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CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 24, 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.

Status Report: What's Happening With TPP?

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No developments lately on "fast track," although trade negotiators continue to meet and try to push the deal forward.

That's why it's so important for us to keep pushing our members of Congress to stand with U.S. working families, consumers and communities, to make sure we can truly shut down fast track and a bad TPP deal.

In this fight, you never know where your allies will come from.

For example, corporations are traditionally the most vocal supporters of international trade deals. But some corporate leaders are speaking out, in opposition to TPP. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Steve Biegun, head of Ford's international lobbying operations, said, "When I came here, we supported every trade agreement, and not a single one worked for us. I don't know how you ask somebody who puts in a hard day at an automotive plant to support a free trade agreement that allows another country to cheat them. Because that's what it is. It's cheating."

Biegun also picked up on the point CWA has been making for months.

"You'll see the foreign policy community always applauding free trade agreements," Biegun said. "That should be a hint, it's not about trade. The foreign policy community is about giving gifts to other countries, helping friends and allies."


No Fast Track, No TPP

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CWA Local 1103 and Westchester, N.Y., grassroots community groups organized a terrific "People's Town Hall: Why You Should Care about TPP" meeting. The goal was to put a human face on what TPP really means, and was a big success, said 1103 Secretary-Treasurer Joe Mayhew.

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Activists from grassroots groups in Westchester County, N.Y., hold a "People's Town Hall" and discuss how to fight back against fast track and the TPP.

Below: Members of CWA Local 9421 join allies at a town hall in Elk Grove, Calif.

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U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and NYS Assembly members Shelley Mayer, David Buchwald and Tom Abinanti were among the elected officials who joined community activists to call for action to stop fast track authorization of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

A community panel, featuring members of Concerned Families of Westchester, Food and Water Watch, the Hudson River Presbytery, Lower Hudson Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club, Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body and WESPAC discussed the impact of the TPP on local jobs, our environment, food safety, healthcare and democracy.

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CWA Local 9421 and community partners organized a TPP community forum in Elk Grove, Calif., that brought out 40 people to hear why TPP is a bad deal for workers, the environment, consumers and our communities.

Allies in this fight are CWA, Citizens Trade Campaign, Sierra Club's Mother Lode Chapter, Global Exchange, SEIU Local 1000 Environmental Committee, Food and Water Watch, Sacramento Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, and the Democratic Party of Sacramento County.


Fair Trade Rally: May 7

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On May 7 at 1:30 p.m., thousands of activists will rally at Upper Senate Park on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. We're saying no to "fast track" legislation that would speed the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress with little debate and zero opportunities for amendments. We'll be showing lawmakers that the entire progressive movement is united in the fight for 21st century global trade policies that work for everyone.

Will you join us? RSVP here.


Standing Up for Retiree Health Care

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Ray Kramer, president of the D6 Retired Members Council, leads the call for fairness for retirees.

Below: CWAers from throughout D6 join the Dallas rally.

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More than 700 CWA and other retiree activists took a stand for retiree health care benefits at a demonstration outside AT&T headquarters in Dallas.

In the U.S., retired workers face a crisis in health care coverage. Almost no U.S. companies provide any level of retiree health care benefits. That means workers who retire before age 65 are basically on their own when it comes to continuing health care coverage for themselves and their families. Starting at age 65, Americans enroll in Medicare but still face costs and out-of-pocket payments.

Retirees from companies with union representation are better off but legally companies are not required to bargain over retiree health care. That's why it's critical that retired union activists, like CWA's retired members at AT&T, are speaking up and taking a stand for health care for all.

At the rally, CWAers from St Louis and Kansas City, Mo.; Wichita, Kans.; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Beaumont, Houston, Ft Worth, Austin and San Antonio, Tex., along with CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings and Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller told AT&T it was time to stop shifting more health care costs to retirees.

Ray Kramer, president of the D6 Retired Members Council, rallied the activists, and stressed that "we have to fight back" to keep the benefits we won over the years. He reminded the crowd that "we are not alone, and that in many other places, at this same time, CWAers are standing up for what's right."

At the end of the rally, Local 4250 retired President Steve Tisza delivered petitions signed by more than 12,600 retirees to AT&T's Vice President of Labor Relations Mark Royse, calling for fair treatment of retirees.


What Are The Rights Of Employees In A Global Economy?

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CWA stands with the UAW as the union drops its objections to the NLRB representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Now the focus will shift to the congressional investigation into the third party anti-union campaign by elected officials, Grover Norquist and other outside groups. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, are investigating the interference and the shortcomings of our outdated federal labor laws.

In our increasingly globalized world, large foreign multinational corporations are investing in facilities in the U.S. Some, like Volkswagen, have been greeted by hostile outside campaigns to undermine workers' right to collective bargaining, usually with cooperation by U.S. management. In many cases U.S. management embraces anti-union tactics they shun at home, where unions often have recognition and respect. This case was unique in that VW management in Germany, and at least officially in the U.S., adopted extensive neutrality provisions which only inflamed outside agitators like Norquist even more. In a similar case, CWA and the large German services union ver.di have been supporting T-Mobile employees' struggle to organize for more than 10 years. Unfortunately the principal owner Deutsche Telekom and U.S. management are anything but neutral.

For all of us the issue remains: What are the rights of employees in a global economy? Will the U.S. continue to operate at the low end on workers' rights, accepting the fantasy land of Tennessee elected officials like Governor Haslam and U.S. Senator Corker that markets alone provide a fair outcome? Or will we build a movement and a consensus that Corker, Haslam and Norquist are way out of bounds and that if we don't stop them, there will continue to be growing inequality and a falling living standard for most of us in the U.S.?

President Cohen talks about the organized attack on Volkswagen workers with Ed Schultz on MSNBC.


This Is What Fast Means

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AT&T is expanding its ultra-fast fiber network to some 100 cities nationwide.

The fiber network will deliver AT&T's U-verse at broadband speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second. Just how fast is that? At that speed, in one second, you could download 25 songs. In three seconds, you could download an episode of your favorite TV show. And in 36 seconds, you could download an entire HD movie.

AT&T's network build-out is "world changing, as more communities come on line with fiber networks that are 100 times faster than what they have today," said CWA President Larry Cohen.

"This is what fast means. It will be great for our members and overall employment, will accelerate business and economic development, provide for new and not-yet-realized services, make state-of-the-art television and other services available to consumers, and help the U.S. regain its place as a leader in true high-speed accessibility," he said.

For more than eight years, CWA's "Speed Matters" campaign has pushed for the expansion of true high-speed fiber networks in the U.S. as necessary for good jobs here and to keep pace with economic growth and global competition. Speed matters on the Internet, and CWA has been calling for policies to promote faster Internet speeds and higher capacity networks.

AT&T said it also is working with local communities on plans to provide options for public Wi-Fi hotspots, free AT&T U-verse with speeds of 1 Gigabit per second at public sites and other expansions of its ultra-fast network.

AT&T's announcement this week is a big step toward enabling U.S. residents to catch up with citizens in countries like Korea, Japan, Canada and others, where national, affordable high-speed broadband is available and accessible.

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Bargaining Update

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AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre back row, fourth from left, meets with SuperShuttle drivers in Denver.

SuperShuttle drivers at Denver International Airport have been standing strong for a fair contract. Recently, SuperShuttle, owned by the French firm Veolia Transdev, unilaterally ended bargaining and imposed a new contract that cuts the wages of these drivers by 30 percent.

The drivers, members of CWA Local 7777, have been getting lots of support, including a recent meeting with AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre.

Stand up with the SuperShuttle drivers. Click here to send a message to SuperShuttle management.

And like them on Facebook.


Capital in the 21st Century: An Eye-Opening Take on Wage Inequality

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You might have heard the buzz about Thomas Piketty and his book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century." Piketty is a 42-year-old French economist who just wrote a nearly 700-page book on capitalism, wealth and rising inequality. And he's getting rock star treatment.

Piketty "has scared the pants off the American Right," writes AlterNet.

Why? Because he "undermines the hallowed tenets of the capitalist catechism," says Jeff Faux in The Nation.

Piketty dispels some of the long-held principles about capitalism, for example, that "a rising tide lifts all boats," or that when workers' productivity rises, so does their economic mobility.

As working people know too well, starting in the 1970s, workers' productivity continued to rise, but wages and benefits flattened. Almost all of the gains from the increased productivity of the last three and a half decades went to corporate investors and the 1 percent.

Piketty analyzed data as far back as the 18th century from the largest developed countries and determined that contrary to the traditional economic belief that economic growth produced more economic benefit for more people, the opposite actually is true: economic growth in these countries resulted in greater inequality. He argues it's not income, but overall wealth that we should be concerned about.

There was just one period in the U.S. when inequality lessened, from the 1930s to 1975. Piketty cites government spending, increased taxes on the very wealthy and estates, and the government's encouragement of and support for workers' bargaining rights as the contributing factors to several decades of shared economic gains. Clearly workers' ability to bargain provided a means to share in the wealth they had created.

With the effective loss of workers' rights – just 6 percent of U.S. private sector workers today have bargaining rights – inequality is greater today than in the gilded age of the 1920s. And according to Piketty, it will get worse.

He writes that the gap between the rich and everyone else will continue to widen, and one day the future will look a lot like the 19th century, where the very rich inherit their wealth rather than working for it. The danger is that the super rich won't be the CEOs who founded companies, but rather their grandchildren who have simply been handed that money.

Piketty proposes a global tax on wealth, in addition to supporting more traditional progressive responses like financial regulation, public investment in education and aid to the poor.

But CWA knows we must do more. The destruction of workers' bargaining rights and two decades of trade deals that have been negotiated by and for the investor class and multinationals are the principal drivers of today's income inequality. That also must change. We're working with allies to restore workers' voices in the political process, because as Piketty makes clear, "economic and political changes are inextricably intertwined."

You might be interested in this profile of Piketty.


People To Follow

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Around the country, CWA activists are partnering with community groups to push for social and economic justice. To keep tabs on what's going on, be sure to follow:

@standupOH
@TakeActionMN
@Demos_Org
@USAction
@jwjnational
@CommonCause
@citizenstrade.


Make Your Voice Heard On April 28

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In the immortal words of Mother Jones: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

On April 28, CWA and the U.S. labor movement will once again observe Workers' Memorial Day to remember those who have been sickened, injured or killed on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces.

"As we remember those who have become injured, ill, or killed on the job, we will also renew our fight for strong workplace safety and health protections," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "Too many job hazards remain unregulated and uncontrolled resulting in the continued occurrence of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. As a result, every year thousands of workers are killed and millions are injured or become ill because of their jobs. Therefore, we must work even harder to ensure employers are providing our members with safe and healthful working conditions. To be successful, our efforts must involve allied worker centers, as well as environmental, environmental justice, and human and civil rights organizations."

The theme this year is "Safe Jobs Save Lives: Make Your Voice Heard." We're asking CWAers to organize actions highlighting the promise of safe jobs for all Americans. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act four decades ago, but each and every day, CWA and our allies continue to fight to curb workplace injuries and illnesses. Our work isn't done.

You can find 2014 Workers' Memorial Day materials here.