CWA e-Newsletter: June 19, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

No to ‘Boehner Trade’

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President Cohen’s latest HuffPost blog spotlights the solidarity of the Democratic House Caucus in opposing fast track and bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Read it here.

500 Stewards Protest Christie’s Pension Grab

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500 Stewards Protest Christie’s Pension Grab

Hundreds of CWA NJ stewards rally outside the Statehouse in Trenton, protesting Gov. Chris Christie's attempt to divert a required payment to the pension fund.

More than 500 CWA shop stewards joined hundreds of union activists at the New Jersey statehouse last Thursday to protest Gov. Chris Christie’s scheme to slash his promised payment public workers' pension funds by $2.4 billion.

Christie plans to divert the money to cushion his budget shortfall and recently said, “There is no Plan B.”

But CWA is proposing that the 1 percent start to pay their fair share, through tax increases to balance the budget. That includes raising the marginal tax rate on income above $400,000, a surcharge on corporate taxes, and an alternative minimum tax.

"The governor of the state of New Jersey, blithely and carelessly said a day ago that there was no Plan B, other than to not pay for the legally and morally committed pension plans for hundreds of thousands of workers and their families," CWA State Director Hetty Rosenstein said at the rally.

"He said that as if he was deciding to stop paying into the Wine of the Month Club — can't afford it, gotta let it go," she said, according to The Star-Ledger.

A dozen unions have joined CWA and the National Education Association in filing lawsuits to stop Christie from seizing the money meant for public workers’ pensions.

Meanwhile a new state budget is due in two weeks.

Don't Miss Tonight's Telephone Town Hall

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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.

Joining us will be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will talk about the fight to get money out of politics. Leaders from allies Public Citizen and People for the American Way will join, and we'll hear the latest on public election financing in New York.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move forward on getting big money out of politics by restoring the right of Congress to restrict spending in elections. It's the first step toward ensuring that all citizens can be heard, and that every vote counts, not just the richest of the 1 percent.

You'll want to hear more, so pick up the phone at 7:30 EDT tonight.

Kick Brunei Out of TPP Talks, Members of Congress Tell Administration

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Democratic and Republican members of Congress are calling on American trade negotiators to kick Brunei out of Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks until its sultan revokes a new Taliban-like penal code that violates human rights.

"Tell Brunei to address its human rights violations as a condition before the U.S. engages in further talks," a group of 119 House members wrote in a letter to U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman. This campaign, led by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); Louise Slaughter (D-NY); and Henry Waxman (D-CA), focused on the threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons; women and religious minorities in Brunei due to the country's new Sharia-like law. Read the letter here.

Separately, several prominent national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality organizations sent a letter to President Obama with the same demand. Pride at Work, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the National Center for Transgender Equality called on the administration to insist that Brunei revokes its new penal code or face being dropped from the TPP altogether.

The new laws in Brunei, which went into effect on May 1, will be phased in over time. When the third and final phase is implemented, gay men and lesbians, as well as people convicted of adultery, will be stoned to death for their supposed "crimes." The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights has condemned the new laws as a violation of international law. Amnesty International says the new law "allows for cruel and inhuman punishments including stoning to death, whipping and amputation."

Recent events in Brunei fly in the face of bedrock American principles, the Congressional leaders said. "The U.S. must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses," they wrote. If we do not inside that Brunei address these human rights atrocities, "the U.S. will lose its leverage to provide economic pressure on countries to reverse unacceptable policies," they wrote.

These actions are just the latest in growing opposition to the secretive TPP trade deal that will lower environmental, labor and human rights standards but protect multinational corporations and investor interests.

Brunei was one of the original signatories to the 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement that also included Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Although small in size and population, its vast petroleum and natural gas deposits make Brunei one of the world's richest countries.

Shame: U.S. Ranks Among World's Worst Labor Violators

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Shame: U.S. Ranks Among World's Worst Labor Violators

A new report issued by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that the United States is among the world's worst countries when it comes to workers' rights. The ITUC has 325 affiliates in 161 countries.

"The guarantee of the free exercise of workers' rights is a guarantee of a more equal and prosperous society. When workers enjoy the freedom of a collective voice, can bargain for safe workplaces and fair wages...and are free from discrimination, then productivity and economic growth can flourish," the ITUC said in its report.

However, "abuses of rights are getting worse, not better, and too many countries take no responsibility for protecting workers' rights in a national context or through corporate supply chains," the report said.

Shamefully, the U.S. is one of those countries. In fact, the U.S., which used to lead the world in workers' rights, now trails 73 other countries that do a better job of maintaining workers' rights to bargain and organize.

The annual report, first issued in 1983, is based on the world's most comprehensive data base of workers' rights violations and an extensive survey of member organizations. This year, in addition to qualitative data, the information is supplemented by numerical ratings for each country that show how workers' rights are recognized -- or not -- around the globe.

The ITUC Global Rights Index covers violators in 139 countries recorded from April 2013-March 2014. Analysts used 97 indicators of fundamental human rights and workers' rights, as defined by the International Labor Organization conventions. These include freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike. The U.S. has ratified just two of the eight conventions, covering slave labor and the worst child labor abuses; other industrial democracies have recognized all the ILO principles.

Based on these indicators, countries received a numerical ranking, and then were rated in clusters from 1-5, depending on their compliance with bargaining and workers' rights. A higher ranking indicates those governments that have failed to respect and guarantee workers' rights. A country where the rule of law has completely broken down received a 5+ rating.

The U.S. ranking was four, systematic violation of rights. "Workers in countries with the rating of four have reported systematic violations. The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers, putting fundamental rights under continuous threat," the report found. The U.S. shares that rating with Mexico, Honduras, Bahrain, Pakistan, Yemen, Thailand and others.

Read the full report here.

Too Much Media Consolidation

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Too Much Media Consolidation

TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer, second right, tells a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that media consolidation is harming diversity of opinion and local coverage, by cutting the news-gathering ability of local organizations.

If big media companies are allowed to keep consolidating broadcast stations and newspapers, the result will be the same as it’s been for 20 years – severe job cuts and far less diversity in a community’s sources of news, TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

Read the testimony here.

Lunzer, who prepared the testimony with NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce, stressed that various joint-operating agreements that allow TV stations to air the same news over multiple channels, or to share newsrooms with other stations and newspapers have already badly eroded many community's access to independent news-gathering.

Republicans disagree. They called the hearing to chastise the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for not working fast enough on new rules allowing more consolidation. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) invited Lunzer to tell a different side of the story.

While owners and industry lobbyists continue to claim that consolidation improves the bottom-line for cash-strapped media organizations, their real agenda is that "efficiencies increase profitability into double digits," Lunzer said. He pointed to Youngstown, Ohio, where one company, LIN, operates four TV stations and two others share stories with the city's newspaper.

"When LIN consolidated stations it eliminated most newsroom jobs in the accreted newsrooms," he said. "The Vindicator has substantially reduced jobs in both broadcast and print in the last five years, operating with a combined newsroom. Not only has overall employment been reduced, but local coverage has shrunk substantially and diversity of stories and coverage as well. Cable adds almost nothing locally."

In Syracuse, NY, and Peoria, IL, Granite and Barrington Broadcasting swapped and combined news operations in each city. A Guild-commissioned study found that 70 workers were laid off and 16 were reassigned. Barrington Broadcasting now runs 3 stations in Syracuse with the same news staff.

Lunzer testified that the union agrees with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's goal of restricting joint sales agreements where more than 15 percent of sales are attributed to another entity. The Guild also agrees with the FCC that shared services agreements should be studied for similar restrictions.

Democrats on the subcommittee appeared committed to fighting more consolidation, while Republicans said they didn't know what all the fuss was about. In their view, the Internet and cable have created more news sources than ever. One GOP congressman boasted about hearing breaking news on Twitter, saying he didn't need TV or radio or newspapers to learn it. He failed to grasp that the tweeted news began, somewhere, with a journalist.

The New Soft Money

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Just in time for the midterm elections, Ohio State University researchers have published the first comprehensive report on the explosion of independent campaign spending, as told by politicians, elected officials and campaign operatives in their own words.

All agreed that outside spending has dramatically changed the political landscape -- often for the worse. "No one's saying, 'Here's $50 million for a good compromise," said former Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.).

Among the findings in "The New Soft Money: Outside Spending in Congressional Elections" are:

  • Outside groups do much of the dirty work in congressional campaigns, primarily running negative ads. But campaigns don't actually like all this independent spending since it makes it harder for candidates to maintain their message. Staffers noted that outside groups made campaigns "dumber and sillier" and led a "scorched earth" approach that had little regard for regional political differences or long-term consequences.
  • Members of Congress see independent spending as a threat "for those who refuse to toe the line of outside groups." Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.)" said, "The question you're asking is do they threaten you, and the answer is they don't have to. They threaten you -- they're threatening because you know what they can do."
  • Though the law says "coordination" is illegal, there is a high degree of cooperation between outside groups and congressional campaigns. Former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called so-called independent groups "just nonsense." He told researchers, "If you look at who makes up these organizations, on all sides, they're loaded with political operatives. They know the way these campaigns are run, modern campaigns. They can see for themselves what's up on the air. They can see the polling, a lot of it's public. Some of it's, you know not public but pretty much the same thing as what's public. So they don't need to talk to anybody in the campaign in order to know what to do."
  • Outside money is making our political system even polarized. One staffer said, "So when you're spending all of your time fundraising, you don't get to know your colleagues. You don't get to know what they think and how they reason. You're not spending time debating issues over dinner. You also don't hang out and have your families get to know each other. And it becomes a lot easier to demonize someone and of course the media loves that and picks it up."

To learn more about how we got here and what's next, read the full report here.

Movement Building

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We Are Ohio and the Ohio AFL-CIO activists gathered Tuesday to learn about the threat of "right to work" in the community and how to fight back against the attack on their voting rights. CWA District 4 Vice President Linda Hinton was along the speakers. Read more at The Morning Journal.

North Carolina

CWA Local 3603 activists stood up for workers rights at this past Moral Monday in Raleigh, N.C.

NC Movement Building

CWAers join this week's Moral Monday in Raleigh, N.C., to protest the attack on workers' rights by state legislators.

CWAer to Lead Pride at Work

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Jerame Davis, field coordinator in CWA's legislative department, has been named interim executive director of Pride at Work, the LGBT constituency group of organized labor.

"Pride at Work has always held a special place in my heart," said Davis. "I got my start in LGBT and Labor advocacy through Pride at Work and it feels like a homecoming to be joining the staff. I am thrilled to have this opportunity."

Davis is a long-time LGBT and progressive activist with a background in communications and technology. Originally from the southern Indiana city of Columbus, Davis became acquainted with Pride at Work in Bloomington, IN, after a local chapter got involved in a wrongful termination case Davis and his partner were battling. He served a short time as vice president of that chapter before going on to found the first LGBT equality organization in his hometown and serving as one of its first co-chairs.

U.S. Real Wages Fall

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U.S. Real Wages Fall

A government report just out is confirming what most Americans are already feeling, a real bite on their wages.

Thanks to the rising cost of food, the latest Consumer Price Index showed its biggest jump since Feb. 2013, resulting in a drop in real hourly wages for workers last month. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported this week that real average hourly earnings for all U.S. workers fell 0.2% from April to May, seasonally adjusted.

Some are advocating raising the minimum wage as a way to boost wages but CWA President Larry Cohen, who also supports raising the minimum wage, says don't stop there. Raise wages for all American working and middle class families. Two main factors have pushed down wages for working and middle class workers, he said. Trade policies that have made many jobs and sectors "trade-able," meaning they can be done anywhere in the world, and the destruction of bargaining rights for most workers.

"One of the major factors that explains this wage stagnation is our approach to globalization that we call trade policy, which is not trade policy, it is investment policy," Cohen said.

Cohen says the way to solve that is, instead of bargaining away labor rights and protections for American workers, U.S. trade negotiators need to do what their counterparts in other industrialized nations do, bargain 21st Century trade deals that include protections for American workers and industries.

Corporations increasingly have a stranglehold on our elected officials, elections and public policy. That has resulted in a reactionary Congress and big money that pollutes our political process. For the long term, if we want to restore collective bargaining and fix our democracy to allow reform, Cohen urges a mass political movement to change the way our governments function now.

"Remember, we are the 99%," Cohen said, "which means there are more of us than there are of them."

Canadian Guild Members Rally to Stop Funding Cuts

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Members of the Canada Media Guild protest cuts that are hurting CBC radio, television and online broadcasts.

Below: At the Ottawa protest: CMG President Carmel Smyth, CWA Canada President Martin O'Hanlon and Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

Carrying signs urging the board of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations to "say no" to further cuts in funding for public broadcasting, more than 100 Canadian Media Guild members rallied outside the CBC governing board meeting this week in Ottawa.

The CMG, with about 6,000 members, is a local of CWA/SCA Canada.

The governing board had convened to discuss more cuts to the CBC radio, television and online programming. Guild members told the board to not only reverse cuts, but to vote against further cuts and move to a more stable multi-year funding model.

CMG members want the board to reverse the $115 million Deficit Reduction Action Plan (DRAP), reinstate the Local Programming Improvement Fund and increase funding to about half the average of what developed countries invest in their public broadcaster, or $43.50 per capita per year.

"We want to remind CBC board members that they are in charge of a public broadcaster that Canadians value and rely on," said Carmel Smyth, National president for the Canadian Media Guild. "The board must stop the ongoing cuts and push the government to fund CBC adequately."

Rallies have been held across the country, as Canadians call on their elected officials to fully fund CBC/Radio-Canada so it can continue to deliver the radio, television and online services they rely on.

CMG outlined the harmful impact the cuts are causing to the national public broadcaster including: watering down of reporting and coverage; diminishing local programming; damaging a critical cultural incubator; abandoning sports and loss of diversity.

Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the CMG branch at CBC, said it is time for the CBC board to stand up for CBC/Radio-Canada and demand multi-year stable funding so that the CBC can continue to deliver the radio, television and online services Canadians deserve in communities across the country. "We are asking them to reverse recent cuts, vote against further cuts, and join CMG in asking for funding that helps CBC meet its mandate to Canadians," Laurin said.

Safe Staffing Saves Lives

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Safe Staffing Saves Lives a

More than 135 activists joined a hearing on the Safe Staffing bill, as health care workers from facilities around the region testified about the need for safe nurse to patient ratios.

Below: A town hall meeting with state legislators gave CWAers the opportunity to raise questions about safe staffing.

Safe Staffing Saves Lives b

"A patient dies every three seconds from a medical error," said CWA Local 1168 President Cori Gambini, again and again over May's Safe Staffing blitz. Healthcare workers know the role that nurse to patient ratios play in giving good and safe care, and all last month in Western New York State, CWA healthcare workers and allies got this message out to the public and legislators in the fight to assure all patients receive the they deserve.

More than 135 people came out to a meeting at SEIU 1199 on May 15 for the hearing on the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which would require all acute care facilities to comply with safe minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and require all residential healthcare facilities to comply with minimum care hours for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nurse aides. Led by CWA, a coalition of 13 different co-sponsoring organizations, from other healthcare unions to community groups like the Coalition for Economic Justice, stressed importance of passing the bill. There was barely a dry eye in the room as nine people, from patient and healthcare worker perspectives, testified from facilities around the region on why nurse to patient ratios are so vital. State legislators listened with rapt attention and all spoke supportively of the bill.

The local federation of unions came together on May 17 for a legislative town hall meeting, where they questioned five state legislators on the bill.

And on May 20, hundreds of healthcare workers from throughout New York gathered in Albany to tell legislators, "Safe staffing saves lives!" More than 500 members from health care unions sat down with their representatives to share stories and statistics to gain the support. Union members from Western New York were able to lobby 11 lawmakers. On the day of the visit, the bill was passed out of the Assembly Health Committee.

This is a long-term campaign, so the vigor and commitment that people showed this May will continue to grow. Just as CWAers pushed through the Safe Patient Handling Act, we're committed to seeing the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act become a reality.

It's a Wide World of Sports for NABET-CWAERS

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It's a wide world of sports for NABET-CWAERS a

NABET-CWA members were on the job at the Belmont Stakes, and the U.S. Open men's and women's golf tournaments.

It's a wide world of sports for NABET-CWAERS b

From the Indy 500 to the NBA Finals to the Belmont Stakes, some 400 NABET-CWA members at ABC and NBC have worked to bring these great sporting events to millions.

A crew of 81 NABET-CWA members did camera and graphics work, editing, live video and audio production mixing at the ABC broadcast of the Indy 500 from Speedway, Indiana.

Flip to the Stanley Cup National Hockey League finals on NBC and NBC Sports, and NABET-CWA members were getting it done, traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and New York for five games. More than 55 members covered each round of Stanley Cup Finals too, working 94 playoff games in 16 different cities.

A crew of 56 NABET-CWA members worked the National Basketball Association Finals on ABC; they also had worked all four rounds of the playoffs -- 86 games in 16 different cities -- and throughout the regular NBA season.

The Belmont Stakes broadcast on NBC brought the highest ratings for the third jewel of the Triple Crown since 2004. The 110 person NABET-CWA, which also covers Sunday Night Football, worked all three Triple Crown events this year.

It took 108 NABET-CWA members to cover the men's and women's U.S. Open Golf Championships, broadcast on NBC and ESPN. For the first time ever, the two tournaments were broadcast back to back on the same course in Pinehurst, N.C. The crew was on the air for 34 hours this year.

Bargaining Update

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bargaining update CWA Local 3181

Members of CWA Local 3181 picketed the offices of the Village of Tequesta, Fla., to protest the community council's refusal to bargain a fair contract. The local represents about 40 employees who are Communications Officers, Accounting Clerks, Customer Service Representatives, Water Plant Operators, Building Permit Coordinator, Service Technicians, Maintenance Workers, Code Compliance Officer, and others.