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CWA e-Newsletter: July 3, 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.

Amazing Days in Berlin in the Fight for Workers' Rights at T-Mobile US

Germany Passes Historic Minimum Wage, Expands Bargaining Coverage

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It was "several amazing days in our fight to gain workers' rights at T-Mobile," CWA President Larry Cohen said of the two-day meeting in Berlin that energized CWA and ver.di leaders and activists to push even harder to help T-Mobile US workers gain union representation and bargaining rights.

ver.di is the German union representing 2 million workers, including workers at T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom (DT).

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Panelists Lothar Schröder (left), a leader of ver.di and Deputy Chairman of Supervisory Board at Deutsche Telekom; Christy Hoffman, UNI.Global Union; and CWA President Larry Cohen at Berlin conference on workers' rights.

Below: Cohen, a ver.di member and Rep. George Miller (left).

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CWA President Larry Cohen joined ver.di and UNI leaders; 20 DT works council leaders from our TU partnerships; 20 DT workplace leaders from eastern and southern Europe; elected officials from the U.S. and the German Parliament (Bundestag) plus leading academics.

The focus was the global economy, trade and the behavior of multinational corporations, with T-Mobile US the main case. Another presentation was made by UAW President Bob King and a leader of IG Metall (the German metalworkers union) on Volkswagen and the organizing campaign in Chattanooga, Tenn. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), a House Democratic leader, discussed trade issues and union-busting at T-Mobile US.

Before the start of the meeting CWA presented petitions signed by 62,000 people in the U.S. – CWA members as well as activists from our partner groups – to the DT board, demanding neutrality in union representation campaigns in keeping with the stated principles of DT.

ver.di workplace leaders, who are retail store, call center and tech workers at DT and T-Mobile, built on this petition campaign, and will launch a massive petition drive in Germany, demanding that the German Parliament hold hearings on the failure of the government to support management neutrality in the U.S. or to take steps to stop U.S. management's "reign of terror" against T-Mobile US workers. In contrast, AT&T and Volkswagen are committed to full neutrality for workers regarding union representation. At least 50,000 signatures are needed to force the Bundestag hearing.

The ver.di workplace leaders also committed to deepening their connections and partnerships with thousands of T-Mobile US workers and finding new ways to encourage their U.S. counterparts in the partner sites to organize more effectively and courageously. These partnerships also will include CWA AT&T Mobility leaders and community activists.

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Participants contrasted DT's human rights principles with the company's failure to enforce those principles at companies it own like T-Mobile US.

Cohen and leaders from ver.di also discussed the proposed trade partnership between the U.S. and Europe (the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) with a focus on eliminating the corporate tribunals and the extra rights that are given to corporations and investors to challenge a nation's laws in secret arbitrations.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership provides these super rights and protections for corporations; CWA  and  allies are determined to block this attack on the rights of any nation to act in the interest of its people.

Rep. Miller engaged with many members of the German Parliament on trade issues, particularly these investor state concerns, as well as how legislators can support workers' rights at T-Mobile US.

In an historic action during the conference, the German Parliament adopted Germany's first-ever minimum wage legislation, at a rate equal to $11.60 U.S., and improved collective bargaining rights for millions of workers. The result: now some 80 percent of German workers will have collective bargaining rights, as compared to 12 percent for U.S. workers.

The new law also encourages collective bargaining for agricultural, personal care workers and others who have not had collective bargaining for decades.

What is amazing to us in the U.S., Cohen said, is that the legislation passed unanimously, by conservatives, labor and greens, with a few abstentions.


T-Mobile Investigated for Cheating Customers

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CWA and TU members at T-Mobile US weren't surprised at the news this week that T-Mobile US is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for cheating wireless customers and pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars.

CWA alerted parent company Deutsche Telekom in January 2013 that T-Mobile US managers were directing workers to add charges to customer accounts. Deutsche Telekom ignored this warning. A CWA activist spoke directly to then Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann and T-Mobile CEO John Legere at the T-Mobile shareholder meeting in June 2013 about this situation. His statement also was ignored.

Now the FTC has stepped in and is suing T-Mobile US for cheating consumers.

T-Mobile US says it stopped billing for these Premium SMS services last year and has launched "a proactive program to provide full refunds for any customer that feels that they were charged for something they did not want." But hundreds of thousands of customers couldn't determine from their T-Mobile bill that they were the victims of fraud, because T-Mobile's complicated billing practices made it nearly impossible for customers to determine that they were being cheated, according to the FTC. And consumers, mainly lower income families, who use pre-paid calling plans do not receive monthly bills, so the fees were taken from their pre-paid accounts without their knowledge and consent. Will these customers also receive a "full refund?"

These third-party charges – often scams or entertainment sources – paid T-Mobile US as much as 40 percent of the monthly fees, the FTC complaint said. And even when it was made clear that charges were fraudulent, according to the FTC, T-Mobile US continued to illegally bill customers for the service.

Separately, the National Labor Relations Board also is investigating T-Mobile US for systemic violations of federal labor law. Complaints have been consolidated into one national case, which could lead to nation-wide remedies for the violations.

In addition to ignoring alerts about T-Mobile's cramming, Deutsche Telekom also chose to ignore an NLRB decision to pursue systematic abuse by T-Mobile US management. At the T-Mobile US annual meeting in June, DT voted its majority (67%) shares against a shareholder resolution that would have required human rights reporting; DT follows those principles in its operations in Germany.

CWA and ver.di, which represents workers at Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile in Germany, are working to help T-Mobile workers get the union representation they want. Thousands of T-Mobile workers in Germany have joined TU, creating partnerships with their U.S. counterparts, to convince DT that workers' rights abuses at T-Mobile US must stop.


T-Mobile Women to CEO: Rape Isn't Funny

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Five brave women, who work at T-Mobile's call center in Albuquerque, N.M., are standing up to tell their CEO that rape is no laughing matter. Over at MomsRising.org, they blogged:

We were shocked. We are still shocked. As employees of T-Mobile US, we were deeply disturbed to watch our CEO John Legere launch an expletive-laden presentation about how rival telecommunications companies are "raping" consumers.

"These high and mighty duopolists that are raping you for every penny you have, if they could do something nice for you they would," Legere said on stage in Seattle. "They f------ hate you."

It is not the first time that Mr. Legere has used profanities and crude language, including cursing out his competitors to try to get attention. That's not the problem. This time he went too far, using repugnant, sexually violent language for cheap laughs. Trivializing the brutality of sexual assault is not an edgy corporate communications strategy. For many women, this is not funny. It's traumatizing.

In a recent interview, Mr. Legere claimed to be a man of the people, saying, "I may be a little rough and crude, but I'm much more like my customers and employees than I am an executive. I think employees relate to the way I speak, customers relate to exactly the way I think and talk. And it's who I am."

But we don't relate to the way he speaks about sexual violence. In fact, we're flat-out embarrassed.

Our CEO – the man who is representing us and our company – needs to know that he's offended the hard-working women of T-Mobile. Being courteous to our customers is one of our highest priorities as customer service representatives. But what would happen if we ever swore on the phone? What would happen if we used the same rape metaphor in a conversation with a customer? That would certainly be our last day on the job. It's not even a question. T-Mobile would escort us to the door – and rightfully so.

We don't really think he's sorry, despite his short apology on Twitter, about what he said. And that's even more upsetting. It's hard enough as it is to be women working in the male-dominated world of tech. Our CEO's language is just another reminder of how we don't belong in the "boys club."

We want respect when we go to work, and, unfortunately, we don't always feel that we get it.

We understand that Mr. Legere's comments were all part of some flashy marketing scheme to get press and to appeal to young people. But is this the kind of message we want to send?

This kind of violent, distasteful language should not be tolerated in the workplace and certainly not coming from the mouth of the company's top executive. Mr. Legere needs to know that the women who work for T-Mobile will not tolerate the toxic environment that he's creating.

Check it out here.


Helping Ease the Path to Citizenship

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Even as some in Congress refuse to allow a comprehensive immigration reform bill to be voted on, CWA, CASA de Maryland and the AFL-CIO have kicked off a program to help people already on the path to citizenship – green card holders – begin to navigate the road to becoming Americans.

"When we become citizens and we can vote, then we are all better off," Antonio Rodriguez said. "This immigration fair also is helping people to learn the benefits that they get when they apply for citizenship. When we become citizens we have better benefits, we can apply for more jobs and we can vote."

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CWA, CASA de Maryland and the AFL-CIO kicked off a program to help green card holders begin to navigate the arduous road to becoming American citizens.

Below: A total of 58 citizenship applicants, 37 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal applications and 12 new DACA applications were completed.

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For four hours on Saturday, volunteers helped scores of people who showed up fill out American citizenship applications and prepare them for the citizenship process as well as immigrant youth applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Dreamers applying for DACA renewal. At the end, a total of 58 citizenship applicants, 37 DACA renewal applicants and 12 new DACA applications were completed.

The program's goal is to get as many as 30 union locals to open their union halls for immigration fairs to help 1,000 immigrants become American citizens. Partnering with National Partnership for New Americans and the AFL-CIO, CWA and allies plan to hold immigration fairs like this one across the nation to help immigrants navigate the often difficult road to citizenship.

Maryland resident Karla Rosales, who came with her mother, was there to renew her DACA application, for instance.

"This type of help is exactly what we need," she said. "I needed to renew my DACA and this service is great. The deadline is approaching for Dreamers to renew their DACA."

There are 9 million green card holders eligible for citizenship. The complicated citizenship application process, which often requires a lawyer and a $680 fee, are obstacles which these fairs are meant to overcome.

"I want to become a U.S. Citizen because I want to vote and to help the Latino community and be able to change things for the better. It is great that we have people helping us in Spanish. Everyone has been very helpful. I hope that there are more events like this one in the future," Juan Gonzales Perez of Maryland said.

The fair is a joint effort of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the AFL-CIO, CASA de Maryland, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Metropolitan Washington [D.C.] Council, Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation and local unions, from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Ironworkers, Laborers (LIUNA) and Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

If your local is interested in hosting an immigration fair, please contact CWA Senior Director Yvette Herrera at yherrera@cwa-union.org.


CWA: Supreme Court Undermines the Ability of Direct Care Workers to Bargain Collectively

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Here is CWA's statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's Harris v. Quinn decision.

Today's Harris v. Quinn decision by the U.S. Supreme Court undermines the ability of direct care workers to collectively bargain by determining that these workers are "partial public employees" and may not be required to pay representation fees.

This decision may affect hundreds of thousands of direct care workers from California to New York. The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose goal is to eliminate all bargaining rights for U.S working women and men. That's completely out of step with every other global democracy.

It's ironic. Two-thirds of all U.S. public workers currently have no collective bargaining rights. The public policy question we should be considering is 'why is the U.S. the only democracy in the world that is cutting workers' rights?'

In New Jersey, direct care providers, employed by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, are represented by CWA Local 1037. This year workers bargained for and ratified a new contract that compensates workers for mandatory trainings, defines an eight-hour day and provides additional pay for workers caring for children with special needs.

Direct care workers, working with CWA, will continue to work to join together, bargain collectively and improve their lives.


Texas CWAers Join Democratic State Convention

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With Texas Democrats feeling 2014 might just be their year after spending most of the past 20 years out of power in most of the state's key offices, CWAers came to this year's state political convention ready to make a difference.

That support included grassroots organizing help, and volunteers to help candidates in their races this year.

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Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Wendy Davis hugs CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings.

Below: Many CWA members have participated in CWA's political training prorams in Texas.

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District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said that CWA wants to support candidates who support labor issues like Wendy Davis in her race for governor and Leticia Van de Putte, running for Lieutenant governor. He praised the work CWA boot camp members are doing, CWA's plans to build a broad movement across the state, and he spoke about the important role CWA and other unions will play in this upcoming election.

The union also sharpened focus on issues that connect with voters. For instance, joined by the Sierra Club and UAW, CWA hosted the state's first Fair Trade Caucus. Cummings co-chaired a forum before a packed room that explained how trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), if allowed to pass, would negatively affect the environment, erode labor laws and exploit workers more than they're being exploited now.

"We had a trade deal called the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) that not only did not create the jobs they promised us were going to be created, it hurt workers on both sides of the border," Cummings said. "And, if allowed to pass, TPP would lead to polluting our environment, further erode labor laws in the U.S. and exploit workers aboard."

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) called for fair trade but criticized the lack of transparency surrounding TPP negotiations.

"Our goal is to educate Democrats on the impact bad trade deals have on working families. That's why we're getting contacts, and we plan on keeping them informed about TPP and other labor issues," Ed Williams of Local 6215 said.

CWA has committed more resources than ever to organizing and political work in Texas. Beginning in February, the union raised more voluntary member Political Action Funds than in all of 2012 and began a boot camp program that has trained more than 200 members who are now doing systematic political work in their workplaces and on campaigns throughout Texas. This work by members on their worksites has, in turn, led to the increases in volunteers committing to work in the upcoming election cycle.

"Our boot camp program is focused on building our members' political skills," Derrick Osobase, CWA State Campaign Lead, said. "We want to train and increase the number of CWA members' doing work in Texas through the boot camps. At the end of the day, our goal is to build permanent political infrastructure that drives our agenda and holds both parties accountable."


NABET-CWA Signs Major Sports Event Agreement with ABC; Contract Coverage Extends to ESPN

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NABET-CWA has signed an agreement with ABC Television which will provide union contract coverage for a number of events airing on many ESPN platforms starting later this summer. That agreement was announced on July 2, 2014, by NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce. NABET-CWA members already work on ESPN studio shows such as "Olbermann," "Pardon the Interruption," "Around the Horn," and "Highly Questionable," as well as on "ESPN on ABC" broadcasts such as NASCAR races and NBA games.

Under this new agreement, ABC Television will continue to provide crews for "ESPN on ABC" broadcasts as well as for certain events airing on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN News, The Longhorn Network and the SEC-ESPN Network. These crews will work for ABC under terms contained in the NABET-CWA/ABC Master Agreement as well as the Sports Agreement. ABC Television and ESPN are both subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company.

"This agreement will bring the economic stability and the important benefits of our contract to the many freelancers who work on ESPN broadcasts. Most of these workers will have healthcare benefits and retirement security benefits for the first time as the result of working at ESPN," stated President Joyce. He added, "We expect this agreement to serve as a new cornerstone in our partnership with the Walt Disney Company."

Further information on this agreement will be provided to NABET-CWA members in the coming days.


Three CWAers Run for State Legislature

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While on a leave of absence, Jimmy Tarlau, assistant to the D2-13 vice president, won the Democratic primary election for the Maryland Assembly.

District 1 research economist Pete Sikora, also on leave of absence, is campaigning for the New York State Assembly.

Steve Sarnoff, president of CWA Local 3179, is campaigning for the Florida State Assembly.

Let us know about CWAers in your local who are running for office, at news@cwa-union.org.


Movement Building Update

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Leaders and activists from CWA Local 1123 have helped build a community coalition, the Alliance for Reliable, Competitive High speed internet (ARCH), to press for the expansion of high speed broadband and policies that support consumers and economic growth in the Syracuse area.

Elected leaders in the coalition include Mayor Stephanie Miner, State Senator Dave Valesky and U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, as well as representatives from the business community. Read more here.

The coalition is holding educational briefings and has been focusing on the lack of fiber optic broadband service in the area, with the goal of gaining Verizon FiOS in Syracuse.

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TU activists, joined by members of CWA Locals 7800, 7803 and AFA-CWA lead the labor delegation in the Seattle Pride Parade, marching directly behind banners for T-Mobile US, one of the main sponsors of the event.

TU and CWAers were joined by students from United Students Against Sweatshops and other allies in raising a loud and proud message of justice. Over the past decade, T-Mobile has conducted a campaign of harassment, intimidation and illegal actions against workers who want a union voice.


Happy Independence Day!

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As we enter the holiday weekend, be reminded to Buy American as we celebrate our country's independence.


Help Stop Discrimination – Become a CWA Human Rights Activist

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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions that affect millions of workers, and predominantly women workers.

In Harris v. Quinn, the Court decided that workers who provide direct care assistance to the elderly and children are only "partial public employees" and can't be required to pay their fair share. This limits the power of these workers, mostly women, to bargain collectively. See story: Supreme Court Undermines the Ability of Direct Care Workers to Bargain Collectively.

In Hobby Lobby, the Court also determined that women workers could be discriminated against when it comes to health care coverage, although the 5-4 majority opinion didn't read that way. That decision permits employers in closely held companies, which employ more than 52 percent of the nation's workforce, to be able to dictate the health care coverage of women workers regarding contraception.

This leaves only women with union representation with the ability to safeguard their benefits and make their own decisions.

CWA's National Civil Rights and Equity Committee and National Women's Committee are working to win changes and reform on the issues that affect working men and women on the job every day. To achieve the progress we need, we need your voice. Sign up today to be a CWA Human Rights Activist!


CWA Union Plus Credit Card Benefits

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Union Plus is offering our members a special opportunity to put union solidarity in their pockets with three CWA Union Plus Credit Cards.

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The CWA-endorsed program recently expanded to include the new Credit Access card for members with average credit. It joins the Cash Rewards and Rate Advantage cards for members with excellent credit.

All three card options allow eligible cardholders to apply for exclusive hardship grants. Hardship grants are one-time checks that can help cover some of your costs in times of union-sanctioned strike, lockout, disability, job loss, or hospitalization. To date, these programs have already given over $2.1 million to union member cardholders.

The credit card program is also critically important because it provides royalties that the AFL-CIO and our union use to fund important legislative, political, organizing, and other programs beneficial to the labor movement.

And like all Union Plus Credit Cards, the bank and customer service centers are based in the U.S.

Visit www.cwa-unioncard.com to learn more and to apply for a card today.


Organizing Update

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Puerto Rico

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In Puerto Rico, CWA Local 3010's Lizbenet Vazquez and CWA Local 1032's Mickey Santiago recently led a day-long training in Spanish to boost activists' skills and build the San Juan local's capacity to organize. Members from CWA Locals 3010 and 1032 and UPAGRA Local 33225 engaged in role playing to practice talking one-on-one about the union, as well as assess, mobilize and move workers to action. Participants also watched anti-union videos and discussed the best ways to combat employers' campaigns against workers fighting to organize. As part of the training, each participant will spend a day in on-site work, talking with unorganized workers and building support for CWA representation. The local has an active organizing committee whose members frequently engage in campaigns.

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Texas

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TSEU, CWA Local 6186, has launched a 10-week organizing blitz in public services eligibility determination and long term care offices around the state. The goal: to build membership to better advocate for worker and client issues: increased staffing levels, an across-the-board pay raise, and stopping lay-offs and privatization.


What Is This Communication Company Trying To Prevent Its Employees From Communicating?

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Over the past few days, our video "What Happened in the Basement?" has been racking up new views from around the country. And that's thanks the folks at Upworthy who selected it as a featured video.

Upworthy writes:

"Companies bully unions because organizing for a fair wage, decent hours, and better health care can hurt the CEO's take-home pay. Here's the thing: This sort of bullying has not just happened once or twice. Big companies routinely use intimidation to prevent employees from organizing, including one you may be patronizing (or working for) right now. This is a reenactment of something that really happened multiple times in an NYC T-Mobile store. We fact-checked it. Keep in mind this is not just about a company opposing its employees unionizing. As you'll see at 1:22, this company took that one very unethical step further."

Watch it here.

And be sure to share the video with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.