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Coalitions Grow, Energy Builds as Workers, Allies Unite Nationwide

CWA Activists Describe Progress, Victories During 'Virtual Town Hall' Tuesday

As many state and federal lawmakers try to crush workers' rights, CWA and its allies are rapidly building momentum and networks, as CWA's fourth "virtual town hall" phone call illustrated Tuesday night.

About 2,000 CWA members around the country listened as CWA leaders, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and four CWA activists updated campaigns to fight back, including more than 100 May Day events around the country last Sunday that brought together immigrant and workers' rights activists.

Tomeka Cooley of CWA Local 4322 works a petition drive to overturn Ohio’s new anti-union law.
Tomeka Cooley of CWA Local 4322 works a petition drive to overturn Ohio’s new anti-union law.

"We're uniting like never before," CWA President Larry Cohen said. "We're building unity with those who agree that workers' rights are human rights. Now more than ever there's an opportunity to build a broader movement, and that's exactly what we're doing."

Ebony Martin, a steward and legislative-political chair for CWA Local 4320, described standing-room-only training sessions for people learning to circulate petitions to overturn Ohio's new union-busting law. And she looked forward to a major rally tonight, May 5, at the state capitol.

"The momentum that is building in Ohio is unlike anything we've ever seen," Martin said. "People are fed up, and I don't just mean union members. Governor John Kasich's agenda is hurting everyone, except of course corporations and the rich. They're getting more tax breaks than ever."

Local 3179 President Steve Sarnoff delivers a report card to Florida’s union-busting governor, Rick Scott.
Local 3179 President Steve Sarnoff delivers a report card to Florida’s union-busting governor, Rick Scott.

In Florida, Local 3179 President Steve Sarnoff said CWA has been part of an "army of activists" that, so far, has helped prevent passage of a long list of anti-union, anti-worker bills. Florida's legislative session ends Friday night, and activists are working around the clock to keep the proposals from becoming law, he said.

"Many of these proposals are so unacceptable to common decency that many moderate Republicans could not and would not support them," Sarnoff said. "We have a history of supporting those candidates that support us, without regard to party. These men and women have withstood attack after attack, threat after threat from the governor and the Republican national leadership."

At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, officials waged a bitter anti-union campaign over 10 years to try to stop research assistants from organizing. The 685 RAs finally prevailed, joining CWA Local 1104 and bargaining a first contract.

"Despite our employer stonewalling us at the bargaining table, our group held together and waged a tenacious contract campaign based largely on direct action," RA and organizer Adam Jacobs said. "We built coalitions, organized large demonstrations, confronted top administrators at their formal events, and we occupied an administrator's office. Through collective bargaining, we won a 2 percent raise, the waiver of an unjust annual student fee, better dental and vision benefits, and a fair grievance and arbitration procedure."

New Mexico CWAers and other activists rallied this spring as they geared up to successfully challenge Gov. Susana Martinez’s attempt to shut down the state labor board.
New Mexico CWAers and other activists rallied this spring as they geared up to successfully challenge Gov. Susana Martinez’s attempt to shut down the state labor board.

In New Mexico, workers are celebrating a huge victory: A state Supreme Court ruling saying anti-union Gov. Susana Martinez abused her power by illegally trying to dismantle the Public Employee Relations Board. The Court ordered to rehire the fired members and stay out of the board's business.

"A coalition of unions, public and private sector, took Governor Martinez to court, and we won," said CWA Local 7076 Executive Vice President Sue Wenzel. "We also won in the court of public opinion. We showed what we can accomplish when we stick together."

Trumka told the CWA activists that he's inspired by what they've done, as he's been inspired "by the energy and activities that we've been seeing across the country."

"It's really made me proud, and more optimistic about our future than I've been in a long time," he said. "As governors in some states have come after us with the most vicious assaults in decades, we've stood up and said, 'No more, no way, we'd had enough.'"

"To hear the May 3 call and any of the three previous town hall conversations, go to http://www.cwaaction.org/