Coordinated Campaigns Result In Large Membership Gains

CWA started the new year by welcoming more than 2,000 new members, with the largest gains coming at Cingular Wireless in Districts 1 and 3, Advanced Solutions Inc. in District 4, and AT&T Broadband in Districts 6 and 13.

Cingular Achievement

Hundreds of workers in the South won CWA representation in December, as District 3 announced a breakthrough in its first round of Cingular Wireless organizing campaigns, and District 1 received certification from the AAA for the final Cingular market it targeted in campaigns begun a year and a half ago.

District 3 Vice President Jimmy Smith announced Dec. 13 that he received certification from the American Arbitration Association for Cingular’s customer service center in Ashland, Ky. — more than 300 new members with the potential to grow rapidly to about 750.

Then on Jan. 22, as the CWA News went to press, Smith reported that AAA certified cards for more than 600 additional customer service reps at Cingular’s Miami and Ocala, Fla., locations, and more than 500 in Cedartown, Norcross and Atlanta, Ga.

“Congratulations to the locals, the staff and especially to the Cingular workers who drove these campaigns,” Smith said. “We are proud to represent them.”

Local 3371 and President Phil Coldiron worked on the Ashland campaign, said District 3 Organizing Coordinator Hugh Wolfe, who spearheaded parallel organizing drives throughout much of the South. He credited District 3 Organizing Coordinator Liz Robeson for the Florida campaigns, and said Local 3176 President Robert Campbell brought together an organizing committee for Miami, and Local 3172 President Tony Dorado and Local Organizer Louis Torres, for Ocala.

Local 3212 President Larry Wofford led the Cedartown campaign for 360 workers, and Local 3204 President Walter Andrew and Local Organizer Sheila Williams assisted 94 workers in Norcross and 68 in Atlanta, Wolfe said.

The potential exists for several hundred more members as Ocala and Miami continue hiring, and AAA certifications were pending for 266 service reps in Ocean Springs, Miss. That facility has seats for 600, Wolfe said.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 17, District 1 Vice President Larry Mancino received certification for 120 retail sales reps and 10 technicians in central and southern New Jersey. He congratulated Locals 1022 and 1023, which will represent the new members.

“This victory makes Cingular wireless wall-to-wall in District 1, and we’re proud of that,” Mancino said.

SBC purchased Comcast’s wireless properties in the northeast about a year and a half ago and all came under CWA’s cardcheck and neutrality agreement with the company shortly thereafter. District 1 has already organized Cingular retail sales employees and technicians in upstate New York, Connecticut and all of New England, Ed Sabol, administrative assistant to Mancino, explained.

The new members in District 1 will roll into CWA’s existing agreement with Cingular, covering Districts 1, 2 and 4, Sabol said.

Wolfe said Cingular call centers in District 3 became eligible for card check and neutrality as of Oct. 1, under an agreement Smith negotiated with the company during the summer. Technical and retail sales units become eligible Jan. 1.

Wolfe, CWA Representatives Judy Dennis and Jimmy Gurganus, and local President Phil Coldiron assisted a committee of about seven Ashland service reps including Michael Flannery, Meshelle, Johnson, Debbie Bowling, Brenda Smith and Randy Carroll.

The call center just opened in June and is continuing to hire. Wolfe called it “a tremendous boon to the economy,” as the once-flourishing coal mining industry has pretty much left the area.

“We first met with the workers in early October, and by November they were into the campaign and ready to go,” Wolfe said.

Johnson pulled the committee together and Flannery went to the call center several times before his shift to talk with workers about CWA and to give them cards.

Coldiron, whose local more than doubles in size because of the victory, credited Cingular with honoring its neutrality agreement. “They even gave us the opportunity to do an onsite visit, and we were able to access employees on their breaks,” he said.

Wolfe said Smith will negotiate a district-wide agreement for customer service reps at Cingular.

Anne Luck, an organizer for Locals 1022 and 1023, spearheaded an effort that involved talking to workers in stores and kiosks throughout much of New Jersey.

Rachael Tetrault, a Cingular retail rep in Albany and member of Local 1118, accompanied District 1 staff and local organizers on many of their store visits.

“A lot of the workers felt disconnected to workers beyond their own store, Luck explained. “Breaking through that was the hardest part. It really helped having Rachael there, because she could say, ‘I’m not just with CWA, I’m a Cingular employee, too.’”

District 1 Organizing Coordinator Erin Bowie and Local 1022 Chief Steward Bob Flood also worked on the campaign.”

Sweeping ASI in Four States

The American Arbitration Association on Jan. 4 certified CWA as bargaining representative for 425 technicians and support staff at SBC’s Advanced Solutions Inc. in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, reported District 4 Vice President Jeff Rechenbach. The inside workers and outside technicians design, provide and maintain both commercial and residential Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service.

“This was truly a team effort, with staff, local organizers and volunteer activists all playing a key role,” Rechenbach said, congratulating the organizers and new members.

ASI is the DSL provider for SBC. The campaign was conducted under the union’s card check and neutrality agreement with the parent company.

District 4 Organizing Coordinator Shannon Kirkland coordinated the overall campaign with staff in other states and worked with Local 4013, Pontiac, Mich., to sign up about 300 workers at ASI in Southfield and Dearborn.

“What’s interesting about this group is that a lot of the field workers are home-garaged,” Kirkland said. “They go out from home and are told where their first job is.”

The administrative staff, numbering more than 200, Kirkland described as “very highly educated and technical.” Among them are operations broadband managers who assign lines. Some design DSL systems for businesses, Kirkland said.

The desire for job security, better wages and benefits drove the campaign, with eligible broadband managers upset that the company recently raised their contribution for health plan premiums.

The first cards were signed in mid-September, with 90 days allowed for the campaign under the CWA/SBC agreement, Kirkland said.

Local 4013 Vice President Kim Gallardo and volunteers from the local assisted in the campaign. SBC workers Gary Manley, a trustee of the local, and Viviane Keels, chief steward, went to both locations several times to tell workers about the benefits of belonging to CWA.

A strong inside committee led by field engineer Karen Birch gathered names and contact information and helped set up conference calls for field workers, Kirkland said.

Seth Rosen, administrative assistant to Rechenbach, said local organizers in the other states built strong worker committees at other ASI locations and worked on the same timeline.

For example, Local 4340 worked to organize 16 home-garaged field technicians in Cleveland. Local Organizer John Kosek formed a committee with ASI techs Brad Widman and Brad Watson. A former employee of SBC New Media, the former Ameritech cable company, Watson had experience as a CWA member.

“We set up a meeting for them here at a local restaurant and that night we had 11 sign cards,” Kosek said.

Others locals that participated in the coordinated campaign include 4302, Akron, 4320, Columbus, and 4322, Dayton, Ohio; 4603, Milwaukee, Wis., and 4900, Indianapolis, Ind.

CWA Representative Celia Cody and Local 4603 Local Organizer Joy Roberts played a major role in Indiana and Ohio. District 4 Organizing Coordinator Susan Baxter-Flemming worked with locals in Indiana and Ohio.

Broadband Membership Tops 2,000

In separate elections in Dallas, Texas, and Penn Hills, Pa., 130 AT&T Broadband workers chose CWA, adding to the more than 1,900 Broadband workers nationwide who voted for representation in 2001.

Local 13000 added 68 workers to over 700 already represented in western Pennsylvania, with workers voting 37-26 for CWA in December, reported Marge Krueger, administrative assistant to District 13 Vice President Vince Maisano.

CWA members at other Broadband locations already in bargaining contacted co-workers at Penn Hills and allayed fears introduced when management called a meeting to answer employees’ questions.

The workers’ organizing committee, led by Curt Hess and Ken Musiak, quickly responded to management’s comments by producing and distributing a leaflet of their own prior to the vote.

All but two Broadband offices in the Pittsburgh market are now organized, Krueger said.

CWA won another Broadband election for 62 workers in Dallas, District 6 Vice President Andy Milburn said. The vote was 34-12 for CWA.

Local 6150 President Larry Ihfe, Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Ratliff and Vice President Darryl Russell have worked with the unit for two years, District 6 Organizing Coordinator Sandy Rusher said.

Reinforcing the efforts of an internal committee led by Jean Taylor and Nancy Phillips, Will Rogers, a Dallas Broadband dispatch technician who is already represented, attended six meetings that management set up to reach the workers.

“They would not let anyone else in from the union, and Will did a great job against three management folks,” Rusher said.