CWA e-Newsletter: July 17, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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Voting Rights Update: Judge Calls Out Florida Redistricting Conspiracy

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A Florida judge has thrown out the state's congressional redistricting map in a scathing decision that he said reveals a "secret, organized campaign" to create "a shadow redistricting process" that favors Republicans.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis wrote:

"What is clear to me from the evidence, as described in more detail below, is that this group of Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process. They accomplished this by writing scripts for and organizing groups of people to attend the public hearings to advocate for adoption of certain components or characteristics in the maps, and by submitting maps and partial maps through the public process, all with the intention of obtaining enacted maps for the State House and Senate and for Congress that would favor the Republican Party.

"They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process, utilizing the access it gave them to the decision makers, but going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it. They were successful in their efforts to influence the redistricting process and the congressional plan under review here. And they might have successfully concealed their scheme and their actions from the public had it not been for the Plaintiffs' determined efforts to uncover it in this case."

A coalition led by the League of Women Voters filed the lawsuit, which is now expected to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Right now, it's unclear how the ruling will affect the upcoming November election. Two districts will need to be redrawn – and possibly many of the surrounding districts.

The Florida ruling is a strong indictment of the redistricting process in the Sunshine State and many other states.

CWA will continue working with its allies in the Democracy Initiative to combat these schemes to suppress voters' rights. We can't allow state legislatures to limit our democracy. There must be more independent redistricting commissions to guarantee fair congressional boundaries that don't favor either political party.

Global Trade Deals Can No Longer Include Investor State Dispute Resolution

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The U.S. could learn a thing or two from Germany. In that country, there is nearly universal opposition to Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the provision the U.S. is pushing for in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and a proposed deal with European nations.

ISDS is a huge threat to the lives and livelihoods of U.S. workers and citizens because it allows multinational corporations to challenge and often counteract the laws and regulations that citizens and governments have enacted.

We know corporations are not people. They are not countries either and they should not have the ability to rewrite a nation's laws. Multi-nationals can challenge any trading partner's laws if the corporation believes the law will harm its "expected future profits." That isn't cutting it in Germany.

CWA President Larry Cohen, who was recently in Berlin, explains in The Huffington Post why:

"Thanks to a suit brought by the Swedish energy firm Vattenfall against the German government, opposition to ISDS is nearly universal.

"Vattenfall is suing Germany for billions in future lost profits due to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proclamation that after the horrors of Fukushima, Germany no longer supports nuclear energy development, as Der Spiegel International reports.

"Unfortunately, that decision is apparently not up to the German government and people. Vattenfall believes its future profits come first, and if Germany goes non-nuclear, Vattenfall and presumably others must be paid off based on the inclusion of ISDS as part of trade policy within the European Union.

"There are 500 similar cases of corporate state vs. nation state currently pending in every continent, based on almost every trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement. Veolia, the giant French-based transportation company, is suing Egypt for raising its minimum wage, which would mean higher pay for workers at the Alexandria bus company it owns and thus lower profits. Other lawsuits attack national legislation concerning everything from cigarette labeling to fracking regulation.

"Ironically, back in the U.S., proponents of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the more imminent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) criticize those of us who oppose ISDS as anti-trade Neanderthals. But in my discussions with German leaders last week, it is clear that the U.S. looks like the Neanderthal by supporting ISDS, coupled with dramatic increases here in economic inequality and nearly unlimited influence by corporate America in all aspects of our lives. If [U.S. Trade Representative] Froman proceeds with ISDS in the final version of the TPP, Germans and most other Europeans will never trust a future TTIP, even if there are ISDS carve outs for certain national legislation. They can read the handwriting on the TPP wall very clearly."

On Ed Schultz's radio program this week, Cohen outlined what this means for working people:

"It's environmental regulation. It's safety. It's labor rights. The multinationals companies since NAFTA – and it's not just U.S. deals, it's spread all over – have depended on this being in every one of these trade deal. It's a secret weapon. This is why they actually care about trade deals."

Heads Up: CWA's Telephone Town Hall is Tonight!

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You won't want to miss tonight's town hall call, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour.

Tonight, two amazing activists from US Airways and American Airlines will talk about their 20-year effort to help win union representation at their airlines. With the merger of the two airlines, passenger service agents from the two carriers will be voting together next month on union representation. It's an exciting time for all CWAers.

Movement Building: Iowa CWAers Join Community Group to Fight Corporate Polluters

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Iowa CWA leaders and activists joined members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) for workshops and discussions at the CCI annual convention, then capped things off with a direct action protest at the governor's mansion.

"Whose House? Our House!" and "Put People First!" were the chants as 300 protesters, including about a dozen Iowa CWAers, marched up Terrace Hill to take over the grounds of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's (R) mansion. The goal: to install a mini factory farm that focuses attention on Branstad's support for corporate agriculture over family farmers.


Hugh Espey, Iowa CCI (right) and Steve Abbott, CWA Iowa State Council, at the Iowa governor's mansion where they are protesting the governor's support for big agriculture at the expense of family farmers and the state's clean water.

Below: Iowa CWA leaders and activists attended the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) annual convention last week, topping it off with a protest march to the governor's mansion.


They brought a giant display of cardboard "factory farms", a "river", and "manure spills", along with big signs that read "They Dump It. You Drink It"; "We Won't Stop 'Til They Clean It Up"; "Governor Branstad, Sign the Pledge. We Want A Governor Who Will Clean It Up."

The protesters want Branstad to support local control of factory farm siting and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force factory farms to obtain federal permits with tougher environmental standards or get shut down with a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

The marchers – including family farmers, retired teachers, church pastors, students, and others – demanded that Branstad start cracking down on factory farm manure pollution. Iowa's more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year. That means more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and more than 630 currently polluted Iowa waterways.

Iowa now ranks 49th in the nation in water quality, Hugh Espey, CCI executive director, said. "We just want our governor to work with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency on rules to clean up our water," he added.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was keynote speaker at the July 12 CCI convention and CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson held some sessions on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Also on hand was Steve Abbott, president of Local CWA 7108 and the CWA Iowa State Council and Iowa LPAT Coordinator.

"We are in a movement moment and we need to seize the moment," Ellison told CWAers and CCI members at the convention. "It is time for everyday people to stand up and demand that our government stand up for real people."

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people's action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters. As part of our union's movement building initiative around the nation, CWAers have been partnering with allies in labor, the environment and civil rights, including community groups such as CCI, for social, economic and environmental justice.

At the workshops, Larson told participants that Congressional passage of TPP would mean that, even if Iowans successfully got the state to stand up to Corporate Agriculture and got their water cleaned up, the new rules could be nullified under the trade law and the firms could sue them to reclaim profits.

CCI's Espey praised the alliance with CWA, which he says has brought a power base of 4,000 more people and a knowledge base that better prepares them for the fight ahead.

"This week, we are talking about TPP, which we wouldn't have been talking about otherwise," Espey said. "CWA is all about building power for regular, ordinary, everyday people and you don't see that all the time."

Netroots Nation 2014

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There's a lot going on at this year's "Netroots Nation," the annual conference that brings together progressive activists who are working on various issues to organize, strategize, build better coalitions and make progressive change happen.


Sara Steffens, TNG-CWA acting secretary-treasurer, discusses digital organizing tools.

Below: Kelli Williams, CWA Local 4004, is on the air at Netroots radio, talking about the dangers of the TPP.


If you're not in Detroit, you can follow keynote speakers and other sessions online. You'll also find the full schedule at that site.

Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rev. William Barber are among the keynote speakers.

CWA activists and allies also are part of the action.

  • Sara Steffens, acting secretary-treasurer of TNG-CWA, joined Kenzo Shibata from the American Federation of Teachers and Kyle Tanner from the Fast Food organizing campaign in a discussion of digital organizing in the labor movement. The panel discussed the findings of a five-year study that looked at the brave and successful online/offline organizing of coalitions like Fast Food Forward and OurWalmart.
  • CWA Local 4004 Secretary-Treasurer Kelli Williams was interviewed by L. Joy Williams for the critically acclaimed amTWiB (This Week in Blackness) show which is broadcasting live from Netroots Nation. They discussed the secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the effect the trade deal would have on jobs, along with the increased power multinational corporations would have to challenge a government’s laws and regulations.
  • People for the American Way, a CWA ally in the fight to get big money out of politics, is moderating a candidates' forum on Friday, July 18 at 3 pm EDT, that focuses on fundraising challenges for candidates with the goal of getting money out of politics, which you can watch streaming here.

Detroit, Turn on the Water!

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Tomorrow CWA activists will march with registered nurses, community leaders, clergy, labor unions, environmentalists and Netroots Nation participants to protest Detroit's program to cut off water to thousands of residents who aren't able to pay their bills.

The heartless decision to shut off water to people already living in poverty is a public health emergency and a major violation of human rights. Rally organizers charge that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his handpicked emergency manager officials are enforcing the crackdown to promote the privatization of the public water department, the latest gift to Wall Street financial interests that have bankrupted the city.

Starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, protesters will demand a moratorium on the shutoffs and action to ensure water is affordable, protected from pollution, and stays in the hands of the public.

They will also be calling for a tax on Wall Street speculation which could raise money for communities like Detroit, which have been pummeled by recession, unemployment, foreclosures and other pain directly linked to the Wall Street meltdown and plunder of major urban areas.

Frustration is mounting. On Wednesday, during Detroit's bankruptcy hearing, Judge Steve Rhodes demanded that the city address the problem. "Your residential shutoff program has caused not only a lot of anger in the city and also a lot of hardship," he said.

This is just the latest way we're building our movement. CWA knows that together, we're stronger. If we work with our allies, we can fight the economic problems facing working people and restore our democracy.

50 Years Later, a Look Back at the Struggle for Civil and Human Rights

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Despite the ugliness much on display in the summer of 1964, the best of America's ideals was also fully on display. America's youth from all over the nation poured into Mississippi to win civil and human rights for African Americans in the Jim Crow South.


"Freedom Summer" is available for viewing online here.

An acclaimed new documentary, which shares the campaign's name, "Freedom Summer," chronicles how young civil rights activists braved violence and challenged racism in 1964 Mississippi. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2014 and on Public Broadcasting Service stations on June 24. It can now be viewed online, downloaded on iTunes or the DVD purchased from the PBS website.

It can be viewed here.


Young people started the work of reshaping their nation by joining the civil rights movement to bring human rights to African Americans in the U.S.

Below: Activists registered voters, sat in, desegregated lunch counters and marched for justice. Their sacrifices paid off in civil rights and voting rights legislation that was enacted in following years.



Andrew Goodman, James L. Chaney and Michael Mickey Schwerner were kidnapped and killed in the struggle for justice and human rights in the U.S.

The young activists came to Mississippi because it was the state that was most resistant to change. The struggle 50 years ago led to three of the young activists – Andrew Goodman, James L. Chaney and Michael Mickey Schwerner – being martyred. Attempting to register African Americans to vote as part of the "Freedom Summer" campaign, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were kidnapped and shot at close range by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County's Sheriff Office and the Philadelphia Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Their sacrifices were not in vain as President Lyndon Johnson and Congress enacted the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in succeeding years.

Bargaining Update

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (right), pictured here with CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton, met with more than 100 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn Monday night to support their fight for a fair contract. He told workers, "I am with you every step of the way."



Ever since 280 Brooklyn technicians voted to join CWA Local 1109 in 2012, Cablevision has waged an aggressive anti-union campaign. Last year the company even went as far as unjustly locking out and firing employees who simply wanted to speak to management about their stalled contract negotiations. Thanks to support by de Blasio and other community leaders, Cablevision bowed to pressure and rehired every single worker.

Now, the fight for a fair contract continues.

CWAer's Daughter Lifts Torch to Light the Way

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For Tamara Robinson, life as a labor activist started early.

Born and raised in a union household, she remembers standing on a CWA picket line with her father and other telephone workers in 1989. "ON STRIKE AGAINST AT&T" the sandwich board draped around 4-year-old Tamara's shoulders read. Tamara's father, Larry Robinson, was a member of CWA Local 2300 for 30 years.


Tamara Robinson was awarded the Morton Bahr Scholarship to pursue a Master's Degree in Labor Studies at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies of the City University of New York School of Professional Studies.

With a background like that, it's no surprise that Robinson chose a career in the labor movement and is now New York Area Director at the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare. And she has just won the opportunity to kick it up a notch – a $30,000 Morton Bahr Scholarship that will fund her Master's Degree in Labor Studies at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies of the City University of New York School of Professional Studies.

"It is most fitting for me to receive this award seeing as my father was one of the reasons I went into the labor movement. His activism in his union was inspiring," Robinson said at a ceremony for scholarship recipients.

Morton Bahr is CWA's President Emeritus, who especially champions education and lifelong learning. The Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies offers higher education programs for working adults and union members, and serves as a resource center to labor, academic, and community leaders seeking a deeper understanding of labor and urban issues. The Institute also has scholarship programs dedicated to fostering diverse leadership in the labor movement and in the academic discipline of labor studies.

Her father, Robinson told the audience, was able to work with clearly established rights on the job and the respect he deserved because he had a union voice. Robinson's father worked at C&P and successor entities.


Four-year-old Tamara and her father, Larry Robinson, who was a member of CWA Local 2300 for 30 years, on the picket line.

"My father lasted longer than the name on the outside of the building and was, as a union employee, able to retire with the dignity someone of such longevity deserved," Robinson said. "My mother, an at-will employee in corporate law for thirty years, was my other motivation for doing this work."

"Watching her endure the added stress of being unable to take sick leave and having to either use vacation time or be docked for her time off when I or my sisters got sick or broke a limb in school, seeing the limited rights she had in her workplace when a supervisor decided to make her a target of his abusive language and mistreatment, and observing the lack of opportunities for professional development and advancement were ever present," Robinson continued. "Seeing these disparities between union and non-union workplaces is something I will always remember and will always motivate me to be a catalyst for change and a fierce, fierce advocate for workers and organizing."

She expressed gratitude at being selected to receive the award and "for keeping this movement alive and giving me a chance to bring my energy and creativity to a movement that has to live on."

VW Workers in Chattanooga Get Their Union

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Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., are joining UAW Local 42.

Volkswagen management and the UAW reached an agreement for recognition of the local when enough workers have signed on. There are about 1,500 workers at the Chattanooga plant.

During an election earlier this year, anti-worker groups and elected officials including Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam made several false statements about the campaign, including that Volkswagen management would only expand jobs in Tennessee if there was no union.

A local television station in Chattanooga investigated their claims and reported that: "We also obtained emails that show that Senator Corker's chief of staff was in direct contact with anti-union organizers who were brought in to fight the UAW. He then shared those emails with people in the Haslam administration who were in charge of the incentives."

Corker keeps getting it wrong. This week, VW announced it is investing $900 million to build a new SUV at the Chattanooga plant. That followed the announcement that management and the UAW are moving forward together to make the works council a reality.

Local 42 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace through the German automaker's "works council" approach to employee engagement, the UAW said. VW has works councils at plants in every country in which it operates, except for the U.S.

Check out this video of VW workers joining UAW Local 42.

Movement Building: Pride@Work Wants T-Mobile to Stop Violating Workers Rights

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You're not fooling anyone, T-Mobile US, says Pride@Work, an advocacy group of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Labor and Allies.

It is not enough for TMUS to sponsor a float in a parade, as the corporation did last month for the Seattle Pride events, and earlier in Albuquerque as well. It also has to treat workers right.

Pride@Work is urging support for a petition demanding justice at T-Mobile:

[T]hings aren't always as they first appear.

T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, works hard to maintain the cool facade. Whether it's his bombastic manner, swilling energy drinks in public, or wearing sneakers with his suit, he projects an image that he's not your average corporate executive. But with $29 million in income in 2013, he's the second highest paid CEO in the wireless industry and makes 331 times the average T-Mobile worker.

T-Mobile has a record of off-shoring jobs and is under federal scrutiny for repeatedly violating federal labor law. Workers who wish to form a union are harassed, bullied, and even humiliated by company management. The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly issued complaints against T-Mobile US for illegally firing and disciplining workers in stores and call centers nationwide simply because they tried to unionize.

LGBT workers, in particular, understand what it's like to work in a hostile, unfriendly workplace. They also understand that, in many states, the only workplace protections an LGBT person can get is by having a strong union contract. That's why workers from TU-CWA came out in force at the Seattle Pride parade last month to call out T-Mobile for its hypocricy and to demand #JusticeAtTMobile.

Sign the petition here.