Mar 27, 2014
- Making Every Vote Count: NY Legislature Passes National Popular Vote Bill
- Verizon Wireless Retail Workers Fight for A Union Voice in Brooklyn
- Building Our Movement
- Activists Fight Back Online Against Big PhRMA Support for Fast Track–TPP
- Bargaining Update
- Political Action Update
- CWA Keeps Virginia Relay Center Open
- '9 Out of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact'
- Apply For Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship
- 'Cesar Chavez' Film Opens March 28
By overwhelming majorities in both chambers, the New York State Assembly and Senate adopted National Popular Vote legislation, a vote that moves the nation closer to adopting a popular vote standard for our presidential election. If the governor signs the bill, New York will become the 11th state/jurisdiction to adopt the measure.
Currently, each state controls its own rules as to how electoral votes are awarded to candidates. To win election to the presidency, a candidate must receive 270 of the 538 electoral votes. Increasingly, that has meant that candidates focus only on a combination of some states to win the presidential election, reducing citizens in many states to spectator status. Plainly, their votes don't count.
But under the National Popular Vote bill, presidential candidates would compete for every vote in every state. States that pass the bill agree to award all of their electoral votes to the candidate with the most overall votes nationwide. The plan can't go forward until states with at least a total of 270 electoral votes adopt it.
The National Popular Vote law has broad bi-partisan support and already has been adopted by these jurisdictions: California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – representing 136 electoral votes. New York's 29 votes would mean that supporters of this reform are more than halfway to getting to 270.
CWA President Larry Cohen said the New York State vote "puts us within striking difference of making every vote in our nation count when electing the President. In the 2012 presidential election, about $3 billion was spent almost entirely in 6 states; the candidates only went to other states to raise money. We have a long way to go on our road to a 21st century democracy, but the adoption of National Popular Vote in NY is a huge step. Congratulations to CWA members and activists who have worked on this for more than a year, to our partners and to the National Popular Vote campaign for making this possible," Cohen said.
Four times in the history of our country, the Electoral College system has resulted in the election of a president who did not receive a plurality of the national popular vote, most recently in the 2000 election between Al Gore and George Bush.
An overwhelming majority of Verizon Wireless retail workers in Brooklyn have signed cards saying they want to join CWA.
A strong inside committee from the company's seven Brooklyn stores has been mobilizing workers around combating unreasonable sales quotas, favoritism and the lack of job security.
VZW retail store workers in Brooklyn are wearing red CWA wrist bands everyday to show their support for a CWA voice.
"This has been a long time coming," said Tatiana Hill, who has worked for Verizon Wireless for three years. "Most of us feel like we've been a real asset to this company and we all really value our jobs, but we want to be appreciated as well. That's what this is all about. Everyone is really fed up with the current working situation and conditions."
Hill said that employees want a voice in the company because an executive in an office on the 50th floor just doesn't understand the day-to-day retail environment and customers like they do.
"Everyone is really strong and happy," said Hill. "It's frightening at times, but there's so much passion. That's a big motivator in why we're fighting so hard."
Workers in all seven stores have been wearing red CWA wristbands to work every day in a show of solidarity.
But Verizon Wireless is pushing back. Though workers filed for an election two weeks ago, management has delayed it twice. The company has also hired two separate union-busting law firms – Jones Day and Kauff McGuire & Margolis, the very firm Cablevision used in its attempt to stop the NLRB's prosecution of unfair labor practices.
Now both sides are headed towards a pre-conference hearing on March 31.
CWA Local 1109 also is working on the campaign. CWA currently represents 80 Verizon Wireless technicians in the metropolitan New York area.
Rallying Against Attacks on Workers' Rights
CWAers and allies rally at the Capitol, then go inside to lobby their representatives to oppose two anti-worker bill.
Below: Some 8,000 union activists and allies from across Missouri rally outside the state Capitol..
About 8,000 Missouri union members rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest two anti-worker bills – HB1617 (paycheck deception) and HB1770 (right to work for less) – moving through the legislature.
CWA activists from CWA Locals 6300, 6301, 6312, 6314, 6355, 6360, 6450 and IUE-CWA Local 86116 joined the demonstration and lobbied lawmakers inside the Capitol.
While the legislation is a top priority for House Republican leadership, there's bipartisan opposition to both bills.
"Paycheck deception" is a tactic that extremists in a number of states are pursuing to shut down workers' participation and voice in the political process. The intent is obvious, because the proposed laws only apply to workers and their unions, not to CEOs or corporations or any other organizations. In Missouri, lawmakers like House Speaker Tim Jones say paycheck deception is "another way to skin the cat" and get to the "ultimate goal of right to work," shutting down workers' rights altogether.
Governor Jay Dixon (D) told the crowd that the attack on workers' rights "is wrong and would move our state backward. If they go around me, I will stand and fight and we will win."
Supporting the Needy
Members of CWA 6355 and Jobs with Justice activists hold a public forum to spotlight the damage that cuts in critical social services have done to Missouri residents.
Last week, Jobs with Justice and CWA Local 6355 held a public meeting to focus attention on how staff cuts, reorganization of a state office and the implementation of kiosk-style "resource centers" have hurt Missouri's most-vulnerable citizens. For many, food stamps, Medicaid assistance, day-care subsidies and other support are now out of reach.
Fighting For Better Banks
CWA, UNI Global Union Finance and the Committee for Better Banks held a global day of action that culminated with a global protest in front of Citibank's NYC headquarters on Wall Street.
U.S. bank workers earn less than their global counterparts in Brazil and other countries. In fact, bank workers in developing countries – like Tanzania, Lebanon, the Philippines and Malaysia – have far greater rights because they have a voice in the workplace through their unions.
An online love-fest organized by Big PhRMA to support fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership last Friday quickly became an online "no fast track-no TPP" rally, as CWA activists and allies took over the Twitter chat and expressed broad opposition to the trade deal.
CWA alerted allies about the event and activists were ready with tweets, facts about jobs loss and a call to action to stop fast track and TPP. The #Prochat feed was bombarded with charts, statistics, complaints and more. You can view the tweets here.
CWAers tweeted 11 times during the chat, and hashtag #CWAUnion scored ninth overall in highest impact with a reach of 217,266.
We definitely got the attention of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who just joined Twitter following the PhRMA fiasco. In fact, CWA and lots of allies are welcoming Froman to Twitter today, with messages like : Hey @MikeFroman, welcome to Twitter! Why are we allowing a human rights violator like Vietnam into the #TPP? And Hey @MikeFroman! @USDOL says Vietnam uses "forced child labor in garment production." Why r they in the #TPP?
CWAers, sign up for Twitter if you haven't already. You definitely want to be in on these debates.
D3 AT&T Mobility members got lots of support during recent contract bargaining. Across CWA, Mobility members signed "3" to show their solidarity.
Mobility Members in D3 Ratify Four-Year Contract
CWA members at AT&T Mobility in nine Southeastern states, District 3, ratified a new four year contract that provides for an 11 percent wage increase over the contract term, improvements in scheduling and more. The agreement covers 11,500 Mobility workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Bargaining is continuing for a new contract covering 1,600 workers at Frontier Communications in West Virginia. The extended contract is set to expire on April 5. CWAers from Frontier will hold a telephone town hall call next Thursday, April 3.
CWA members are excited about CWA's political program underway in Texas, and turned out for boot camp training in Corpus Christi. In Dallas, below, CWA Political Director Rafael Navar leads the session.
Texas Boot Camp
CWA's Political Boot Camp traveled to Texas this week, holding sessions in Dallas and Corpus Christi.
"We are excited to be launching our 2014 political program in Texas and are determined to be more of a force than ever during these elections," said Claude Cummings, CWA District 6 vice president.
Maine House Adopts Call Center Bill
By a 78-63 vote, Maine's House of Representatives approved a call center bill that would help keep jobs in the state and penalize businesses that relocate their call centers overseas.
Similar to the federal legislation, the bill directs the state to compile a list of Maine employers who have relocated call centers outside of the country. Those employers wouldn't be able to get state grants, loans or tax benefits for five years.
In Virginia, CWAers prepare materials to be distributed to lawmakers during the Virginia AFL-CIO Legislative Conference in Richmond.
Virginia Relay Center has signed a one-year contract extension with AT&T to maintain telecommunication relay services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and speech-disabled. The Norton-based public service, which employs about 75 CWA members who are AT&T employees, will stay operational at least through July 2015.
Each day, 24 hours a day, the center processes about 1,000 traditional relay calls for people who cannot readily access the standard telephone network. The conversation is then relayed between two parties by specially-trained communications operators.
"People have been working at the center for 20 plus years," said CWA Local 2204 President Chuck Simpson. "They take pride in what they do, and they take pride in who they're helping. They have a personal relationship with their customers. Many customers will actually ask for operators by their Communication Assistant Operator identification number."
Since its founding in 1991, the center has been funded by provisions in the state's budget. But in January, CWA discovered that the outgoing Virginia governor had removed that budget language. That's when CWAers started lobbying to save these good-paying jobs in an area with higher than average unemployment. Activists were on the ground in Richmond, reaching out to senators and delegates every week. During the Virginia AFL-CIO's annual lobby day, 220 union members helped press the issue. And in late February, Virginia CWA state council leaders met with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones to request their help in restoring the funding and talking with AT&T about extending the state contract.
While the issue was foreign to many elected officials, CWAers found that many Capitol secretaries and aides had strong ties to the deaf community. "They were great advocates for us as well," said Simpson.
Announcing the contract extension, McAuliffe said it will provide more than $80 million in revenue to the local economy.
Ronald Lanier, the Director of the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing commented, "With perhaps the most dedicated and experienced relay operators in the nation, the contract extension will continue to provide full access to the standard telephone network for Virginia citizens with communication challenges. The quality of services provided by the Center's employees distinguishes them from others, and our customers can tell the difference. "
Looking to explain what's really happening in the U.S., when it comes to the growing divide between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else?
Jason LaPorte, president of CWA Local 3716 in Spartanburg, S.C., passed along this Upworthy link and says he's been using it with great results.
The information is based on a survey by a Harvard University professor of 5,000 Americans who were asked, "How is wealth distributed in the United States?" As Upworthy notes, "reality isn't close to what we think it is."
Empire State College of the State University of New York is now accepting applications for the Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The scholarship honors the commitment to educational opportunity and online learning of Morton Bahr, CWA's president emeritus and an Empire State College alumnus. It helps union members and other workers achieve their education and life goals by providing access to higher education through distance learning.
Students who receive the scholarship will study online through Empire State College's Center for Distance Learning.
Since its inception in 2001, the Bahr scholarship has helped 61 students continue their education through distance learning.
The deadline for applications is May 15, 2014.
Union workers, family members and domestic partners interested in working toward a degree at Empire State College are eligible. To submit an application online or to download the form, visit www.esc.edu/bahr.
This weekend, make time to go to the movies and check out "Cesar Chavez," a new film on the courageous life of the farmworker organizer who believed that his job as an organizer "was to help ordinary people do extraordinary things."
The movie opens March 28 nationwide. Check your local listings.