Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Save the Date: Tell Your Lawmaker to Fix the Senate on Dec. 19

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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 rules.

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 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.

Public Strongly Backs Senate Rules Reform

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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 rules.


  • 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 said no.


  • 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 others.

Read the full letter here.

Michigan Passes Right to Work...for Less

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CWA activists rally outside the state Capitol.

Below: CWAers from around the state met in Lansing to join the protest.





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 as 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 growth.

"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 coverage," 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.

CWAers Celebrate Human Rights Day

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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 Austin.


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 Medicare.


On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, 100 progressive organizations — unions, civil rights groups, environmental advocates, community organizers and students — launched a nationwide democracy initiative.

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 celebrate it."

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.

Bargaining Updates

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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.


CWA Cosponsors National COSH Conference

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COSH Conference

CWA President Larry Cohen addresses 300 health and safety activists.

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 said.

In These Times Interviews President Cohen

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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 interview:

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.

Made-In-America Holiday Gift Guide

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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:
Brooks Brothers
Joseph Abboud
OshKosh B’gosh
Majestic Athletic
Timex watches
Naturalizer shoes
Nunn Bush shoes
Red Wing Shoes

Beauty Products:
Old Spice
Barrel of Monkeys
Candy Land
Chutes and Ladders
Connect 4
Game of Life
Hi Ho Cherry-O
Mouse Trap

Sports Equipment:
American Athletic
Louisville Slugger
MacGregor golf clubs
Standard Golf
Top-Flite golf balls

Stocking Stuffers:
Rayovac batteries
Bic Lighters
Ghirardelli chocolates
Jelly Belly
Laffy Taffy
Tootsie Roll Pops

Wine and Beer:
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Columbia Crest
St. Supery
Charles Krug
C.K. Mondavi
Gallo of Sonoma
Miller High Life
Miller Genuine Draft
Miller Lite
Milwaukee’s Best
Red Dog
Budweiser American Ale
Bud Light
Shock Top
Rolling Rock

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