November 18, 2009
In This Issue:
- CWA Speaks Out on Health Care:
Cheers U.S. House, Opposes Senate Excise Tax funding
- Family Medical Leave Finally
Coming for Flight Attendants
- Opposition Growing Across the
U.S. to Verizon-Frontier Deal
- German Telecom Delegation
- California Congresswoman
Introduces Broadband Affordability Measure
CWA Speaks Out on Health Care: Cheers U.S. House, Carefully
health care reform that meets our principles and priorities has
cleared the House. That's the good news. However, we need to
mobilize to eliminate the "excise tax" and shape the health care
reform legislation pending in the Senate.
We are mobilizing like never before to defeat a "excise tax"
proposal in the Senate which would fund health care reform by taxing
all health plans with family benefits exceeding a fixed threshold in
2013. Most CWA negotiated plans would be impacted. The result:
employers would decrease benefits, drop dependent coverage in some
cases and it would be even more difficult to negotiate fair benefits
with management. In particular, the fact that some dependents would
be dropped from coverage means the tax would disproportionately
affect women and children.
Public opinion is on our side, but there is much work to be done.
A recent Washington Post poll found that 61 percent of
Americans oppose the idea of taxing health care plans. And just last
week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid floated the idea of revising
the Medicare pay roll tax to either increase it for individuals
making more than $250,000 a year or to expand it to cover non-wage
income, such as interest and stock dividends.
USAction, an ally of CWA and co-founder of the progressive Health
Care for America coalition, is leading a coalition of non-labor
allies in the fight to defeat the excise tax. Meanwhile, CWA members
have logged more than 40,000 phone calls into Congress opposing the
"It's absurd to make those employers who already provide health
care coverage pay even more," said CWA President Larry Cohen.
"Instead, employers that don't cover their workers need to pay."
The better House financing measure would require most employers –
with an exemption for small business – to share in the
responsibility for financing health care coverage.
Family Medical Leave Finally Coming for Flight Attendants
Last week the Senate unanimously approved to extend Family and
Medical Leave Act protections to airline workers.
The Senate approved the Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical
Leave Act, S. 1422, closing a loophole in the law that has enabled
airlines to deny airline workers FMLA benefits. The 1993 law
provides workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave a year, but
airline management has claimed that the law did not apply to flight
crews because they did not work traditional 40-hour weeks.
"We look forward to an expedited process to finalize this very
important bill and for President Obama to officially sign it into
law this fall," said AFA-CWA President Patricia Friend. The House
passed virtually identical legislation last year and is expected to
adopt the Senate's version of the bill before the end of the year so
that it can go to President's Obama for his signature.
Opposition Growing Across the U.S. to Verizon-Frontier Deal
CWAers will be lobbying in West Virginia today against the
proposed $8.6 billion deal that would see Frontier Communications
Corp. acquire 4.8 million land lines in 14 states. The West Virginia
Public Service Commission's staff, the Consumer Advocate Division
(CAD), the Communications Workers of America and several other
telecommunications companies all submitted testimony earlier this
week opposing the proposed deal.
Meanwhile, a number of states have also weighed in against the
proposal. Earlier this month, regulatory staff in Oregon and
Washington State challenged the proposed deal, saying there is lots
of risk but very little upside. And that comes after the Ohio
Consumers' Counsel and the Illinois Attorney General each said the
deal should be rejected.
"We recommend that the Commission reject the Frontier purchase of
Verizon's telephone lines in Illinois because of serious concerns
about Frontier's ability to manage these assets," said Illinois
Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
In Ohio, Janine Migden-Ostrander, the state Consumers' Counsel
believes that this merger is not in the public's interest. "We are
concerned that Frontier will not be able to afford to maintain and
improve residential customers' service," Midgen-Ostrander said.
In addition, leaders of the Vermont House and Senate have
expressed opposition, saying a similar deal already executed in
their state proved to be bad for consumers.
German Telecom Delegation Visits D.C.
Workers with the German telecom firm Deutsche Telekom are in
Washington, D.C. this week, to learn more about the labor movement
in the U.S. telecom industry and to express support for T-Mobile USA
workers. T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom, which employs fair
labor practices in Germany, but has allowed its U.S. subsidiary to
run roughshod over the rights of workers. When Deutsche Telecom
acquired the American company in 2000, expectations were that it
would observe fair labor practices, but it has reneged on this
promise in every way.
T-Mobile employees have no union representation, and the National
Labor Relations Board has cited T-Mobile on multiple occasions for
violating federal labor laws. Indeed, the anti-union culture at
T-Mobile is so entrenched that management is supplied with written
materials depicting how to resist a union, how to counter "the union
game plan" and how to recognize "early signs of unionizing
The German workers, in D.C. for a week, will engage in organizing
and leafleting activities, meet with high-ranking Department of
Labor officials, participate in a number of CWA activities, and
squeeze in some sightseeing while they are here.
To read Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard? Deutsche
Telekom's U.S. Labor Practices, a brand new report about
Deutsche Telecom's shameful treatment of T-Mobile employees, go
And to learn more about issues T-Mobile employees face, visit:
California Congresswoman Introduces Broadband Affordability
The CWA has endorsed the Broadband Affordability Act of 2009,
which was introduced earlier this fall by Rep.Doris O. Matsui, a
Democrat who represents California's 5th District. The bill directs
the Federal Communications Commission to establish a broadband
program that provides low-income Americans living in rural and urban
areas with assistance in subscribing to affordable broadband
In a letter of support, CWA informed legislators that "Universal,
affordable access to high-speed communications networks is as
essential today as is access to voice communications. Enactment of
H.R. 3646 would help to ensure that every American has access to all
the promises of the information age. This would reduce the digital
divide that currently excludes low income persons, including many
minorities, from having access to broadband service. This
legislation is especially important in light of the current economic
climate, in which many hard working Americans simply cannot afford
to pay up to $60 a month to receive broadband service."
You can voice your support for this key legislation, which would
create jobs, improve the economy and expand Internet access, by
contacting members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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