CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 3, 2014 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Apr. 3, 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.

Money Is NOT Speech

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CWAers and allies rally outside the Supreme Court to protest this week's disastrous decision that gives the super-rich even more sway and control over our democratic election process.

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The Supreme Court's long-awaited decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, announced this week, has given the super-rich an even greater say in elections and our democracy.

By a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down aggregate contribution limits, so that one super-wealthy donor now can inject up to $3.6 million into our politics – to candidates and parties – shattering one of the remaining campaign finance laws on the books.

What does this decision mean for ordinary Americans? Check out this video from Demos, a CWA ally.

In a statement, CWA said that "the Supreme Court continues to confuse money and speech, causing real harm to our democratic election process."

"Thanks to Citizens United, we already know how the Court's decision will further erode our democracy and disenfranchise ordinary Americans. The super-rich will join corporations in using their millions to pressure elected officials for special access, policy agendas and tax breaks and to flood the airwaves with anonymous political messages. Working and middle class families will find their voices even more diminished. The result likely will be even more "pay-to-play politics" and political inequality than we've seen since the 2010 Citizens United decision, and even more disillusionment in the political process by ordinary Americans. Decisions by this Supreme Court have made it more difficult for ordinary Americans to vote in an election, but also have made it much easier for the super-rich to buy an election.

Money does not equal speech. We cannot stand by while the super-rich and corporations have an even greater say in our democracy just because they have fatter wallets. That's why CWA has joined with other groups in the Democracy Initiative to promote public financing and fight the ever increasing amount of big money in politics," CWA said.

Immediately following the decision, CWA activists and allies protested outside the U.S. Supreme Court and at more than 150 other actions in 41 states and DC.

Check out this video of the action outside the Supreme Court where CWAers, allies, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and other speakers pledged to fight back against money in politics. 


Reducing the Number of Those Eligible to Vote – Who Benefits?

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It's ironic. Decisions by this Supreme Court have allowed states to make it more difficult for ordinary Americans to vote, while at the same time, the Court is sanctioning a new flood of dollars from the super-rich to candidates and campaigns. (See the story on this week's disastrous decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.)

Around the country, Republicans are looking to impose new restrictions on voting aimed at keeping African-Americans, students, workers and others from the polls.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) just signed a bill into law that will disenfranchise thousands of voters by eliminating absentee voting on weekends ahead of elections.

"The argument that this will create more uniform, fair voting hours is a complete sham," said CWA District 4 Vice President Linda Hinton. "This is about fixing elections. This is about deliberately silencing the voices of minorities, seniors, students, veterans and working families at the ballot box."

In February, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich (R) successfully cut one week of early voting and eliminated a period called the "Golden Week" at the beginning of early voting when people can both register to vote and cast an in-person absentee ballot. Republicans also changed the handling of absentee ballots, so more will likely be discarded because of technical errors.

CWAers are now collecting petition signatures to put the issue in front of voters on the November ballot, said Hinton.

North Carolina activists are fighting back against the nation's most restrictive voting laws, which were passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the GOP governor last summer. The North Carolina legislature enacted an extreme voter ID law that could prevent 318,000 now registered voters from exercising their right to vote, while cutting back early voting and allowing polling place "vigilantes" to challenge voters. Lawmakers also added provisions to make students' college-issued IDs an invalid form of identification, along with other drastic measures.

But voting rights advocates in North Carolina recently got some good news: A federal judge has ordered state lawmakers who backed the laws, which effectively target black and Latino voters, to turn over their emails to better shed light on why they passed the law.

Last June, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of voting rights discrimination to clear all voting law changes with the federal government. As a result, several states quickly got to work on new voter suppression laws.

Since the beginning of 2013, nine states have passed measures making it harder for ordinary Americans to vote. Check out this story from The New York Times that highlights how Republicans embarked on a national effort to roll back voting rights.


Movement Building

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Get Ready to Rally for Immigration Reform

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CWA members in Mishawaka, Ind., with activists from Jobs with Justice, SEIU, the Northern Indiana Coalition for Immigration Reform and other groups, joined the Fast For Families call for immigration reform.

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The "Fast for Families Across America" Bus Tour is getting close to the end of its run.

On Wednesday, April 9, immigration reform advocates will return to where it all began with a rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The day before, Tuesday, April 8, President Larry Cohen, CWA activists and other activists, including AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre, will rally outside the Herndon, Va., office of Rep. Frank Wolf, calling on him and Congress to pass immigration reform this year.

For more than a month, the "Fast for Families" activists have been on a nationwide road trip, talking with ordinary Americans about our broken immigration system, encouraging communities to fast and pray, and pushing members of Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform. At every stop, supporters have signed thousands of petitions that activists will deliver to the House leadership at the end of the April 9 rally.

The Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform last June, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has refused to take up the issue. House Democrats are looking to push forward a discharge petition that would enable H.R. 15, the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, to be considered on the House floor.

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Cesar Chavez Holiday

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CWAers join the march and rally in Austin, Texas, to celebrate the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez.

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CWAers, union activists and supporters joined the annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Unity in Austin, Texas, on March 29. Activists celebrated Chavez's life and legacy and rallied for comprehensive immigration reform.

Chavez was a farm worker, a civil rights activist and co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union. His birthday, March 31, is a state holiday in Texas, California and Colorado.

"Cesar Chavez" is a new film now in theatres on the courageous life of the farmworker organizer who believed that his job as an organizer "was to help ordinary people do extraordinary things."

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Missouri CWA members lobby this week at the State Capitol in Jefferson City, fighting back against anti-worker legislation.

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Sara Steffens, TNG-CWA secretary-treasurer, TNG-CWA members and union and community activists In Oakland rally for a wage increase for minimum wage workers, and paid sick days.

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Students And Workers Unite!

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Students from Rowan University's Glassboro Student Union and Progressive Student Alliance supported members of CWA Local 1038 during contract negotiations this month.

The students sent 183 emails to Sodexo management, collected signatures from their fellow students for a petition demanding a fair contract, and sat with workers during negotiations.


New York State Launches Safe Patient Handling Program

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Health care workers in New York are celebrating the new Safe Patient Handling Act that was passed as part of the state's budget.

It's a big win for CWA Locals 1168, 1133, 1126, 1122, 1115 and other health care union activists who have been engaged in this policy fight for years. The legislation directs the Department of Health to create a statewide committee to study the best practices for using equipment to lift, transfer and reposition health care patients and residents. In following years, all hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic treatment centers and clinics will implement plans for their own facilities.

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Health care workers from CWA locals and other unions rally in Albany for legislation on safe patient handling and safe staffing.

"Safe patient handling not only improves worker safety, it improves patient outcomes," said Dana McCarthy, director of health and safety for CWA Local 1168. "In industry and construction, no one thinks to ask someone to lift more than 40 pounds. But routinely, health care workers are almost commanded to do so. With this bill, they at least have a channel to say, 'No, I'm not going to do that unsafe lifting.'"

Sarah Buckley, legislative-political action director for CWA Local 1168, said, "What's really striking, when you look at the facts, is that health care workers lift 1.8 tons per an 8-hour shift."

Safe patient handling also improves continence and patient dignity.

"Without equipment, you're sometimes being yanked one way or another. Seeing people struggle to move you around is awkward at best and humiliating and shameful at worst," said Buckley.

The idea behind the legislation started percolating in 2002, and started gaining steam when Kaleida Health, the largest healthcare provider in Western New York employing 5,000 CWA members, instituted safe patient handling in an effort to curb workers' compensation claims. By 2005, the labor-management committee had implemented a policy and purchased new equipment and beds.

In 2007, a state senator whose mother was in a Kaleida-run facility witnessed the practice first hand and introduced a bill to make safe patient handling mandatory throughout New York.

But it didn't pass right away. Along with the Western New York Council on Occupation Safety and Health, CWA activists placed hundreds of phone calls to the governor, lobbied their lawmakers in Albany and launched letter-writing campaigns. CWA was also one of the founding members of the New York State Zero Lift Task Force, which brought together healthcare workers, administrators, patient advocates, union representatives and safety and health professionals to create a safe environment for patients and healthcare workers by eliminating strenuous manual lifting tasks involved in transferring and repositioning patients.

Finally this year, with more than 100 co-sponsors in the Democratic majority Assembly, language was added to the state budget.


NLRB to Hear Evidence of Illegal Activity by Tennessee Governor and Senator in Volkswagen Election

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It seems that U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may have been a little too clever in their campaign to intimidate auto workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga from voting for union representation.

Documents leaked to "NewsChannel 5 Investigates," a Chattanooga, Tenn., news program, provide conclusive proof that the Haslam administration wanted a say in the automaker's deal with organized labor – in exchange for $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its Chattanooga operations.

Now, Haslam faces a possible investigation by the state legislature about his actions and interference in the union election.

And Senator Corker isn't in the clear either. The NewsChannel 5 investigation reported that: "But we also obtained emails that show that Senator Corker's chief of staff was in direct contact with anti-union organizers who were brought in to fight the UAW. He then shared those emails with people in the Haslam administration who were in charge of the incentives."

The United Auto Workers has cited this new evidence as part of a petition to the National Labor Relations Board to throw out the election results. By a narrow margin, the bid for union representation didn't succeed. An NLRB administrative law judge will hear the petition and call for a new election at a hearing in Chattanooga on April 21.


Common Cause Highlights 'Two Shameful Milestones' in Senate

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New analysis from Common Cause spotlights two recent "shameful milestones" that the current U.S. Senate should not be celebrating. Stephen Spaulding, the policy counsel for Common Cause, wrote:

"When the Senate returns today, it should not celebrate two milestones that it surpassed last week.

First, Majority Leader Harry Reid filed his 116th cloture petition – topping the total number of cloture petitions filed in the previous Congress and signaling the Senate's continuing dysfunction. To put this in perspective, it is already double the total number of cloture petitions filed in the entire five decade period between 1917-1968, when southern senators famously used the filibuster to thwart civil rights legislation, anti-lynching measures and voting rights bills.

Second, the Senate held its 100th cloture vote last week. The only other time the Senate voted 100 or more times on cloture was in the 110th Congress (2007-2008).

The Senate is on pace to shatter all previous filibuster records. And we still have nine more months to go before this Congress expires."

This is why it's so important now – more than ever – to fix the Senate now. Read Spaulding's full blog post on Common Cause's website.

And keep up with the latest on the fight by CWA and allies to change the Senate rules at http://fixthesenatenow.org/.


People to Follow On Twitter

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Want to keep up with the latest updates of what's going on in your union and the labor movement? Here are a handful of folks you should be following ...

@CWAUnion
@CWANews
@AFLCIO
@greenhousenyt
@inthesetimesmag

We'll have more suggestions next week!

Is your local on Twitter? Send us a tweet using the hashtag #cwalocal to let us know so we can follow you!


NABET-CWA Commends FCC Vote to Strengthen Television Ownership Rules

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The Federal Communications Commission took action this week to curb abuses by television broadcasters that are using joint sales agreements of evade ownership rules. The FCC's ownership rules are necessary to preserve localism, diversity of opinion and competition in local media markets.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce applauded the FCC's action that "closed a loophole that has allowed some broadcasters to do an end run around laws intended to limit multiple TV station ownership."

The Commission voted 3-2 to ban new joint sales agreements (JSAs) in which one station sells 15% or more of the advertising time of another separately owned station in the same market. In addition, existing JSAs generally will be required to unwind within two years, unless an exemption waiver is granted by the FCC. The FCC also will ask for public comments on whether broadcasters should be required to fully disclose details about another form of media consolidation, shared services agreements, (SSAs) and whether SSAs should come under additional regulation.

These shared services agreements have resulted in consolidation that has led to communities losing one or more important sources of information in their TV markets, and also have caused significant job loss, Joyce said. "We will tell the FCC that the use of shared agreements is outsourcing at its worst, and skirts ownership cap rules meant to protect the public interest," he said.