Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Keep Those Calls to Your Senators Coming

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CWAers in California call their senators.

Below: An activist passes out copies of CWA's latest Fix the Senate Now publication.

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Thousands of activists from 50 progressive organizations, all part of the "Fix the Senate Now" coalition, participated in a "Week of Action" and a National Call-In Day on Dec. 19, contacting their senators about the urgent need for Senate rules reform.

Led by CWA's Legislative Political Action Teams, CWA activists started early in the week, leafleting worksites, cell phones in hand, to make it easy for CWA members to call. Mobilization grew to include social media, an expanded petition drive and the distribution of flyers to Senate offices.

So far this week, the Fix the Senate Coalition contacted more than 2 million members and generated texts, emails and phone calls that shut down the U.S. Capitol switchboard for a time. Coalition members distributed flyers to Senate offices, helped generate nearly half a million Facebook "likes," and are continuing the petition drive enabling ordinary Americans to stand up for real Senate rules and filibuster reform.

Coalition organizations participating include: Sierra Club, CWA, MoveOn, UAW, Working Families Party, Common Cause, AFL-CIO, IBEW, Alliance for Justice, NAACP, Demos and many more.

The action coincides with Senate leaders working to finalize a final package of reforms, and it's critical that the final reform package includes all our identified priorities. They are:

  • End the filibuster on the motion to proceed. Right now, an individual Senator can block all discussion of any issue.

     

  • Require a "talking filibuster," so Senators actually have to hold the floor and speak to the measure.

     

  • Require that 41 Senators show they support the filibuster. Right now, the burden is on the majority to get 60 votes to stop a filibuster.

     

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

We want to keep those calls coming, push senators to do the right thing in January and make the changes needed to reform the broken Senate. Pick up the phone now and call 1-888-966-9836 or text RULESREFORM to 69866. You'll be patched through to your Senators' offices.

Our window of opportunity opens on Jan. 3, when the new Senate convenes for business on its first legislative day, and changes can be made using the "constitutional option," which requires 51 votes to change the rules for the new session of the Senate.

Cohen: We Need Senate Rules Reform

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CWA President Cohen wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post this week explaining the need for senate rules reform, which can be read in its entirety here.

Here's an excerpt:

Without reform, we've witnessed 386 silent filibusters during Sen. Harry Reid's six years as majority leader. Lyndon B. Johnson served six years as Senate majority leader with one filibuster.

In the past six years, a number of critical bills suffered silent deaths. Lacking 60 votes, the DISCLOSE Act, which would have increased transparency for independent groups' campaign spending, died without discussion. Senate Republicans blocked the Bring Jobs Home Act, an insourcing bill that would have ended tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. A minority of senators also prevented debate on the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, which would have created new job-training programs in targeted fields like conservation and firefighting. The DREAM Act was blocked despite overwhelming popular and Senate support for the children of immigrants. The Employee Free Choice Act and climate change legislation both came very close to 60 votes, but fell short. These and too many other critical issues couldn't get even a minute of debate on the Senate floor.

The constitutional option isn't unusual. It's not radical or even partisan. In fact, each time the filibuster rule has been amended most recently in 1975 reformers used the constitutional option at the start of a new session to compel the Senate to act. Both Richard Nixon and Robert Byrd have argued in favor of using this parliamentary procedure.

On Jan. 3, that small window of opportunity to exercise the constitutional option will again open. Our democracy can't afford to wait another two years. We have by far the most expensive Senate campaigns ever, with the 2012 election spending approaching $743 million. Yet only weeks later, we could again be facing a Senate that does practically nothing that Americans voted for and debates few issues of the day.

CWA, Allies Call for Conditions in T-Mobile-MetroPCS Merger

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A broad group of national public interest organizations, representing 20 million U.S. households, told the Federal Communications Commission this week that the proposed T-Mobile USA-MetroPCS merger must include conditions that maintain good jobs here in the U.S. and return jobs that have been sent offshore.

Organizations joining CWA's call for conditions on the merger include the NAACP, SEIU, Sierra Club, National Consumers League, Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Community Change, Jobs With Justice and USAction.

The mayors of Tampa, Fla., Charleston, S.C., and Richmond, Va., also weighed in with the FCC on the need to safeguard U.S. jobs. T-Mobile USA is a major employer in all three communities.

"Clearly, many feel that protecting U.S. jobs is in the public interest. The FCC should impose specific conditions protecting T-Mobile employment," said CWA Senior Director George Kohl. "We are all asking the FCC to make this a 'growth and opportunity merger' for U.S. workers too."

Jobs are a big concern, as MetroPCS already outsources its entire customer care, billing, payment processing and logistics operations. Many of its call centers are located in Mexico, Antigua, Panama, the Philippines and other countries.

T-Mobile USA closed seven U.S. call centers earlier this year, displacing 3,300 employees and moving work to the Philippines and Central America.

T-Mobile USA workers are organizing for CWA representation and have strong support from their German colleagues who recently launched a signature drive to support workers' rights for T-Mobile USA workers, participated in a Facebook protest and have a petition campaign underway to end offshoring and outsourcing of call center and network jobs.

American Airlines Agents Vote on CWA Representation

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American Airlines passenger service agents are celebrating their vote on CWA representation by leaving messages of support at 1-855-4CWAYES.

"I'm voting 'yes for CWA' because I want to have job protections, and to be able to protect my benefits," said Doreen Kozak, an agent at JFK. "We need a voice and not just have the company say this is what's going to happen to you.

"If there is a merger with US Airways, we will also need to make sure that seniority integration works fairly, and the best way to do that is to have CWA representation," Kozak added.

The National Mediation Board election began Dec. 4, with voting underway through Jan. 15. The results will be announced on Jan. 15.

CWA members who are US Airways agents have been supporting the organizing effort and are phone-banking their American colleagues now, answering questions about how CWA representation benefits agents, especially in the event of a merger. A merger with US Airways is a real possibility, and some industry analysts believe it will be announced by the end of the year.

Agents with questions about voting should also call 1-855-4CWAYES (1-855-429-2937) or email cwa4aa@sbcglobal.net. To request duplicate voting instructions from the NMB, use this form.

NABET-CWA Member, NBC Reporter and Producer Freed After Capture in Syria

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From left: NBC's Ghazi Blakiz, Richard Engel and John Kooistra.

 

A NABET-CWA cameraman for NBC, along with a producer and news reporter Richard Engel, were freed after being held for five days by a Syrian militia group likely loyal to Syrian President Assad.

John Kooistra, a member of NABET-CWA Local 51011, NBC producer Ghazi Balkiz and Engel were attacked by a group of about 15 gunmen and forced into a container truck.

Engel told NBC: "We were with some gunmen, some rebels, who were escorting us. They executed one of them on the spot. Then they took us to a series of safe houses and interrogation places. And they kept us blindfolded, bound. We weren't physically beaten or tortured. It was a lot of psychological torture. Threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first. When we refused, there were mock shootings."

Kooistra described how he had "made good with my maker" during the captivity and "prepared to die many times." Balkiz said the group "kept each other's spirits up."

Kooistra is a longtime NABET-CWA activist. During the ABC lockout in 1998, Kooistra, who was working at ABC, organized mobile picketing all over New York City to picket scab crews, recalled NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce. ABC suspended Kooistra, but he won his case in arbitration.

Separately TNG-CWA condemned the kidnapping in Syria of the NBC news crew and assaults by Israeli soldiers on two Reuters cameramen who report being struck by rifle butts, forced to strip and attacked with tear gas in Hebron last week.

TNG-CWA's Executive Board demanded immediate action to address both the assault on the Reuters cameramen and the NBC journalist and crew. "While we welcome the news that the Israel Defense Forces are looking into the allegations, an investigation by itself is not enough. The unconscionable actions in both Israel and Syria must have swift and serious consequences," the board said.

Alliance@IBM Fights Retirement Overhaul

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IBM management has proven to be Scrooge once again. Right before the holidays, human resources emailed IBM employees to tell them that its 401(k) plan would be shifting its semi-monthly matching contribution to once a year.

That means that any employee that leaves the company before the Dec. 15 cut-off date will lose the entire match for the year. And this move also robs employees of potential interest and investment growth.

Alliance@IBM a nationwide union organizing campaign and membership organization for current employees, former employees and retirees is petitioning IBM to reverse this decision.

"This decision negatively affects tens of thousands of U.S. IBM employees and their families," says the petition. "IBM is, once again, reneging on their respect for their U.S. employees, their families and the communities in which they live. This decision is worse than the Pension decision of 1999, because the 401(k) plan was supposed to supplement the IBM Pension Plan, then. Today, the IBM 401(k) plan is crucial to each employee's future retirement and IBM need not tamper with the original agreement with their U.S. employees. Reverse the decision now."

Sign the petition here.

And if you're active IBM employee, click here to join Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701.

The danger is that other companies will be looking at this money-saving effort and follow suit. IBM's 401(k) plan is the largest private sector defined contribution plan in the country, with $37.6 billion in assets, according to Reuters.

"A national trend toward annual matches would be bad news for workers, especially middle- and lower-income households already finding it very difficult to build significant nest eggs through the 401(k) system," wrote Reuters columnist Mark Miller.

Bargaining Updates

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  • CWA Local 1039 has reached a tentative agreement with Capital Child Care in Trenton, NJ. The ratification vote is scheduled for Dec. 20. Read more here.

     

  • AFA-CWA members are planning to picket the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport the day before renewed negotiations with Piedmont Airlines. Three days of contract talks with the NMB start Jan. 23 in Salisbury, Md. Read more here.

Please Help CWAers Hit Hard by Hurricane Sandy

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CWA members rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

Hundreds of CWA members along the East Coast have suffered great losses from Hurricane Sandy. CWAers in New Jersey and New York have been especially hard hit. Some have suffered serious damage to their homes and cars, some have lost everything.

This video tells just part of the storm that overwhelmed so many.

If you can, this holiday season, please help our sisters and brothers rebuild their lives by making a contribution to the special CWA Disaster Relief Fund. Send your check, payable to the CWA Disaster Relief Hurricane Sandy Fund to:

CWA Disaster Relief Hurricane Sandy Fund
CWA Secretary-Treasurer's Office
501 3rd St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

Stamp Out Money in Politics

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Stamp the money out of politics.

 

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. How?

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.

Check out www.StampStampede.org.

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The staff of the CWA Newsletter wishes all our readers a very happy (and safe) holiday season.

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