CWA e-Newsletter: May 29, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

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Democratic Caucus: TPP Must Lead to Improved Outcomes for All Workers

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Some 153 House Democrats signed a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman calling on him to "take action to ensure better outcomes in our ongoing negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), particularly in countries that have lengthy histories of denying workers their rights, such as Vietnam."

Reps. George Miller, (D-CA), Mark Pocan, (D-WI) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), circulated the letter among their Democratic colleagues, urging them to join the call to protect worker rights, most notably in Vietnam, but also in Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico, where violations of worker rights also persist.

"It is...critical to ensure that ongoing TPP negotiations lead to improved outcomes for workers in the TPP based on basic labor rights and human dignity," the lawmakers wrote to Froman.

Workers in Vietnam face extraordinary abuses, including forced or indentured child labor. Workers in Malaysia, the Department of State reports, have their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining "severely restricted," including prohibitions on union membership by workers in several sectors, significant limits on the right to strike, and governmental interference in union registration.

Joining lawmakers on a media call today, CWA President Larry Cohen applauded House Democratic Caucus members for standing up for workers at home and abroad.

"We want 21st century trade that benefits U.S. workers, consumers and communities and that gives labor standards as much standing as corporate and investor rights," Cohen said. The Obama administration cannot go forward with some version of 'Boehner trade' that relies on Republican support for passage. The 153 Democrats signing this letter have made it clear: they will not support 'fast track' authorizing legislation until they have read and approved the negotiated TPP deal."

The 153 members of Congress told Froman that "the Administration must refrain from validating such woefully inadequate labor norms and the final agreement should be withheld until these countries embrace the need to reform their labor laws and move aggressively to implement them. We must apply pressure to countries like Vietnam and others to improve their conditions and laws to protect and empower their working class, and to ensure that the American marketplace is not flooded with goods produced by workers lacking fundamental rights," they wrote.

They also cited recent Vietnamese media reports of the country's senior advisor on international trade, Truong Dinh Tuyen, saying that Vietnam would not accept a TPP requirement that workers be allowed to establish independent labor unions, but would instead accept a compromise that devolved some power to local unions.

"We were concerned that Mr. Tuyen seems to believe that halfway measures will be adequate. That is not the case. All TPP member nations, including Vietnam, must fully comply with TPP labor obligations, including related to freedom of association and collective bargaining," the letter said.

CEO Pay Is How Much?!

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Wow. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more absurd, an average American worker now must work 257 years to make what a typical S&P 500 CEO makes in a single year.

The AP reports:

The median pay package for a CEO rose above eight figures for the first time last year. The head of a typical large public company earned a record $10.5 million, an increase of 8.8 percent from $9.6 million in 2012, according to an Associated Press/Equilar pay study...Last year was the fourth straight that CEO compensation rose following a decline during the Great Recession. The median CEO pay package climbed more than 50 percent over that stretch.

Meanwhile, CEOs now make 354 times as much as the average employee and the gap between workers' pay and productivity continues to widen. From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80.4 percent, while the inflation-adjusted median hourly compensation for those workers grew just one-eighth of that amount, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Now imagine if wages actually kept up with the hard work that we do every day. Bargaining rights are the way that happens. When workers have bargaining rights, income inequality goes down. Unfortunately in the U.S., where just 7 percent of private sector workers have union representation, the 1 percent gets more and more of the economic pie.

We know that, alone, we can't achieve our goals of bargaining rights, good wages and secure jobs, and health care and retirement security. But we also know that when we work with our partners and allies – greens, good government groups, civil rights and students' organizations, and many more – we can make things happen. That's how we're building a movement of 50 million activists for real change.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is working on a rule, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, that will require public companies to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay.

Meanwhile, corporations are fighting hard to keep their executives' pay a secret. It's not hard to see why.

Cohen: 'We Need A Common Narrative'

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New populism necessitates movement building, CWA President Larry Cohen said.

"New populism can't just be the sum of the parts. We have to really struggle beyond our parts," he said, speaking at a Campaign for America's Future event focused on strategies for educating, energizing and mobilizing around an agenda for economic change.

He added, "I'm a big believer that we need a common narrative."

Watch Cohen's remarks here.


CWA President Larry Cohen tells participants at the Campaign for America's Future "New Populism" conference that building a democracy movement is the key to gaining progressive change..

Walking attendees through the latest edition of CWA's Movement Building booklet, Cohen stressed the importance of linking economic justice and democracy. He connected the dots between unfair trade deals and why workers haven't seen an increase in real wages in decades. He explained the rise and fall of collective bargaining in the United States compared to the rest of the world. And he explained the lessons of activists' latest struggles and victories at T-Mobile US.

Cohen traced the movement back to the 2008 election, which ushered in President Obama and a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress.

"We won't do better than that and it didn't cut it," he said. "So if we keep on doing the same things, including what we did then, we're like rats on a treadmill, literally. So we learned from that election."

The 2011 Wisconsin protests that took over the state capitol taught activists what democracy looked like, Cohen said. The following 99 Percent Spring Training, which taught 100,000 people about the principles of collective nonviolent action, solidified how to enact real change. Next came the launch of the Democracy Initiative in 2013, where labor, civil rights, voting rights, environmental, good government and other like-minded organizations committed to end the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the systemic manipulation and suppression of voters, and curb the abuse of Senate rules.

Last summer's successful fight to upend the Senate's archaic traditions is proof of what can happen when a broad coalition bands together around a common cause, Cohen noted. The Committee for Better Banks – where bank workers around the world are joining together with local community groups to advocate fair wages and respect on the job – shows how solidarity can cross borders and languages.

"We need a democracy movement that resembles a lot more of what we saw in Tunisia than anything we've seen here in generations," he said.

Cohen encouraged everyone to break out of his and her silos.

"Can we do more than what each of our groups are set up to do? Can we compete a little less for resources? Can we compete a little less for leadership? Can we put a little bit more into common ideas, like the Democracy Initiative?" he asked.

Attendees at the all-day New Populism Conference also heard from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.); and Rev. William Barber II.

Watch the full conference here.

Or check out the individual speakers on C-SPAN.

Bargaining Update

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Mobilizing for a fair contract at Alcatel-Lucent: Above, members of Local 1090 in New Jersey call out Alcatel-Lucent for subcontracting. Below, members of Local 13590 make it clear that CWAers are "fighting for our place in the future."


The contract between CWA and Alcatel-Lucent covering about 1,000 installers has been extended until June 7 at 11:59 pm while negotiations continue.

Last week, CWAers rallied at Alcatel-Lucent operations nationwide, sending the clear message that "we want our place in the future." CWAers at inside locations stood up at their desks at 11:00 a.m. and held up signs right on the floor.

Check out more photos.


Members of CWA Local 4302 who work for the Stark County, Ohio, Metropolitan Housing Authority ratified a new three-year contract. The housing authority serves about 10,000 people by providing public and low-income housing. Read more here.

Money in Politics Update

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A new poll by CBS News finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 3 out of every 4 – believe that wealthy Americans have more opportunity to influence the election process.

Unfortunately, that view isn't shared by five of the nine Supreme Court justices, who are allowing a flood of money from individuals and secret donors to harm our democracy.

Back to the poll: 76 percent say that spending by outside groups on political advertising should be limited, and 71 percent think individual contributions to political campaigns should be limited.

Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on an amendment by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) that would give Congress the authority to regulate fundraising and spending in federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate campaign spending at that level. That bill has 36 Senate sponsors.


'You'll Never Walk Alone'

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Deutsche Telekom (DT) activists in several German cities rallied last week to show support for their partners at T-Mobile locations in the U.S. who are pushing hard for CWA representation.


In Brüehl, Germany, ver.di activists and T-Mobile workers tell their U.S. counterparts, "you'll never walk alone."

In addition, a delegation of union members from Brüehl, Germany, joined their colleagues in Springfield, Mo. The activists are all members of ver.di, the German union representing 2 million workers, including workers at DT and T-Mobile. ver.di, working with CWA, is determined to support T-Mobile US workers in their bid for union representation.


TU members from the U.S. and Brüehl, Germany, gather outside T-Mobile's Springfield, Mo., call center, to show their support for a union voice.

On May 20-21, ver.di activists at worker meetings in Augsburg and Nürnberg, Bavaria, stood up for the two T-Mobile US workers in Albuquerque who were fired because of their union support. Activists wore t-shirts showing the faces of Amber Diaz and Josue Urrutia below the headline that screamed: "Fired for Organizing a Union at T-Mobile." Activists also handed out leaflets and circulated a petition calling on DT and T-Mobile management to keep "fingers off our union activists." More than 300 signatures were collected in just a few minutes.

Check out more photos here.

T-Mobile activists from Brühl rallied with T-Mobile US call center workers in Springfield, Mo., while back in Brühl, workers collected signatures for a solidarity pledge and told the T-Mobile US workers, "you'll never walk alone."

More photos from the action in Brühl are located here.


In Bavaria, Germany, ver.di activists sign petitions and call on Deutsche Telekom to respect the rights of T-Mobile US workers.

The worker-to-worker partnerships between T-Mobile US workers and German union activists are growing stronger every day. Here's the current list: Nashville, TN – Dusseldorf; Charleston, SC – Berlin; Albuquerque – Bavaria; Wichita, KS – Dortmund; Springfield, MO – Brüehl; Texas – North Rhine Westphalia; and East Coast retail stores – North Rhine Westphalia.

TU-CWA Pride

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TU activists will march in the Albuquerque Pride Parade this Saturday. There's a twist, however. Because the 40,000-person celebration is sponsored by T-Mobile, LGBT student leaders and others in the PRIDE community, CWAers and community allies will help focus attention on the struggle by TMUS workers for a voice and fair treatment at T-Mobile and MetroPCS. Activists will be wearing #JusticeAtTMobile t-shifts, handing out palm cards about CEO John Legere and throwing candies wrapped in messages about the campaign and

If you're not in Albuquerque, you can join the action by tweeting #JusticeAtTMobile and #MagentaPride on May 31.

CWA – There's An App For That

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Have you downloaded the new CWA App?

Four years ago, CWA was the first union, and one of the first progressive organizations, to create an app. Now, we've taken that app to a new level with our Movement Builder app. Word is already out, and we've already had other unions and progressive organizations asking us about it.

You'll want to make sure you're connected. To get the app, text APP to 69866 to get the links to download it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store. You can also search for CWA in the App Store.

Once you download the app you need to set up your Profile. This allows you to RSVP to and check in at events. You'll also be able to send photos from actions from the app.

This app will enable you to be connected in real time to events and information that you care about, using the latest technologies available on the iPhone and Android devices.


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Time to get on Twitter to get the minute-to-minute updates on what's going on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or #TPP. We've been following:


Remembering Maya Angelou

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CWA President Larry Cohen issued this statement on the passing of Maya Angelou:

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Maya Angelou. She was a writer and poet, actress and singer, and, most importantly, a leader and an activist.

"Throughout her career she engaged with both the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements, actively working with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. And, though she is no longer with us, her legacy can inspire us all to continue these fights.

"She once said, 'We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.' This is a lesson we all must remember as we strive for progress that often seems so far out of reach."

CWA is remembering the legacy and memory of Maya Angelou. Share our post with your friends in her memory and share your own thoughts and memories as well.

You can comment on our Facebook entry here.