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CWA e-Newsletter: June 26, 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.

CWA: Supreme Court Decision Shows Urgent Need for Senate Rules Reformn

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Following is CWA's statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's Noel Canning decision, a case that challenged recess nominations made by President Obama.

Today's Supreme decision is a sharp reminder that the U.S. Senate functions under archaic procedures that must change. That's especially true of the rule requiring a super-majority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to recess.

The Senate rules are at the heart of this decision and the Constitution is clear that the Senate has the right to set its own rules.

In every other democratic meeting, from the local city council to any major parliamentary body, proceedings are recessed by a majority vote. Only the U.S. Senate requires a super-majority to proceed to debate on most motions, legislation and including the motion to recess.

We have seen the consequences of this rule. It's been a key tactic used by the Senate minority to block confirmation of the president's executive and judicial nominations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party's intentions clear when he said his goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. When that didn't succeed, the Senate minority stepped up a campaign of delay and obstruction, of appointments and any progressive legislative advances. The minority's strategy of refusing to proceed to a vote for any recess has made a mockery of the Senate's role in government.

The Senate's constitutional duty is to review the president's nominees through "advice and consent" – not use parliamentary tricks to impede his policy agenda.

For thousands of workers, this decision has real-life consequences. Some 120 decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board in the period contested by the Noel Canning lawsuit may be challenged and justice for thousands of workers will be delayed, and in practice, denied.

The need for real Senate rules reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. CWA and our allies, working together in the Democracy Initiative, are keeping up the fight for Senate rules changes. Critical is an end to the super-majority vote requirement that blocks debate and discussion of nearly all Senate business, even the motion to recess.


Working Families at the White House

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The White House Summit on Working Families on Monday brought together labor leaders, businesses, economists, policymakers, advocates and citizens for a conversation on how America can better help families succeed at work and at home.

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CWAers joined more than 250 women workers this week at the White House Summit on Working Families.

A CWA delegation, led by AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson and CWA National Women's Committee member Nancy Biagini, joined more than 250 women workers at the summit.

President Obama used the event to push for improvements for working women and their families, including:

  • Directing federal agencies to expand flexible workplace policies.
  • Urging Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make accommodations for pregnant women that allow them to keep their jobs.
  • Extending workplace protections so eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.
  • Providing access to child care workers for job training programs.
  • Providing grants to states to conduct research that could support the development or implementation of state paid leave programs.
  • Closing the gender pay gap by expanding women's access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers and other non-traditional occupations.
  • Expanding tax credits that support working families.
  • Working with unions and labor management partnerships to expand quality training programs to provide pathways to middle-class jobs.

Read the full fact sheet here. And check out the recap of the first-ever summit here.

And just in time for the event, CWA launched 10 ways the Trans-Pacific Partnership would hurt U.S. working families. Read and share our list here.


Cohen: Democracy Must Be Everyone's Second Issue

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The Alliance for Justice honored CWA President Larry Cohen with its 2014 Champion of Justice Award. Presenting the award was Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) with a special video message from Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who praised Cohen for leading the charge to change the Senate rules on nominations.

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The Alliance for Justice named CWA President Larry Cohen its 2014 Champion of Justice for leading the charge to change the Senate rules on nominations. From left: Senator Tom Harkin, AFJ President Nan Aron, President Cohen.

Photo credit: Elliott O'Donovan

Harkin spoke of Cohen's passion and determination to get things accomplished. "Larry was the critical part of our work on the Employee Free Choice Act. We met week after week after week to get this done, and we came so close. If it weren't for the Senate rules, we'd have employee free choice, we'd have labor law reform. And it was Larry's leadership that drove the rules reform effort. He was relentless and never stopped for a minute, until we won."

"Our work with Larry and the other members of the Fix the Senate Now coalition led to the extraordinary reform of Senate rules, which helped break the pattern of obstruction that has been doing so much damage to our courts and our democratic institutions," said AFJ President Nan Aron.

Cohen stressed that Aron and AFJ have been a big part of the campaign to get key nominations confirmed by the Senate, even when the focus was on executive nominations, like members of the National Labor Relations Board, instead of judicial nominations. "In our work together, Nan said 'we need to be united,'" Cohen said.

"Maybe the issue you most care about is collective bargaining rights, or financial reform or climate change. That's good. But the democracy movement to rebuild economic justice must be everyone's second issue. Or we won't get anywhere," he said.

Click here for another good example of why the democracy movement matters.


Senate Committee Hears Testimonies on Repairing the Voting Rights Act

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On a clear but balmy afternoon, a coalition of labor, civil and human rights groups held a rally on the U.S. Capitol grounds this week to urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate's example and hold its own hearings on the Voting Rights Amendment Act.

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The U.S. Supreme a year ago gutted the Voting Rights Act and a key enforcement provision. Hundreds of civil rights, labor and good government activists rallied on Capitol Hill to restore protections for the right to vote.

CWA and other members of the coalition have been pushing for the proposed amendment to begin to repair the damage done to the seminal American civil rights law when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act a year ago, striking down a key enforcement provision of the law.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recalled a coalition of elected leaders gathering on the steps of the Capitol to urge the court to do the right thing.

"They didn't, but we now have a chance to do so," Pelosi said. "This is as fundamental and as strong as our democracy. We are on sacred ground. There's nothing more fundamental than respecting every person's right to vote and to have that vote counted."

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But Pelosi told the rally crowd that the bill faces an uphill task getting a hearing in the House because Republicans, who have mounted intense nationwide efforts to reduce the number of votes by people of color, lead the House and do not want a law that would blunt their efforts to deny people the right to vote.

"We have a bi-partisan bill, it doesn't do everything. It isn't the bill we would have written in the majority, but it does correct the decision of the court. We are calling upon the Speaker of the House to give us our vote on this bill so that we can protect the votes of millions of people in our country," Pelosi said.

Other groups that provided testimonies at the Senate hearing and participated in the rally included: People for the American Way; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the American Civil Liberties Union; Common Cause; and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

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CWAers call on Congress to pass a proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act.

Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who was master of ceremony for the rally, said as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, states and localities have busied themselves changing election laws to deny people the right to vote based solely on the color of their skin or the language they speak.

"The right to vote in our nation is in grave danger and you are here because you recognize that threat to American democracy and you are here to help us all amplify our voices so that members of the House of Representatives, the House leadership most especially, hears about the importance of providing a hearing for this bill and a markup so we can move this thing forward," Henderson said.


It Ain't Over!

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Taking a Stand in N.J.

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New Jersey CWAers turned up at the State Capitol in Trenton on June 12th to tell Gov. Chris Christie that his plan to renege on pension plans for public employees will not stand. That day, 600 CWA members in NJ reminded Christie to keep his promise to fund the pension (and to follow the law he takes credit for). These are some of those member's voices.


AT&T, DirectTV Face Congressional Hearing Double Header

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In back-to-back congressional hearings on Tuesday, the CEOs of AT&T and DirecTV explained to lawmakers how their merger would benefit workers and consumers.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and DirecTV CEO Michael White said their services – AT&T's copper and fiber networks and wireless, and DirecTV's satellite service – don't overlap but are complementary.

The merged company would be more competitive and able to bring high speed broadband to 15 million people who now don't have access. And Stephenson told lawmakers that the merged company will offer to DirecTV employees the options to collectively bargain or not. "That will be their choice," he said.

Stephenson and White testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on anti-trust, competition policy and consumer rights, chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and the House Judiciary subcommittee on regulatory reform, commercial and antitrust law.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, said this transaction could have "transformational benefit for thousands of employees in this industry."

In a letter to Senator Klobuchar, CWA President Larry Cohen said the merger "will expand high road labor standards and create substantive video competition."

AT&T also has made clear commitments that reinforce the benefit and value of the merger to consumers, including investment and expansion in high speed networks for underserved rural and urban communities, Cohen said.

"AT&T has the largest full-time union workforce of any company in America. From experience, we know that AT&T respects the rights of employees to make their own choice about union representation and engage in collective bargaining to establish their wages and benefits," he pointed out.


TPP: A Worry for Communities of Color

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If past trade deals are an indication, African Americans and other communities of color should be especially concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that's targeting more American jobs, experts testified at a House briefing on the Hill this week.

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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) urged activists to use the fight against TPP to hold their members of Congress accountable for their vote.

"These agreements allow large corporations to ship jobs overseas, creating a ripple effect that hurts our communities," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said. "We know from experience that the good union jobs that help African Americans and other communities of color climb to the middle class are the first to be decimated by these so called free trade agreements. I've witnessed this over and over and over again. This is true in my home district in Oakland, CA. It is true in Detroit and it's true in so many places around the country."

CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson moderated a panel that also included NAACP Washington Bureau Policy Director Hilary Shelton, ASFCME Asst. Legislative Director Barb Coufal and AFL-CIO Chief Economist Dr. Bill Spriggs.

Shelton said there's a responsibility to learn from past experiences and to correct injustices.

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Panelists agree: trade deals like TPP won’t create U.S. jobs. From left: CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson, AFL-CIO Chief Economist Dr. Bill Spriggs, NAACP Washington Bureau Policy Director Hilary Shelton and ASFCME Asst. Legislative Director Barb Coufal.

"Racial and ethnic minorities, especially African Americans workers, have historically been employed disproportionately in low-paying jobs in the manufacturing service sector, areas often more vulnerable to direct or residual impact of such international agreements," he said. "Because of our strong commitment to job creation, we ask the question, will American jobs be created by any eventual trade agreement?"

No, Spriggs said. Trade deals used to be about lowering tariffs but tariffs are pretty low the world over right now, he said. These new deals allow corporations to take a job from one area of the world, move it elsewhere so the job could be done much cheaper; they pocket the profits and tax breaks despite not paying much taxes and Americans are left with the ruins.

"We are not going to get jobs out of this. Unless you believe in the Tooth Fairy and you're a very patient child, ain't going to happen. If you believe you're going to get jobs, well, you've had since 1993 to get jobs out of NAFTA. So far, all you've done is hurt the Mexican economy, sent millions of people across their borders," Spriggs said.

Rep. Lee urged people at the briefing to use the TPP negotiations to organize: "Go back to your organizations, organize, mobilize, educate and then meet with your member of Congress and insist on not free but fair trade," she said.


TPP Update

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CWAers Ready for Recess Actions

Congress is getting ready to leave D.C. for its July 4 recess. That means CWAers and activists are gearing up for actions and events in home districts starting next week, focusing on the threat to "Buy American" and "buy local" programs from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. TPP would force our government to give foreign corporations equal access to bidding on contracts.

Click here and contact your representative.

And don't forget to download the CWA App and complete your profile. That's how you'll know the latest. For more information, go to www.cwa-union.org/app.

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IUE-CWA Activists Organize TPP Workshop

Activists from IUE-CWA Local 81201 in Lynn, Mass., hosted a workshop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to keep the momentum moving to stop fast track and block this one-sided deal from taking effect. More than 60 attended, from IUE-CWA Local 81201, Lynn United for Change, the New Lynn Coalition, SEIU Local 509 and Massachusetts Senior Action. Activists dug into the details on the TPP and the harmful effects this deal would have on the Lynn community. During the workshop, participants wrote letters to the editor that were submitted to several local newspapers. U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D) joined the group to discuss his opposition to the TPP, and why we need trade that works for everyone, not just the 1 percent.


NABET-CWA: Supreme Court Decision on Aereo Protects Jobs of Broadcast Industry Workers

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In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the actions of Aereo, a start-up streaming service, violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals for free on miniature antennas and delivering them to subscribers for a fee.

The major television broadcasters brought the challenge, claiming that Aereo was in effect stealing content from the broadcast airwaves and enabling customers to view that content at just about real time.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said the Aereo decision is an important victory that protects the jobs of broadcast industry workers, and benefits consumers too. "Aereo sought to transmit copyrighted works to the public without payment of any license fees, threatening the core business model for television networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX, where our members work. Our members' jobs depend on that current model, and these licensing fees help pay for their salaries and benefits."

Consumers will benefit as the networks use the revenues from the licensing fees to invest in production, so that audiences can continue to enjoy high-quality, over-the-air programming, he said. NABET-CWA had signed on to an amicus brief – also called "friend of the court" brief – to weigh in on this case. The union represents about 8,600 workers in broadcast and cable television.


Workers Rights Board Pledges to Stand with Denver SuperShuttle Drivers

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Representatives from Denver International Airport SuperShuttle drivers, members of CWA Local 7777, testified at a Workers Rights Board hearing last week about their employer's unfair and unethical practices during their fight for a fair contract.

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The community turns out to support Denver SuperShuttle drivers in the fight for dignity and union protection as they bargain a contract with their employer. SuperShuttle walked away from the bargaining table and imposed a unilateral 30% pay cut on the drivers.

Workers joined CWA after a long fight to get a voice on the job. They've continued to battle the company's anti-worker actions, including its move to unilaterally end negotiations and impose a contract with 30% wage cuts.

Four drivers testified before the board about their experiences with the company and their ongoing campaign to gain a fair contract. A legal expert testified on the exploitative "franchisee agreements" the drivers worked under.

About 75 people attended the hearing, organized by Colorado Jobs with Justice.

Denver community leaders, including politicians, religious leaders and academics, serve on the board. Colorado State Rep. Crisanta Duran committed to sharing the drivers' story with her colleagues in the Colorado State House of Representatives and finding other leverage over SuperShuttle.

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Fekadu Ejigdegsew, a SuperShuttle driver since 2004, is one of the workers leading the fight for dignity, respect and fair wages.

"We find that SuperShuttle is violating the human rights and dignity of these workers," the Rev. Anne Dunlap of the United Church of Christ said after the hearing. "We call upon the community to stand with the drivers in their fight for respect and dignity and a fair contract. I strongly condemn the actions of SuperShuttle and how they are treating the drivers. This is America."

The Board said SuperShuttle must stop retaliating against workers, return to the bargaining table to bargain in good faith, and treat all workers with dignity and respect. The Board will release a report documenting their findings and recommendations.

"95% of the drivers voted to join CWA after two years of fighting with the company," Negede Assefa, who has been with SuperShuttle since 2004, said. "Before CWA started helping us organize, everybody was getting abused by the company."

"We came to this country for a better life and to be treated with respect," said Fekadu Ejigdegsew, a SuperShuttle driver since 2004. "We are here to work very hard but [SuperShuttle is] forcing us to get government assistance, which we don't like."

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Sitting on the Denver Workers Rights Board are faith leaders, elected officials, academics and community leaders.

The contract, Assefa said, does not pay workers enough to support themselves and their families.

Board participants made commitments to continue working with the SuperShuttle drivers towards their goal of a fair contract and protections on the job. Lisa Duran, Executive Director of Rights for All People (RAP), an immigrant rights organization working in the Latino community of Denver, pledged space at RAP to the African immigrants who make up a majority of SuperShuttle drivers and said she will work closely with the drivers and their families.


T-Mobile's Foul-Mouthed, Trash-Talking CEO John Legere At It Again

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Last week T-Mobile US unveiled a promotion to drum up more customers, but it had some people wondering about the company's questionable taste. Then John Legere, the carrier's chief executive, chose to escalate things by comparing the corporate strategy of rival carriers to rape.

The hyper-sexualized promotion invites the public to have a "7NightStand" with T-Mobile.

Start your relationship with T-Mobile and take the #7NightStand Challenge. The more you confess your cheating ways the better your chances are at getting lucky and winning prizes like a seven day romantic getaway for two!

Cheating on your carrier has never been so fun! Take us for a spin and share your news!

Legere then took the podium at a company event and compared the prices of rivals AT&T and Verizon to rape: "These high and mighty duopolists that are raping you for every penny you have, if they could do something nice for you they would...The fu**ers hate you."

Legere says he speaks the way he does to connect with his employees and customers. He told Business Insider: "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."

Many industry analysts and writers are now saying "his act is wearing thin."

The fraternity house environment of T-Mobile's executive offices – T-Mobile has no women in senior leadership and just one woman on the corporate board – lends itself to sexist advertising.


We're Bringing TU Pride to Seattle

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TU activists will be leading the labor delegation in this Sunday's Seattle Pride Parade – walking directly behind one of the main hometown sponsors of the event, T-Mobile US! The company's corporate headquarters are just outside the city.

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TU activists will lead the labor delegation in this Sunday's Seattle Pride Parade.

TU members, plus CWAers from Local 7800, CWA Local 7803 and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and union and community allies will be waving our bright magenta #JusticeAtTMobile signs to send a loud and proud message for justice and fair treatment on the job. Just as we raised awareness during the Albuquerque Pride Parade, parade marchers will be handing out palm cards about CEO John Legere and throwing candies wrapped in messages about the campaign and www.justiceattmobile.org.

If you're not in Seattle, you can join the action by tweeting #JusticeAtTMobile on June 29.