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CWA e-Newsletter: July 10, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

Want to be in next week's CWA Newsletter? Send your stories and photos to blog@cwa-union.org or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at www.resistancegrowing.org.

North Carolina Pre-season Political Boot Camp

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As the 2014 midterm elections loom large, members from 16 CWA locals in North Carolina gathered in Charlotte this week to participate in an intensive one-day political training boot camp to prepare.

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North Carolina CWAers from 16 locals participate in political training boot camp. At center is CWA Human Rights Director Chris Kennedy.

Topics covered included learning what's at stake in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that is being negotiated around the world; getting money out of politics; 'Our National Reality: the 40 year Class War'; voting rights; tips for starting a PAF conversation; tips for political organizing; and how to talk to members about political issues.

Importantly, members also learned about creating the CWA LPAT (Legislative and Political Team) Structure.

In breakout sessions, each of the 16 Locals in attendance at the training began forming their Local Union Activist Plans and setting clear goals and objectives for their Local's political agenda.

The atmosphere was energetic and members committed to organize and educate other members on how to fight back in the political arena.


Democracy Update

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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Amendment to Get Big Money Out of Politics

The Senate moved closer to a vote on getting big money out of politics this week as the full Senate Judiciary Committee approved S.J. Res. 19. This is the Constitutional amendment that would enable Congress and the states to limit political spending and get big money out of politics. There are 47 cosponsors, including Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) who introduced the measure.

When fully adopted, the Constitutional amendment will repair the damage to our democracy that has occurred as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings. Those decisions warped our political process, giving the richest 0.1 percent the ability to make nearly unlimited political contributions and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

Money isn't speech. This amendment protects free speech and a free press. It will restore the authority of Congress and the states to regulate political spending and return our democratic process to the people – where it belongs.


Reid Vows Senate Rule Revisions to End Gridlock

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Despite a little progress in recent months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the United States Senate remains dysfunctional, as Republicans still engage in "obstruction for obstruction's sake" to thwart President Obama's appointments.

They keep putting up "roadblock after roadblock" and wasting the maximum amount of Senate time in the confirmation of even non-controversial nominees, Sen. Reid (D-NV) said. In 2014 alone, Republicans blocked votes on 23 nominations that they "later voted unanimously to confirm, wasting literally days of post-cloture time in the process."

"We changed some of the rules," Reid said. "We didn't change that [post-cloture time wasting]...If they're going to continue this, maybe we'll have to take another look at that. It's just outrageous what they've done."

CWA, working with the Fix the Senate Now coalition, was a driving force in winning the rules changes that broke gridlock to allow some of the president's nominations to receive an up-or-down vote. Reid credited CWA and President Cohen for leading the fight to change the Senate rules. In summer 2013, 2 million members of Fix the Senate Now organizations mobilized to make sure the Senate confirmed a full, five-member National Labor Relations Board and leaders for top agencies including Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Later in the year, activists from CWA, Alliance for Justice, Sierra Club, Common Cause, USAction, Daily Kos, NAACP, UAW, NY Citizen Action, Working Families Party and others again revved up mobilization, with 200,000 members of those groups generating calls and emails to their senators.

That rule change meant a simple majority vote could confirm executive and most judicial appointments. Without the arbitrary 60-vote threshold to advance the nomination, judges are having easier time getting confirmed. In May, for instance, the Senate confirmed 22 judicial nominees.

But broken Senate rules remain a real block to democracy and to programs that benefit working families. While the Senate has reduced the judicial backlog in recent months, 145 nominees remain pending on the Senate calendar. Too many bills still do not get to the floor for debate despite having the support of a majority of senators, like programs to benefit working families, from extending unemployment insurance to support for veterans to a bill to allow students to refinance their crushing student loan debt.


House Members Push Back Against TPP Negotiators Gutting "Buy American" Policies

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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) is focusing attention on another sneaky provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with negotiations again underway in Ottawa, Canada. This time, negotiators are looking to nullify the "Buy American" and "Buy Local" policies meant to create and keep jobs in the U.S.

"It's the worst trade agreement that you never heard of," Rep. Ellison said in a video. "Buy American could well be a thing of the past if the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets passed in the way that we understand it to be right now. We have people on both sides of the aisle who are very concerned about the Buy American provisions and that U.S. government procurement buying power should benefit U.S. workers."

Watch Ellison's comments here.

CWA Minnesota State Council President Mona Meyer praised Ellison for his deep commitment and for being an important ally on this issue. CWA Minnesota has been integral in the fight against the TPP, distributing flyers and holding public rallies, writing letters to the state's Congressional delegation questioning why Vietnam, which is notorious for child-labor violations, is taking part in the negotiations.

"We've learned so much about TPP and have not yet found anything good coming out of the TPP negotiations," Meyer said. "CWA Minnesota tells the story and makes connections with people. What lasts with people is our stories. Those make the impact. What we have and how we could lose everything we have with this destructive, horrible TPP free trade deal."

Passed in 1933, the Buy American Act requires the U.S. government to prefer products made in the U.S. in its purchases. Other Federal laws extend the requirements to third-party purchases that use Federal funds, such as highway and transit programs.

End runs have been made around the policy in past international trade deals but the current round of TPP negotiations, which started on July 3 and is expected to last until July 12, may do away with the policy entirely because of the sheer size of the deal and the number of nations seeking to participate.

Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) have written a letter to President Barack Obama that they are circulating among House colleagues for signatures of support asking the president to make sure U.S. trade negotiators do not undermine the policy in negotiations.

They point out in the letter that 70 House members had written the president in May 2012 raising concerns about TPP proposals under consideration that would greatly limit the Buy American policies, adversely affecting American jobs, workers and manufacturers.

"It is our understanding that now, two years later, U.S. TPP negotiators have agreed to provisions that would require all firms operating in any TPP signatory country to be treated the same as U.S. firms with respect to granting them U.S. government procurement contracts," they wrote in their letter. "Effectively, in exchange for procurement opportunities for some U.S. firms to bid on contracts in foreign procurement markets, we would agree to trade away our ability to ensure that billions in U.S. government expenditures are recycled into our economy to create jobs, strengthen our manufacturing sector, and foster our own new cutting-edge industries."

Ellison said U.S. negotiators are going about the TPP deal all wrong, negotiating it in secret with corporations in the room but shutting out Congress while doling out piecemeal information to elected leaders.

"Trade is reality so trade deals should lift labor standards around the world, not just create this race to the bottom," Rep. Ellison said.


House Members Demand the Truth on Trade Data

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Four Members of Congress today demanded the United States Trade Representative stop trying to snow the American people and Congress with skewed statistics as he attempts to rationalize a new job-killing international trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"They're cooking the books to justify this race to the bottom," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said at a news conference, joined by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

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Congressional staffers holding charts reflecting true NAFTA data that show job losses and trade deficits flank Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (CA), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Paul Tonko (NY), and Marcy Kaptur (OH).

With the U.S. Capitol as backdrop, the four announced that they and ten other colleagues signed a letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, demanding that the agency stop counting foreign-made goods that pass through the United States on their way to another country as American imports.

Read the letter here.

A true view of trade data shows that USTR claims that the United States has run trade surpluses with our North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners over the last 20 years are nonsense and should be disregarded as the U.S. negotiates the new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

"Cargo being unloaded at the Port of Oakland and trucked to Mexico are not U.S. exports," Rep. Lee said. "What this shows is that they are playing with the numbers to make it look better."

The letter further expresses the Members of Congress' concern that the incorrect and skewed data "might paint a rosier picture of the impact of free trade agreements than reality suggests."

"Isn't it interesting that we are arguing about goods, not jobs," Rep. Kaptur said. "The United States Trade Representative does not count people."

Rep. Tonko said his district in Upstate New York has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was signed 20 years ago, and working Americans should demand the truth about job impacts from their government when it negotiates new trade agreements.

"Re-exports do not support American production jobs," Rep. Tonko said.


T-Mobile Is A Two-Faced Union Buster

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There are two sides to T-Mobile.

On one side in Germany, it's the American subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, a German communications company that respects its workers and has enshrined collective bargaining rights in its social charter. Deutsche Telekom has endorsed the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, also commonly known as the "Ruggie Principles."

On the other side in the United States, Deutsche Telekom fosters an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in its U.S. workplaces – conditions unacceptable in Germany. T-Mobile workers who want to form a union are harassed, bullied and put under surveillance. And given the chance to support a shareholder proposal urging T-Mobile to disclose how it assesses human rights risks in its operations and supply chain, Deutsche Telekom, which owns 67 percent of T-Mobile's outstanding shares, voted in opposition.

Lothar Schröder, leader of the German union ver.di, exposed this two-faced corporate governance two years ago in a presentation to the Deutsche Telekom board of directors. He pointed out that U.S. T-Mobile managers often "pressure workers to pursue dishonest sales strategies" and "sometimes managers make unauthorized charges after the sale." Schröder also told the board that some call center workers have been forced to wear dunce caps for not meeting "unreachable expectations" and write essays about their failures at work.

T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom did nothing.

But workers are at last getting justice. Recently the National Labor Relations Board has taken the extraordinary step of consolidating the cases brought against the company. Consolidation will allow the NLRB to issue more effective remedies to finally stop T-Mobile's outrageous conduct, as it requires one hearing officer to hear all complaints, witnesses and evidence. The company will need to defend its systemic anti-union behavior in one proceeding, and the NLRB will be able to order broad relief for employees at every T-Mobile store and call center.

In a few months, the NLRB will hold a hearing in Albuquerque, N.M., where at least two T-Mobile workers were unjustly disciplined after being identified as union activists, then fired after they made their support public.


Union, Community Allies Support SuperShuttle Drivers

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SuperShuttle drivers, members of CWA Local 7777, recently launched a series of public demonstrations to raise awareness about the company's unmerited proposal to cut their pay by 30 percent.

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SuperShuttle drivers, members of CWA Local 7777, and supporters from the Denver community and labor movement, hold a silent protest in Denver International Airport over a 30 percent cut the company implemented.

On Monday, more than 30 activists marched through Denver International Airport. CWA, IAM, Denver Area Labor Federation, Jobs with Justice and FRESC members joined SuperShuttle drivers in their silent demonstration, wearing bright yellow t-shirts reading, "SUPPORT SUPERSHUTTLE DRIVERS." Four international transportation groups also sent letters of support on the day of action.

"They knew doing this would be a big deal, so they wanted to say, 'Even though we're across the ocean, we stand with you guys.' That was really awesome," District 7 Organizing Coordinator Al Kogler said.

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Members of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and affiliated unions from around the world show their solidarity with SuperShuttle drivers. SuperShuttle is owned by the French firm Veolia.

Read more at The Denver Post.

Drivers also rallied their union brothers and sisters at NEA's annual convention in Denver last weekend. NEA President Dennis van Roekel talked about the drivers' struggles from the podium. He urged delegates to sign a petition and palm cards asking management "to return to the bargaining table" because "every worker deserves a voice on the job and the protection of a contract." At the end of convention, departing NEA members requested blue van service to the airport and decorated their bags with bright yellow luggage tags reading, "Standing with Denver SuperShuttle Drivers."

And last month, Jobs with Justice helped drivers hold a Workers' Rights Board, a public forum for workers to bring complaints against employers for violating their human and legal rights. The Boulder Weekly reported:

Noureddine Berezqi came from Morocco and began with SuperShuttle in 1997.

"Drivers were able to work comfortable schedules in order to fulfill their personal financial needs," he said.

After the French multinational Veolia purchased SuperShuttle in 2002, drivers in Denver saw their income fall when SuperShuttle began contracting with more franchisees, which reduced opportunities for fares. Drivers now put in 60-hour weeks, working six to seven days each week.

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CWAers distribute luggage tags and materials to members of the National Education Association who were meeting in Denver. At the airport, NEAers showed their support for the drivers' fight for a fair contract.

"Exhausting schedules left workers no time for bathroom breaks while working 10- to 12-hour shifts," Berezqi said. "There were harsh new disciplinary actions with no justification. The company began firing and suspending drivers without cause or for minor infractions."

Berezqi said there was verbal abuse with racial and religious slurs. The majority of Denver SuperShuttle drivers are black African immigrants. Many are Muslims. There was a supervisor who joked about the high turnover of drivers by saying "Muhammed comes, Muhammed goes" and "Monkey comes, monkey goes."

Stand up with the SuperShuttle drivers. Click here to send a message to SuperShuttle management. And like them on Facebook.


Union Plus Scholarship Winners Announced

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The daughter of Lisette Castillo, a member of CWA Local 1032, has been awarded a $2,000 Union Plus scholarship.

Gabilis Castillo of Yonkers, N.Y., graduated first in her class. Her maternal grandparents came to America from the Dominican Republic "to advance their way of life and to seek a future for their children," Gabilis said. Her mother was able to attain economic security and opportunity through hard work and her more than 20 years of union membership.

Gabilis plans to study business management at college and plans to become a psychiatrist.

For 2014, Union Plus awarded $150,000 in scholarships to 116 students representing 39 unions. Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Since starting the program in 1991, Union Plus has awarded more than $3.6 million in educational funding to more than 2,400 union members, spouses and dependent children.

Learn more at www.UnionPlus.org/Education.


CWAers Elected to Office

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Lizette Parker, a member of CWA Local 1031, was sworn in this week as mayor of Teaneck, NJ.

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CWA Local 1031 member Lizette Parker was sworn in as Mayor of Teaneck, NJ.

She was first elected as council woman on the Teaneck Township Council in 2006 and had been re-elected in May 2014. She was unanimously voted as mayor by the township council, becoming the first African American woman to serve as mayor in Teaneck and Bergen County, N.J.