Remarks by CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill at the 2010 CWA Legislative-Political Conference

CWA Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Rechenbach addresses the 2010 CWA Legislative-Political Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 28, 2010.

CWA’s legislative and political work has sizzled over the last months, brighter and hotter than the weather in Washington, D.C. And, baby, we know that is hot, hot, hot.

When we think and talk about CWA, we often picture the CWA Triangle with Representation at the base, Organizing on one side, and Political and Community Action on the third. Taking our lead from the triangle let’s, for a moment, picture our legislative and political work in that fashion.

The base is our election work – the door knocking, the phone banking, and the work site leaflets we distribute to our members. The second side is the money including COPE, and the third is legislative work – our lobbyists, our legislative strike force, our LPATs, and President Cohen’s and other Board members’ relationships with the legislative and executive branch. The stronger each side is, the better chance we have of making our collective voices heard and moving our issues to completion. So, let’s talk about them one at a time.

One of the most important lessons that we learned from our healthcare campaign is that it takes a long time to build a structure; to identify activists, to educate them, and create processes where information can be disseminated in a timely manner and action can happen when it matters most. The outgrowth of our health care and Employee Free Choice Act campaigns have created a strong and growing group of LPATs , Legislative-Political Action Teams. We now have almost 1,300 CWA members signed up to be members of the LPATs. Our LPATs are in 101 locals in 22 different states.

In March we had identified CWA members in 100 congressional districts as members of our Legislative Strike Force – people who know their congressperson closely enough to call them within 48 hours and personally talk about issues important to working families. Today we have CWA members in 272 congressional districts (double the contacts in ‘91), as members of our Legislative Strike Force. They are in every single CWA district and 36 states. In just a few short months, you can see we have more than doubled the size of this very important group.

From Don Abbott in South Florida, to Jim White in Rural Virginia, to Gail Love in Washington, we will continue to make sure that no Congressman can vote on an issue that matters to us without having to think of the face and name of a CWA member who splices-cable, or answers service calls, or is a flight attendant, or reports or broadcasts the news, or prints and publishes, or protects our fellow citizens, or builds jet engines.

This group is not just names on a piece of paper. They are all about action. We are all familiar with the wonderful work we did on health care. No, we did not get the bill we wanted, but it is a step forward for heath care reform.

Our work on health care was not just important, it was imperative and it absolutely made a positive difference in the outcome. I believe that CWA identified the problem and then led the fight against the excise tax and caused significant changes made to its structure.

Every member of this union played an important role in that fight – from Larry Cohen in his meetings with the President to the 41,000 of you who made phone calls and wrote to your Members of Congress.

But when the health care bill was signed by the President Obama, our activist network, you and others that are at home, leapt into action on many new fronts. You see, we now have a structure, a structure made of activists who have passion and are willing to sink their teeth into legislative battles; activists who understand that our political fights are often just as important and sometimes more important than our battles at the bargaining table; activists that understand that this work is hard, but not hopeless.

Let’s highlight some of that work. In the last three months alone, we have sent a combined 163 letters to targeted Members of Congress from our local and state leadership.

This action is like giving our Washington lobbyists a bullhorn in the halls of Congress. It is like you are there with them, you that vote for them at home. These “grass-tops” letters and meetings have allowed CWA to win on some big legislative issues. We have protected jobs at the GE plant in Massachusetts where our members build the alternative engine for the F-136.

We were able to get a repeal of the Reverse Morris Trust through the House of Representatives, where it awaits action by the Senate.

We were able to pass the Public Safety Officers collective bargaining bill through the House, and it too now awaits action by the Senate. We have successfully protected the rights of our research assistants in New York and California through legislation that passed both houses.

When the broken rules of the Senate blocked the appointment of members to the National Labor Relations Board, our Legislative Strike Force sprung into action. We got 150 members of the House to sign onto a letter calling on President Obama to appoint labor-friendly people to the Board.

The day after the letter was delivered, President Obama appointed Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce, whom you heard from on Monday, to the Board. After hearing his remarks, we know clearly we have a friend in Mark.

Republicans in the Senate had been stalling this appointment, abusing the Senate Rules and preventing workers from having a final place for conflict resolution. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court recently dealt a set back to the Board by voiding past Board decisions that were made when only two board members were in place.

Now, the Board has even more catching up to do. But we are hopeful that with people in place, people that understand and care about the rights of working Americans, that will uphold the spirit and intent of the NLRA, and that justice will finally be served.

Another election cycle, the 2010 midterm elections, is right around the corner, just a little over 100 days away. This year, our Union will be releasing almost 70 members on lost time to work our hearts and our feet out for those politicians fighting on behalf of working families.

Earlier this spring we had our first ever nationwide election training attended by local leaders and staff that will be leading our election work. The training focused on providing our activists the skills and knowledge to run campaigns. We have budgeted for more than 35,000 hours of lost time, and are counting on hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to put our friends, our real friends, into office. Our goal is to contact each of our members 10 times to register them if they aren’t, provide them information, get them to volunteer and vote.

Through worksite flyering, mailings, phone-banks, and door knocks, we will continue the upward trend of educating and activating more and more of our membership. We will protect our friends. We elected a lot of good people in 2008, and we are going to work hard to protect those people, people who were true to their principles even when the heat was on. People like John Boccierri, Mark Shauer, Mary Jo Kilroy, and Kathy Dalkhemper, all four freshman. They are true heroes.

2010 also will be the year where we leverage our power at the ballot box to hold “FRIENDS” accountable. We have heard a lot this week about the wonderful work in Arkansas and were fortunate to hear personally from Bill Halter, our candidate, on Monday.

You also heard all of the reasons why we refused to support Blanche Lincoln, and it wasn’t just one little slight. She totally wrote working Americans off and it was time for labor to write her off too. As was said on Monday, Halter may have lost the election but we sent a loud and clear message to Blanche Lincoln and other Democrats that believed they could count on our support no matter what. Those days are gone, brothers and sisters, and its about dam time.

Blanche is not the only one that we worked for before but will not support again. What we do may vary in different places. For example, in Ohio we didn’t have a candidate to run against Zack Space who did not support health care, but we are not going to help fund his campaign and we won’t volunteer for him. Just like kids have to grow up and face the music, we are going to ask politicians to grow up and understand there are consequences for their actions.

Our election work will give us more opportunities to build stronger and new LPATs and add members to our Legislative Strike Force. Our new SIF, Building a Strong Political Movement, gives us the resources to continue to build on our successes of 2008 and 2009 in 2010 and beyond. But as we know, our work will not end in when the ballots are counted the first Tuesday in November. Each and every person who volunteers on the campaigns will be asked to volunteer in the winter and spring on our legislative work.

We are planning a legislative university to be held early in 2011 that will provide our legislative activists a broader depth of skills. We know there will be new issues to tackle and we will be asking you and the membership to write letters – lots of letters – on issues and bills and laws that are going to give us more members to organize and more strength at the bargaining table. The corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists, but all of that money cannot buy the strength of the voice of every member of this union calling on Congress to support working Americans.

We don’t need a crystal ball to know our number one issue, and that work will start now as we are endorsing Senate candidates. The message is still simple: we won’t support them if they don’t support changing the Senate rules. The Senate is the worst excuse for Democracy I have ever witnessed. You have heard many examples of that just since we have been in Washington, D.C. And, it is not just the filibuster that needs changing. One person can put a hold on a bill, and then there is a convoluted process before a bill can be discussed – much less voted on. It is like being in a helicopter looking down over the Long Island Expressway at rush hour. Nothing is going anywhere.

There are currently 400 items for consideration waiting for Senate action and with the current rules, most won’t even get the attention they deserve. We have too many problems in this country to let a small club of 100 have so much control over our destiny. We are all entitled to the democracy that our founding fathers fought for and the Democracy that we spend billions of dollars to promote in other countries. I suggest we start that spread of democracy right up the Hill on the Senate Floor.

We have been frustrated by the minority party’s refusal to accept well-qualified judges and appointees including our own Bill Boarman as the Public Printer. We have struggled under the thumb of a party that represents just 40 percent of the Senate, yet sees fit to block every law and bill that would help raise the standard of living for every working family in America.

But let’s not let the Democrats totally off the hook. They could have changed the rules on day one of the 2009 session and they didn’t, basically putting themselves at the mercy of the Republicans or the Democrats that don’t remember or act like they are Democrats.

If you want to pass progressive legislation – 1 gig to anchor institutions, call center legislation, if you want to see that all of our public sector workers are able to collectively bargain across state lines; if you want to see laws that call for greater workplace protections; if you want to pass better labor law, like the Employee Free Choice Act, then send a clear concise message to Senate candidates. Change the Senate rules so work can get done, or we won’t support you.

Coalition building also will be very important. We loudly and passionately endorsed a partnership with the NAACP and many other progressive organizations for the One Nation activity on October 2. But we have and will continue to build more effective partnerships with organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Blue Green Alliance, and our Constituency Groups. We need to work with groups that have activists that can help send a loud clear message. We need more than just labor to get the job done. We need groups like Emily’s List and NOW and others to understand our issues and to build a broad progressive agenda.

2009 was an especially challenging year on the COPE front. Everyone is aware of the historic drop in members that CWA experienced last year, over 30,000. This was certainly a factor in us raising less money, $68,000 less than in 2008 for a little over $3.8 million. Now, normally we would be extremely disappointed. That is the first time we have raised less in many years. But let’s dig deeper into the results.

Yes, we lost 30,000 people, but the amount of people that are contributing to COPE only dropped by 4,000. Two districts, District 1 and District 13, actually raised more money than they did in 2008. Almost every group increased their average amount per giver, so our new givers are being asked to give more and they are stepping up. What we can see is with focus and attention, and more asks we can continue to raise more COPE dollars. So, this year we have a little friendly competition to see what every district and sector can do.

Every district and sector that increases its COPE amount by at least 5 percent will have their new eligible COPE givers and increased eligible COPE givers put into a separate drawing for a three-day, two-night, paid trip to Las Vegas with a guest. If a District or Sector does not hit the threshold of 5 percent, then they will be combined with others that did not. I am confident that everyone will be in their own drawing.

The contest began on May st and will end on October 31st. The drawings will be held on Election Day. This week we had a COPE table with COPE cards, t-shirts and local kits for any local officer who wants to run a program to sign up their local.

We can’t protect our incumbent friends and send a message to the enemies of working families if we don’t have the funds. COPE is so critical to the work that we do.

The CWA-COPE awards recognize the outstanding COPE fundraising efforts of our locals and districts. While everyone will not get an official award I want to thank every one of you for the commitment and work that you put into building our political program every single day. So, thank you so much for the work that you have done and the work we you will continue to do.

The list of CWA-COPE Honor Locals was distributed this morning and will be incorporated in the official convention proceedings. Join me in acknowledging your great work with a round of applause for a job well done.

This year’s awards recognize outstanding achievement in political action during 2009. But I believe you are all winners. Before I turn it over to Jimmy, I want to bring a special group of locals to the stage. These locals have one thing in common: they all have over 35 percent of their members singed up on COPE at least at $1.00 per week. There are a total of 29 locals in this elite group. Now you may be sitting out there and thinking, okay but they are just small locals, yes some of them are small, but ten of them have over 250 members and one has more than 4,000.

What this means is everyone can do better and I would challenge all of you to sign up enough members this year to join this group of 29 on the stage next year in Las Vegas. Help me welcome the following locals:

1020 Dennis Cassidy Vice President

81250 Stanley Siok President

1115 Michael Dagostino President

1114 Thomas Marino President

1123 Stephen Matro President

1117 Gregory Chenez President

1124 Paul Middlemiss President

81255 Harry Chandler President

1102 Edward Luster President

1301 Thomas Bates President

1395 Thomas Lane President

3518 Lawrence Sullivan President

3201 Roger Todd President

3719 F. B. McKerley Jr. President

83736 Raymond Szwanke President

4326 Paul Storms President

6300 Kevin Kujawa President

6350 Sidney Horn President

6137 Helen Amador President

6301 Sandra Grogan President

6316 Erin Hall President

NOT Here 6200 Angela Guillory President

NOT Here 6151 Earnest Tilley President

6313 John Kollmeyer President

7717 Thomas Costello President

7500 Rozanne DuBois President

7219 Chester Nettestad President

7250 Shari Wojtowicz President

9477 Michael Taylor President

This year, once again, there are two Districts that stand out from the rest. Between them they raised over 1.9 million dollars or almost half of the total COPE contributions for 2009. The two Districts are District 1 and District 6. Let’s start with District 1.

Would Chris Shelton, District 1 Vice President, join me at the podium. Chris this year your District has won three local awards and three District awards. Let’s start with the Local Awards.

Would Local 1101 President Joe Connelly join us at the podium. Congratulations Joe. Your Local once again has won done a wonderful job raising COPE funds and you have won two of the four local awards. They are as follows.

The local that had the most members signed up in CWA-COPE in 2009. Local 1101 have 2,840 members participating in the program.

The local with the most members contributing to CWA-COPE at $1-plus per week: Local 1101 has 1666 members. Let’s congratulate Joe and all of the officers and members of Local 1101.

The next Local award goes to Local 1395. Would President, Thomas Lane please join us. Local 1395 once again has the highest percentage of members contributing to CWA-COPE at One Dollar or more per week at an incredible 98.4%. Let’s congratulate Thomas and all of the officers and members of Local 1395.

Now onto the three District awards won by District 1.

District 1 raised the most CWA-COPE dollars, $1,003,535.27.

District 1 has the most members giving to COPE, 16,245.

District 1 has the most members contributing to CWA COPE at $1 or more per week with 11,397. Let’s express our appreciation and congratulations to Chris and all of the Staff, Officers and members in District 1 for their great work.

Now, for District 6. Andy would you join me at the podium. District 6 has a long history of great COPE fundraising efforts. This year District 6 has won three District Awards and one Local Award.

The final Local Award goes to Local 6300. Would Kevin Kujawa, President Local 6300 join me at the podium. Local 6300 have contributed the most COPE dollars at $139,161.14.

Let’s congratulate Kevin and all of the officers and members of Local 6300.

Now onto the three District awards for District 6.

District 6 has the highest percentage of member participation in CWA-COPE at 20.69%.

District 6 has the highest percentage of members contributing to CWA-COPE at $1 or higher per week at 15.85 %.

District 6 has the highest per capita contributions per total membership at $15.49 per year.

Congratulations Andy. Let’s congratulate all of District 6’s Staff, locals and members.

Maxine Lee Award

This award was established in March 1985 in honor of Maxine Lee’s many years of outstanding service to CWA-COPE and CWA’s political action programs. Maxine Lee was a Pioneer in CWA-COPE fundraising and the award has been presented to an individual or individuals who has or have a record of Pioneer efforts in CWA-COPE fundraising and political action. Since its inception the Award has only been presented to nine individuals or locals and it has only been given twice since the year 2000.

This year I am proud to present it to a Vice President and their District for ground breaking achievement. Just eleven short years ago this District was at the bottom of the heap. In fact we used to give an award called Maggie’s Drawers out to the District that did the worst job of raising COPE dollars compared to their percentage. My guess is this District left here with Maggie’s Drawers more than once. Districts quotas were set at $2/member per year and this District in 1998 only raised 71% of their quota, for a total of $179,488.

In 2005 this District got a new Vice President and since that things have really, really changed on many fronts and one of them is their COPE program. Since that time you have seen as you did this year this District walk away with many, many of the COPE awards. They along with District 6 have set the standard for others to live up to.

But changes like this don’t just happen. It takes leadership, focus and accountability and this person brings it all to the table. He does not miss a single opportunity to raise more dollars for COPE.

He clearly knows that money is a significant part of the political power we bring to the table and he is not shy about putting pressure on Staff, Locals and individuals to raise the bar.

This year this District busted through the glass ceiling by raising more than $1 million dollars in COPE money and increase of almost $75,000 in 2009. They did this in spite of losing almost 5,000 members in the same time period.

It is with a great deal of pleasure and pride that I present the Maxine Lee Award to Vice President Chris Shelton and District one for their unprecedented work in raising COPE dollars.

This works takes a complete village of people to run an effective program. I would like to acknowledge Yvette Herrea and Alfonso Pollard who work on the Political side; George Kohl, Shane Larson, and Nancy Biagini who work on the Legislative side. I appreciate all of your hard work, your creativity and dedication. I also want to thank Larry and Jeff for supporting me and all of the other people in Headquarters that I work with on a variety of programs and projects.

We have many obtainable goals, but we will need your help to reach them. If we all pull together we can make it higher even though it is hard. President Cohen called on us to aim higher. Each and every one of us needs to be our own lobbyist – when Judy RaPue or Linda Hinton or Pete Sikora or Alex Minishak call and ask you to get your stewards to write a letter, you must aim higher and get their families to write a letter too. When Jimmy Tarlau or Richard Kneupper or Brenda Roberts or Don LaRotunda ask your LPATs to get workers to call their Senator on lunch shifts, you must aim higher, and use your influence to reach out to the whole Local, asking them to participate.

When you’re asked to write a letter, it’s a call to get excited, because it means that we are working on passing laws to raise the standard of living for every worker in every sector. The more we push congress, the more workers we’ll be able to bring into the union and the stronger we will be.

And finally remember: Our Fight Does Not End At The Ballot Box. Our Fight Does Not End until every service question fielded by a call center is fielded in the United States of America.

Our Fight Does Not End until every school and hospital and community in this country has access to one gigabyte of broadband internet.

Our Fight Does Not End until every flight attendant, every news reporter, every printer, broadcaster, telecom and public sector worker has their voice heard on the Hill.

Our Fight Does Not End until Every Worker has the right to collectively bargain for the salary and benefits of their hard work.

Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our political program and thank all of the Vice Presidents and Staff for leading the way.