CWA e-Newsletter: Aug. 14, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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CWA Vice President Responds to Tragedy in Ferguson, MO

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CWA members live and work in every part of Missouri, including Ferguson. They deserve, and our union will support them in securing:

  • A full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mike Brown’s death and full accountability for anyone involved in any wrong doing.
  • Protection for their rights to go to and from their homes and places of work, for their right to assemble, and for their right to document and report on the events in Ferguson.
  • Investment in the community of Ferguson and all struggling communities in Missouri that remove the long standing barriers to employment and full participation in community life standing in the paths of too many of our youth.

Our union is part of the Ferguson and St. Louis community. Our members will be there in the long struggle for social and economic justice and democracy. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family of Mike Brown and for peace in Ferguson.

A message from Claude Cummings, CWA Vice President District 6 and Executive Board Diversity Committee Chair.


Howard University students standing in solidarity with Michael Brown.
Photo Credit: Megan Sims (@The_Blackness48)

Cohen Brings Message of Solidarity to Bakery Workers Union

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CWA President Larry Cohen joined the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union at their 39th Constitutional Convention this week, addressing delegates on fighting to secure our standard of living.


Top: BCTGM International President David B. Durkee introducing Cohen.


"American workers have not had a raise in 40 years," Cohen told the delegates. "The question today is how one person makes almost 400 times what the average worker makes?"

On Tuesday, 225 BCTGM workers returned to work at Kellogg's cereal plant in Memphis, Tenn., where they make Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, when a judge ordered Kellogg's to end a nine-month long lockout of the workers.

Kellogg was attempting to shrink its skilled workforce and bring in lower paid, disposable workers – shutting out those who refused to accept the company's outrageous take-backs in the process. But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a lawsuit against Kellogg seeking a temporary injunction. And Judge Samuel H. Mays, Jr., of the Western District of Tennessee, ordered Kellogg to end the lockout, reinstate workers, re-establish old employment conditions and bargain with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) in good faith.

Cohen praised the amazing examples of resolve and resistance of BCTGM activists in the Kellogg's lockout in Memphis as well as last year with Hostess and Crystal Sugar. He talked about the importance of a fully functioning NLRB, which brought the lawsuit that eventually ended the Memphis lockout.

The way to ensure government agencies like the NLRB actually function on behalf of working people is to continue to grow the Democracy Initiative that CWA started with progressive groups to get money out of politics and people in; to fix the broken Senate rules which, for a time, kept the NLRB from having a full slate of members and to restore voting rights across the nation.

Membership in the groups engaged in the Democracy Initiative, Cohen said, is as many as 50 million people and all those members need to be engaged to fight for the country they want, a country that works on behalf of working people.

Opposition to TPP Grows Among Republicans

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Even as an overwhelming majority of the Democratic Caucus has left no doubt they staunchly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently under negotiation, Congressional Republicans are also saying there are parts of the proposed deal that don't work for them, either.

Among the flurry of letters that members of Congress fired off before leaving town for recess, a couple have to be especially worrying for the proponents of TPP.

The first letter, written July 29, is signed by a bi-partisan group of 35 House members, including such stalwart Republicans as Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Walter B. Jones, Jr. of North Carolina, and New York's Peter King.

They were objecting to the inclusion of Vietnam – with that country's horrendous human rights record, among other faults – in the trade deal.

They cite the International Federation of Human Rights which says: "Vietnam has the highest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia. It is estimated there are at least 212 dissidents behind bars, and many more under house arrest."

Another group, this time 14 Republicans, sent the president a letter two days later. They wanted the president to know that any trade deal that tramples the Buy American Act of 1933, which insists U.S. government procurement must prefer American made products, won't get by them.

Fast Track means an up or down vote on a TPP deal without amendments of its component parts. Democrats weren't having that but it is also problematic for some Republicans. As far back as November 2013, Rep. Jones wrote the president a letter signed by 23 Republicans saying they won't Fast Track TPP.

"[W]e do not agree to cede our constitutional authority to the executive through an approval of a request for Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority," they wrote.

Additionally, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) wrote to urge the President to oppose Japan's efforts to keep high tariffs on U.S. agricultural products and restrict access for American agricultural interests seeking greater access for U.S. farm products in the Japanese market.

For those keeping count, that's a lot of Republicans. Add them to the wall of opposition by Democrats, and the TPP, as now negotiated, may face real challenges on arrival in Washington, D.C., due in no small part to the thousands of CWA activists educating and mobilizing on TPP.

This widespread opposition highlights just how much of a threat TPP poses to the American economy. Trade policies should enhance the viability of U.S. companies, benefit U.S. workers, and strengthen the U.S. economy. TPP doesn't.

CWA Remembers Joe Beirne, Our Founding President, Who Died on Labor Day 40 Years Ago

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Joe Beirne was driven by fierce intelligence and a burning interest in organizing and educating workers.

Today, 40 years after his death on Labor Day in 1974, we remember his lasting contribution to building CWA.

Beirne went on the road to organize telephone workers.

"My trip around the country in a Greyhound bus was just financed from one stop to the next," he recalled. "I'd come from one stop and I had nothing left and we'd pass the hat. Whatever we got out of the hat would tell me what city I could go to next."

Beirne, who grew up in Jersey City, N.J., was the son of Irish immigrants – his dad was a union railroad worker. He started out in 1927 working for Western Electric, the Bell Telephone System's manufacturing arm. New Deal labor reforms and passage of the Wagner Act in 1935 inspired Beirne and others to organize the nation's phone workers. Beirne, 32 years old at the time, became president of National Federation of Telephone Workers in 1943, five years after the union was formed.

He set himself the mission of molding the loose federation of autonomous unions of communications workers into a true international union. That goal, forged in the fires of a tough nationwide strike by 350,000 Bell System workers in 1947, was achieved the following year with creation of the modern Communications Workers of America.

With a strong new national structure and affiliation with the militant CIO in 1949, CWA under Beirne's leadership broadened its organizing focus, grew steadily in numbers and strength, and used an innovative pattern bargaining strategy to raise wage and benefit standards throughout the communications industry. In 1965, at President Beirne's urging, the convention adopted the triple threat program, the precursor to the CWA triangle. Beirne believed that collective bargaining, politics and legislation and organizing were mutually dependent and equally vital to CWA's success. The union also became a leading force in the political and legislative arenas, community services, the civil rights struggle, and global labor affairs.

By the time Beirne stepped down from the presidency in June of 1974 because of illness, CWA had become one of the most dynamic and progressive unions in the world – qualities that also described its leader for more than three decades.

Joe Beirne died on Labor Day, 1974. The Joseph Anthony Beirne Foundation, established by CWA in October 1974, honors his lifelong commitment to education and progressive social causes.

Flash Protest In Support of T-Mobile US Workers

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More than a hundred United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) activists held a flash mob at a T-Mobile store in Washington, DC, last weekend to deliver a letter to CEO John Legere and support T-Mobile workers’ fight for a voice on the job.

Move Over Shark Week, It's Shirk Week

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Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum ba-dumbadumbadumbadum...

The Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" isn't half as terrifying as what's going on in New Jersey. Just in time for the weeklong celebration of the ocean's top predator, CWA released a "Shirk Week" video to take a bite out of Gov. Chris Christie's predatory plan to reform pensions.


The video calls out Christie's decision to short the state's public workers pension systems – and then create a commission to study the shortfall. "He broke his word," reads text from the video, which features a "Jaws"-like soundtrack and shark-chomped newspaper headlines.

"New Jersey's pension doesn't need a study," the video says. "It needs to be fully funded as promised and require by law."

Three years ago, Christie and state lawmakers slashed public workers' pension benefits. They raised workers' contributions, increased the age of retirement and eliminated cost-of-living adjustments. Christie and those who backed the radical changes promised that New Jersey would start making larger, more substantial pension payments to compensate for the state's pitiful contributions over the past 17 years.

Workers held up their end of the bargain. But then this summer, Christie reneged and diverted the promised payment to the state's pension system to fill the gaps in his troubled budget.

Hetty Rosenstein, CWA's area director, said, "New Jersey's pension doesn't need a commission or study stocked with a handful of super-wealthy people unlikely to have any clue as to what it means to live on a fixed-income at retirement. The answer is simple: New Jersey's pension needs to be fully funded, as promised and required by law."

New York Times Reporter James Risen Wins the Guild's Freedom Award

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New York Times reporter James Risen has risked his own freedom to protect the principles that are essential for a truly free press. For that, the Newspaper Guild-CWA has named the embattled reporter a winner this year of the Herbert Block Freedom Award.


Journalist James Risen.

Federal officials have been pursuing Risen since 2006, demanding he confirm the name of a man they believe was a source for his book, "State of War," about the CIA and the Bush Administration. In the years since, Risen has pursued every legal avenue to force the Department of Justice to drop its subpoena. He took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June upheld a lower court decision to sustain the subpoena. Despite the threat of jail for contempt of court, Risen continues to refuse to reveal the name.

"With his book, James Risen did what great journalists do," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said. "He dug for information, developed sources who trusted him and ultimately exposed some of the hard truths behind the war on terrorism. Without jeopardizing national security, he told Americans what their government wouldn't. That is his job, the job of all journalists. And we are all better for it."

Risen's unwavering resolve and the outpouring of support from journalists nationwide "should make it clear to the government that no reporter is going to break a pledge to a source they've guaranteed anonymity," Lunzer said. "Many journalists already report that sources are drying up out of fear of being fired and prosecuted if caught. What James Risen is doing helps ensure that the well doesn't dry up for good, which would be a catastrophic blow to our democracy."

The Freedom Award, which comes with a $5,000 prize, honors the famous Washington Post cartoonist, Herbert Block, known as Herblock. Block, who carried a Guild card from 1934 until his death in 2001, cared deeply about social justice and First Amendment rights. Winners, chosen by the Guild's executive council, are journalists and activists who exemplify Block's values. He had profound compassion for the weak and disadvantaged, held a deep distrust of unbridled power and made substantial contributions to a free press.

The award will be presented with the Heywood Broun award at a ceremony in October. Whether Risen will be able to attend the event isn't known. His lawyer has advised him not to discuss his case until it is resolved.

The Newspaper Guild-CWA, founded in 1933, represents 25,000 media industry and other workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Find us at, and @news_guild on Twitter.

Students' Stories on Homelessness Win 2014 Barr Awards

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Two student journalists who each wrote detailed, moving accounts of homelessness in their communities are the 2014 winners of TNG-CWA's David S. Barr Award.

Victor Ferreira, who just graduated from Toronto's Ryerson University School of Journalism, is the college winner for his article, "Toronto's Missing Shelter Beds" published in the online magazine, "The Grid." Rachel C. Hartwick from Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, won for "Home (Isn't) Where the Heart Is," published in her high school newsmagazine, "Spark," where she is the features and broadcast managing editor.

The awards are given in honor of the Guild's late lawyer, David S. Barr, a champion of social justice. Judges look not only for outstanding work, but stories that reflect Barr's values. The college winner receives $1,500; the high school winner, $1,000.


Victor Ferreira and Rachel C. Hartwick.

One of the three professional journalists who judged the 2014 contest, Janet Weyandt of the Sheboygan Press, said the panel was impressed "by the level of professional enterprise that is rare in college and especially high school publications. These weren't emotional appeals trying to sway readers to feel a certain way, these were well-researched and very well written stories that dug into serious issues and explained them in a way that resonated with me as the reader."

Though no union ties are necessary to win the Barr award, this year both winners have parents who are union members – Hartwick's mother is a unionized teacher and Ferreira's father belongs to Toronto's Carpenters local. And both students said they like the idea of being a professional journalist with union protections.

"I think there is a necessity for journalists to be unionized in the modern workplace," Ferreira said. "Because of the tough times our industry is currently facing, having a union such as the Guild to look after our best interests is crucial. There are many examples of journalists being underpaid, losing work, and operating in unfair working conditions. I can definitely see myself being a part of the Guild in the future."

Click here for college winner Victor Ferreira's winning article, "Toronto's Missing Shelter Beds."

Click here for high school winner Rachel C. Hartwick's winning article, "Home (Isn't) Where the Heart Is."

Bargaining Update

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Wall Street Journal

IAPE-CWA members at the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones locations across North America have voted to accept an extension of their previous contract through June 30, 2015. More than 96 percent of ballots were cast in favor of the extension, which will preserve all current terms and conditions of employment for another year and increase wages.

Cincinnati Bell

CWA and Cincinnati Bell have reached a tentative agreement on a new 27-month labor contract representing 850 wireline workers in District 4. The previous three-year agreement expired last Saturday. Read more at Fierce Telecom.


Workers at FairPoint march for a fair contract in Portland, Maine.

FairPoint Communications

On Tuesday, hundreds of CWA and IBEW members in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire staged informational protests Tuesday to educate customers about the FairPoint Communications' plan to outsource union jobs to out-of-state contractors. Collective bargaining agreements covering the majority of employees in northern New England expired on Aug. 2. Negotiations resumed on this week. Read more at the Portland Press Herald.

Nominate Young Women Workers for Berger Marks Award

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In many workplaces today, it can take a lot of courage for a young woman to stand up for what's right. Do you know someone who has shown that kind of courage?

We are looking for working women 35 years or younger who stood up for workers' rights and been a voice in the workplace in the face of overwhelming opposition.

The winner will get a $1,000 cash award. Nominate your candidate by August 28 at the foundation's website:

This year the Berger-Marks Foundation has added a new Courageous Young Worker Award. A panel of union, civic and activist leaders will make the final selection and present the award in the fall.