their senator to vote against changing the Senate
- Of those surveyed, 62 percent backs the concept of only allowing
one opportunity to filibuster a bill, instead of the four different
opportunities that the current Senate rules allow. Just 28 percent
opposed limiting senators to one opportunity.
- Asked if senators who filibuster a bill should continue to debate
the bill on the Senate floor, 70 percent said yes. Only 20 percent
- Of the respondents, 75 percent favored a proposal to change the
rules so that people who have been nominated to serve as judges have
an up or down vote on their nominations in a more timely manner.
Merely 17 percent opposed the idea.
In recent weeks, a number of Senators have charged that it would be
improper for the new Senate to change the rules by majority vote. But a
group of constitutional law and Senate procedure scholars disagree.
"With respect, such a concern confuses the power to change the
Senate's rules during a session, with the unquestioned constitutional
power of each incoming Senate to fix its own rules unencumbered by the
decisions of past Senates," they wrote in a letter sent to the Senate on
Wednesday. "The standing two-thirds requirement for altering the
Senate's rules is a sensible effort at preventing changes to the rules
in the midst of a game. It cannot, however, prevent the Senate, at the
beginning of a new game, from adopting rules deemed necessary to permit
the just, efficient and orderly operation of the 113th Senate."
The letter included endorsements from Michael McConnell (Stanford Law
professor, former federal judge), Charles Fried (Harvard Law professor,
former Solicitor General under President Reagan), Erwin Chemerinsky
(Dean of UC-Irvine Law School), Burt Neuborne (NYU Law professor) and
Read the full letter here.
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CWA activists rally outside the state Capitol.
Below: CWAers from around the state met in Lansing to join the
This week Michigan became the country's 24th "right to work" state.
But more than 12,000 protesters didn't let the misleadingly-named
legislation pass quietly.
CWA activists joined workers pouring into the streets and
flooding the state Capitol in what the
Detroit Free Press is calling "the largest public protest the
seat of state government has ever seen." A number of schools even closed
teachers joined the demonstration in Lansing. As soon as the
Michigan House voted, largely along party lines, to bar contracts
requiring public and private employees to pay union dues, people in the
gallery began chanting "Shame on you!" and "Recall! Recall! Recall!"
"The attack in Michigan, financed by the wealthiest 1/10th of 1
percent is an attack on our standard of living, not just union
finances," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "The real goal of funders
like billionaire Dick DeVos is to eliminate any voice for the 99 percent
— especially a union voice. We will stay focused on bargaining and
organizing rights just as the 1 percent is out to destroy those rights.
Setbacks like these must lead to a broader movement for economic justice
and democracy. Don't moan. Organize!"
Sue Mure of CWA Local 4123 coordinated active and retired CWAers from
around the state to meet at the state Capitol.
"Knowing what we were there for was frustrating, but it was also
rejuvenating and empowering to be in that group. It got you going," she
said. "We're down a battle, but we're ready for another fight."
Mure said a lot of non-labor supporters in the crowd were asking
CWAers about organizing, and a number of activists led discussions on
how to talk to your neighbors about the new law and how workers can
fight back in the legislature. "It was a great, peaceful, informative
rally and protest," she said.
The GOP argument that this legislation will spur business investment
and job creation is a flat out lie. In the words of President Obama,
"These so-called 'right-to-work' laws, they don't have to do with
economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really
talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has highlighted Indiana's economic success
since passing "right to work" as a motivation for Michigan to do the
same. But a
new Economic Policy Institute study found that not a single company
came to Indiana because of "right to work" and it continues to lose jobs
to non-"right to work" states.
Fred Morgan, President and CEO of Oklahoma's State Chamber,
even admits that he can't name any companies that have moved to
Oklahoma because of it's "right to work" legislation.
The law simply gives more power to corporations. Weakened unions are
simply the fastest way for business to achieve lower wages and higher
profits. And the result is that workers will realize fewer gains from
"A study by the University of Notre Dame in January found that the
average wages and benefits for non-farm workers in right-to-work states
was $57,732, while in states without the law it was $65,567. States with
anti-dues laws have higher rates of poverty and lower rates of health
The New York Times pointed out in an editorial.
The evidence is clear as day: This isn't "right to work." It's right
to work for less.
Note the graphic that clearly shows why Gov. Snyder pushed right to
work in the lame duck session. In next year's legislature, "right to
work" can't pass. Many Republican supporters of "right to work" were
defeated or aren't returning in January 2013.
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CWA Local 6316 members rally hold a candlelight vigil for Medicare,
Social Security and Medicaid.
CWA Local 6186 raises awareness at Texas State University in
CWAers and allies in Bakersfield, Calif., support the “Robin Hood
tax,” which would impose a financial transactions tax on the Wall
Street speculators who caused an economic meltdown.
CWA-RMC Vice President Adolphe Bernotas protests at a congressional
office in Florida.
CWA Local 13000 rallies for good jobs in the rain.
Milwaukee CWAers tell Sens. Herb Kohl and Ron Johnson to protect
On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, 100 progressive
organizations — unions, civil rights groups, environmental advocates,
community organizers and students — launched a nationwide democracy
Also on that day, across the country, CWA members joined candlelight
vigils outside congressional offices, rallies, town hall meetings and
other actions 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. (Don't see a photo of your action?
Check out all the events here. Have photos to send? Send to
These actions, and more, are intended to hold members of Congress
accountable and to keep Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid strong
while the "fiscal cliff" negotiations continue.
CWA leaders and others from the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, NAACP,
National Education Association, Common Cause and more met in Washington,
DC, to discuss how to build the movement for democratic and social
change and to talk about campaigns underway for real change.
CWA President Larry Cohen, with Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Tom
Udall (D-N.M.), outlined the campaign to win reforms of the Senate rules
to make the Senate function again. The U.S. Senate doesn't work. In
fact, it's become a block — or a barrier — to democracy, because too
many important issues don't get even one minute of discussion and debate
on the Senate floor because of the broken Senate rules.
"CWA members are involved because they know that if they want to
maintain their collective bargaining and organizing rights, they have to
reclaim democracy first," said CWA President
Larry Cohen in an interview with Truth Out. "There's a direct link
between the collapse of democracy, as it would be defined in most of the
world, and the collapse of bargaining rights in the U.S. which are lower
than in any other democracy except Colombia, if you call that a
democracy. In CWA, we focus increasingly on building a movement for
democracy and economic justice."
He added, "We've needed to take Human Rights Day [as our own] and
The Democracy Initiative's goal is social and economic justice, and
the group is working to end voter suppression, create a path to
citizenship for immigrants, get the money out of politics and fix the
broken Senate by changing the rules.
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- At AT&T Southeast, a new three-year agreement covering 23,000
workers was ratified by a 60 percent vote. It covers workers in
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North
Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
- At AT&T Southwest, 22,000 CWA members are covered by the contract
that expires April 6, 2013. Union and management bargaining teams
agreed to begin early negotiations last week.
- 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.
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CWA President Larry Cohen addresses 300 health and safety
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's Worker
Safety and Health Conference last week brought together 300 activists to
build a movement for worker safety and health.
The CWA-sponsored, two-day conference focused on what election
results mean for workplace and environmental safety and health. A series
of workshops focused on skills development. And participants —
representing a wide range of labor, environmental, COSH, academic, and
worker center organizations — shared information, experiences and
strategies on key safety and health issues.
CWA President Larry Cohen delivered the keynote speech, touching on
the decline of collective bargaining rights, filibuster reform, voter
registration, Citizens United and extravagant CEO pay.
"Our job is to fire people up, build a mass movement of workers," he
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In These Times' David Moberg talked with CWA President Larry
Cohen on the 25th anniversary of Jobs with Justice. Here's part of the
How would you assess the organization's
success, lessons learned, things you would do differently?
The key [lesson from that for] today is
partnering, which is what we're trying to do, to build a movement for
democracy &mdash that's the difference here [from 25 years ago] — and
economic justice with 50 million Americans. No one organization is going
to lead that [movement], and in fact we need millions of people to
organize in all kinds of ways to make that happen.
What we've learned is a plan was already
underway by the right-wing to, in my view, destroy democracy. Collective
bargaining rights were on the front end of that attack. We would now say
that the democracy pieces are forerunners. We can't just hope that
they'll occur. They're fundamental, about as fundamental as they've ever
been in the history of this country — getting the money out of politics;
money is not speech; corporations are not people. A lot of [the problems
with corporate political power] started with union-busting in the '40s.
Courts looked the other way and said it was free speech rights, and now
it has come to haunt the entire political system.
We have the worst Senate rules ever today.
We hope a small step will be taken soon in that regard [to change
filibuster rules]. Reform [on major issues] has been blocked for 10
years in any meaningful way because of how the Senate operates. We have
visions of what people did in the 1960s with civil rights, not realizing
that our government doesn't operate the same way anymore because of this
pervasive influence of the super-rich and right-wing.
Read the full interview here.
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Finding that perfect gift this holiday season doesn't have to be a
headache. Check out this Made in America, union-made gift guide. Here
are some highlights from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's
resource site, Labor 411. Gifts include those made by members of UNITE
HERE, Boilermakers, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain
Millers, Machinists, United Steelworkers, Teamsters, UAW, United Food
and Commercial Workers, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store
Union/UFCW and United Farm Workers.
Apparel and Accessories:
Nunn Bush shoes
Red Wing Shoes
Barrel of Monkeys
Chutes and Ladders
Game of Life
Hi Ho Cherry-O
MacGregor golf clubs
Top-Flite golf balls
Tootsie Roll Pops
Wine and Beer:
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Gallo of Sonoma
Miller High Life
Miller Genuine Draft
Budweiser American Ale