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CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 2, 2015

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.

Seattle City Council Resolution Strongly Urges Congress to Reject 'Fast Track' for TPP

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Members of a broad progressive coalition -- including activists from CWA, IBEW and other unions, the Sierra Club, 350 Seattle, Seattle Food for Justice and others -- packed a meeting of the Seattle City Council this week as council members unanimously voted to oppose "fast track" or Trade Promotion Authority for trade deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

They applauded as council members, including Council President Tim Burgess who had reservation about the resolution when it was in committee, voted for a resolution:

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CWAers were a big part of the crowd as the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to oppose "fast track" and the TPP.

". . . expressing the Seattle City Council's opposition to the current form of Trade Promotion Authority ("Fast Track"), strong concerns about draft elements of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and support of fair trade practices and agreements that protect American jobs, protect workers, protect the environment, improve the quality of life in all signatory countries, maintain the integrity and sovereignty of our judicial system, and not give multinational corporations power to undermine national and local governmental authority to create reasonable rules and regulations."

The 9-0 vote on the resolution sends a powerful message that Seattle, a trade-dependent city, wants the United States to practice 21st Century trade policy that is democratic and transparent and not a race to the bottom style agreement like the North American Free Trade Agreement that devastated jobs, the environment and communities across North America.

"The City Council strongly supports trade done right," Burgess said in a statement published in the Seattle Times after the vote. "We're asking our federal government for an updated and transparent process that can lead to an agreement that upholds these values."

Others Have Rejected "Fast Track" for TPP

Other communities, like New York City and Los Angeles, have also rejected "fast track" for the TPP. Just last week, nearby Bellingham, WA, sent a message to Congress to reject "fast track" for TPP. Just as important, the board of directors of the Democratic Municipal Officials (DMO), an organization representing 40,000 Democratic mayors, city council members and other elected municipal office holders in the United States, also approved a resolution on Friday rejecting "fast track."

"DMO is deeply concerned about the potential adverse effects on American workers and working families from poorly designed or inadequately enforced trade agreements," says their resolution.

Meanwhile, over Congress' April recess, CWAers, activists and political allies are holding more rallies, town halls, meetings and office visits to convince wavering members of Congress to listen to their constituents and vote no on "fast track."


TPP Roundup

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Over the next two weeks of Congress' April recess, CWAers and allies are holding more meeting, rallies and town hall meetings to push members of Congress to listen to their constituents and stand up for U.S. jobs and communities. Events are going on in congressional districts across California, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Maryland and other states.

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In Boulder, CO, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd District) held a public forum to discuss "fast track" for the Trans-Pacific Partnership but he made sure to stack his panel with four supporters of the proposed trade deal against one opponent, CWA research economist Ken Peres.

It didn't work. Activists from more than a dozen organizations, including CWA, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Sierra Club, 350 Colorado and others were on hand to make the point that "we're in favor of fair trade, not free trade."

Apparently, Polis didn't count on the audience's strong opposition to "fast track." As the Boulder Daily Camera reported, "though Peres went into the forum outnumbered, it was the other four panelist who seemed defeated by the end."

The Boulder newspaper then wrote an editorial the next day, concluding: "It is in corporate America's interest to minimize labor costs and maximize profitability. In recent years, it has been very successful in this pursuit. This has helped to create the disconnect between a soaring stock market and a sinking middle class that we see today. The principal question Polis must answer is whether there is any reason to believe the effects of the TPP would be any different.

Here's a roundup of other events:

Fast Track -- Sherrod Brown in Toledo

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spelled out his opposition to "fast track" authority for the TPP at a town hall meeting in Toledo. Also speaking at the forum were U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH 9th District) and Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga.

Fast Track -- Delaware

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Last week, CWAers and other activists went to the office of Rep. John Carney (D-DE, At-Large), urging him to oppose "fast track" for TPP.

Fast Track -- Indiana

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CWA Indiana Legislative-Political Action Team members collected 120 thank you cards for Rep. André Carson (D-IN 7th District) who is standing with U.S. workers, jobs and communities in opposing "fast track." From left: CWAers Teresa Ward, Local 4900; Sharon Smith-Vaughn, Local 4998, and Kim Thomas, Local 4900.

Fast Track -- New York

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Mike Gendron, executive vice president, CWA Local 1108, with more than 200 activists, including about 100 CWAers rallied outside the Patchogue office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY 1st District). Rep. Zeldin signed a Republican letter calling for "fast track" for trade deals like the TPP. Move On, Food and Water Watch, the Long Island Progressive Coalition, SEIU, the Carpenters and other unions, the Sierra Club and others are coalition members.

Fast Track -- New York

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CWA Local 1101 activists protest outside a fundraiser for Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY, 5th District), who is supporting "fast track" and the TPP.

Fast Track -- Connecticut

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CWA Local 1103 members of the West Haven, Conn., supervisor and board of education units met to discuss how bad trade deals like NAFTA were the start of the downfall of Connecticut's manufacturing industry. CWAers then called Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn. 3rd District) to thank her for leading the fight in Congress to stop "fast track" and the TPP.


Rep. Loretta Sanchez: TPP is Too 'Secretive'

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Members of Congress are taking to the opinion pages of the nation's newspapers to express their frustration and disillusionment with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the administration's "Fast Track" agenda.

This week, in The Hill, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) writes:

Past trade agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA, have failed to deliver on stated promises to create good U.S. jobs, increase trade surpluses, improve workers' and human rights, and establish a cleaner and more sustainable environment. There is nothing in the TPP to show it will be different than the previous record of broken promises.

Sanchez takes particular issue with the TPP's lack of transparency. She says:

Congress is granted the constitutional authority to provide important oversight and approval to trade legislation. Yet the TPP has been negotiated largely in secret -- what we do know about many of its troubling provisions come through leaks rather than a seat at the negotiating table. According to the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), he and committee chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) share concern that the TPP and its negotiations lack critical transparency.

Yet at the same time these transparency concerns are being raised, the Obama administration is simultaneously asking Congress to provide "fast track" authority and cede their role and input on key policy provisions.

Congress should not take, or cede, their responsibility lightly. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is too secretive and potentially too damaging to be rushed through Congress via "fast track" authority. Based on the past two decades of broken trade promises and "trust me" assurances from past presidents, our country can no longer take that chance.


USTR Must Press Enforcement of Labor Violations in Mexico

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The systemic violation of workers’ and trade union rights in Mexico stemming from the North American Free Trade Agreement is clear evidence of the need for a binding and enforceable plan on enforcement of such violations, CWA President Cohen told U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

In a March 30 letter, Cohen pointed out that “despite the provisions of the NAFTA labor side agreement and labor law reforms enacted in 2012, the State Department's 2013 report on human rights found that the government did not consistently protect worker rights and “left workers with little recourse regarding violations of freedom of association, poor working conditions, or other problems."

Mexican law and practice have created a series of obstacles to workers' ability to exercise their rights. These practices are distorting the labor market, artificially depressing wages, limiting workers’ purchasing power and fomenting poverty and migration. They also hurt U.S. workers by reducing export opportunities and stimulating plant shutdowns, Cohen wrote.

The U.S. must advance an effective and enforceable plan that requires Mexico to remedy these distortions and establish a fair basis for competition. “Our government must be willing to combat impunity in the area of labor justice. This is an important time to make progress on these critical issues,” Cohen wrote.

Read the full letter here.


Bargaining Update

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AT&T Legacy

CWA Telecommunications and Technologies members at AT&T Legacy overwhelmingly voted to authorize CWA leaders to call a strike if a fair contract cannot be reached. Negotiations are continuing; the current contract covering 4,800 workers expires Apr. 11. Read the bargaining reports here.

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T&T members of Local 6350 in send T&T management a message on Health Care Action Day.

Below, members of Local 7250 show their support for the bargaining team.

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AT&T Midwest

CWA District 4 members at AT&T Midwest are voting on strike authorization, with the votes to be returned to the district by April 6. The current contract, covering about 13,000 workers, expires Apr. 11. Read bargaining reports here.

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At AT&T Midwest, members of Local 4322, say AT&T's health care proposals "would have us become the walking dead."

Below, members of Local 4217 in Illinois, and across D4, say "hands off our health care and benefits."

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Flight Attendants Picket Delta, United and American for Equal Pay

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AFA-CWA has launched a coordinated campaign to bridge the gap in pay between mainline and regional airlines cabin crews with a protest at Washington National Airport terminals. More protests are planned at airports nationwide.

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Flight Attendants, members of AFA-CWA and other unions, demonstrate at Washington's National Airport for pay fairness. Right is AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson.

"The U.S. airline industry is crucial to the success of our economy, as are the Flight Attendants who are on the frontlines and serve an important role in keeping passengers safe," AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson said. "It's time to close the pay gap and end wage discrimination."

"The airline industry is raking in billions, at the expense of workers on the frontlines of regional airlines," Nelson continued. "The three major U.S. carriers are pocketing a portion of their profit by promoting wage inequality. It's the same brand, the same passengers buying tickets but the pay for aviation's first responders is a fraction of that for crew on mainline flights. Flight Attendants know undercutting pay for any Flight Attendant puts in jeopardy the standards for all Flight Attendants."


Reform Group Launches Ad Campaign to Get Corporations to Disclose Political Spending

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A corporate reform coalition has begun a public information campaign to try to recruit U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to their cause to get Big and Unregulated Money out of politics. The coalition has begun a big advertisement blitz to push the SEC to enact a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending.

"Disclosure of political spending is required for labor organizations," CWA Senior Director George Kohl said. "SEC Chair Mary Jo White should make the same requirement for corporations."

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Commuters and travelers entering and exiting Washington's Union Station, a major transit hub near the SEC's headquarters, will see comic strip-style illustrations of frightened investors and voters calling on White to save them from monsters that have taken shareholder democracy hostage. White is depicted as a superhero who can rescue them from political spending threatening their investments.

The ads will be promoted by a social media campaign centered around #WhereIsMJW and an animated video.


Shining a Light on Corruption in Politics

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CWAers joined the crowd of 200 public interest activists who rallied outside the White House to urge President Obama to issue an executive order requiring contractors that do business with the government to disclose their political spending.

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Outside the White House, CWAers and other activists urge the President to help get big money out of politics with an executive order covering government contractors.

The group is shining a light on corporation corruption and is pushing measures to help curb the obscene flood of money in politics. Petitions signed by more than half a million citizens were presented, calling on the President to take action.

Currently, corporations that bid for government contracts don't have to disclose their campaign spending. The result: a "pay to play" system under which government contractors can give dollars to elect the very lawmakers who are responsible for awarding government contracts.

The Washington, D.C. event was just one of the rallies, vigils and other events held in 30 states across the country, to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision. By a 5-4 decision the Court struck down previous aggregate limits on political contributions, enabling a single super-wealthy donor to contribute as much as $5.9 million to candidates, campaigns and PACs. It's "pay to play politics," not democracy.

CWAers from Local 2222 and headquarters joined activists from Common Cause, Public Citizen, NAACP, People for the American Way, Sierra Club, Center for American Progress, the Postal Workers and other unions and other groups fighting to get "money out and voters in."


TSEU Retirees Push for Full Pension

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Retired members of the Texas State Employees Union, CWA Local 6186, lobbied for full funding of retiree pensions as they met with legislators at a Mini Lobby Day on March 25. TSEU retiree members plan on making as big a splash for LOBBY DAY on April 8! Read more about the Retiree Organizing Committee here.


TU Activists Raise Workers' Rights at Albuquerque Parade

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Members of TU, the solidarity organization for T-Mobile workers in the U.S. and Germany, marched in the Cesar Chavez parade in Albuquerque, NM last Saturday. The parade was partly sponsored by T-Mobile US which prompted some members to wonder why the company won't respect workers' rights in the U.S.


The Next CWA Town Hall Call is April 16

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The next CWA town hall call is Thursday, April 16, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. The call will last half an hour.

Sign up for the call at http://cwa-union.org/cwacall.