CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 10, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 10, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

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Bargaining Update

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CWA AT&T Southeast, AT&T Utility Operations, and BellSouth Billing Workers Ratify Contracts

CWA members working for AT&T Southeast, AT&T Utility Operations, and BellSouth Billing have overwhelmingly approved contracts covering a total of 28,000 workers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The new contracts will provide increases in wages, pension safeguards and improvements in job security, a better work/home life balance, and many other gains that will provide real economic improvement for workers.

CWA District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt thanked everyone involved in the ratification of the agreement between CWA and AT&T in District 3, from the bargaining team, mobilizers and the members.

"It was a hard fought battle for all and we were able to get an agreement that will benefit the members during this rapidly changing environment that we are seeing in the telecom industries," Honeycutt said.

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CWAers Continue Struggle to Win Fair Contracts at Verizon

Despite fielding insulting proposals from Verizon, IBEW and CWA bargaining committee members negotiating contracts for 39,000 members since August 1 continue to work hard for a fair agreement. Progress remains slow as this wealthy corporation persists with demands that workers relinquish job security and retirement and other benefits.


CWA Local 1120 members, Verizon workers fighting for a fair contract, did not let the fog deter them as they rallied near a Poughkeepsie, NY, Verizon Wireless store on Sunday.

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IBEW 2321, IBEW 2222 and CWA Local 1400 members were at the Peabody, Mass., Verizon Wireless store on Saturday to let the public know that workers are united for a fair contract. "Our CWA and IBEW members are out there educating the community about our prolonged contract fight. We're going to fight one day longer, one day stronger," CWA Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi said.


Democracy Initiative Sets 2016 Course

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The Democracy Initiative's 58 endorsing organizations this week adopted a strategic action plan for 2016, calling for a major grassroots mobilization and setting a national innovative strategy for joint action to build a democracy where the voice of every American is heard and counted, with a government that is of, by and for the people.

Democracy Initiative Chair Larry Cohen said stopping the deluge of money that has warped our political process and the wave of voter suppression laws across the nation will need all the organizations working together.

In fact, two member organizations – Public Citizen and the NAACP – have begun coordinating their campaigns at the highest levels, to take on the linked consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court's assaults in recent years on voting rights and campaign finance reform. The organizations are committed to working together to restore the Voting Rights Act and to stop the flood of big money into politics unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision. Voter suppression and the wholesale purchase of the political establishment by the wealthy in this country are destroying democracy for Americans.

"Together we can build a democracy where our members' dreams are imaginable and not blocked by a system with abysmally low voter participation and outrageously high spending that's considered by many to be 'business as usual,' " Cohen said. "We can't accept that and we won't accept that."

CWA President Chris Shelton said CWA will be a big part of the national mobilization and other actions.

"It's time to put up or shut up," Shelton said. "We need millions of people on the streets to fight back and save our democracy. The spring mobilization that DI is organizing is a tremendous opportunity to show people that we are sick and tired of our country being held hostage to special interests. If we do not support the DI in this we will never get the important work of our organizations done."


CWA President Chris Shelton, with Marge Baker of the People for the American Way and NAACP President Cornell Brooks, at the Democracy Initiative's annual meeting.

Founded in 2012, the Democracy Initiative is committed to mobilizing millions of activists to build the movement for a 21st century democracy. Endorsing organizations adopted a plan for specific campaigns in at least six states, support for other local and state reform efforts, training for hundreds of thousands of activists, a major spring mobilization and a national plan to rebuild our democracy.

A major goal of the spring mobilization will be to overcome the public cynicism that little can be done about the corporate stranglehold on decisions affecting the lives of Americans. The action plan for 2016 will build on victories that already have been achieved in communities and states.

The national strategy calls for increased integration of democracy issues into the work of issue-based member organizations, by connecting organizations and promoting discussion and action on democracy work.

For more information and a list of endorsing organizations, please visit www.democracyinitiative.org.


Robert Reich Looks at Who's Buying up American Democracy

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Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains how a handful of super-wealthy Americans is in the process of buying up our government.

In his latest YouTube video, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich cites a New York Times investigation that said half of all the money contributed so far to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – $176 million – has come from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control. Who are these people? They're almost entirely white, rich, older and male – even though America is becoming increasingly black and brown, young, female, and with declining household incomes.


CWA Files Objections to Altice-Cablevision Deal

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CWA has filed official objections with the Federal Communications Commission over the proposed sale of Cablevision to Dutch company Altice.

The deal is not in the public interest, will lead to outsourcing of jobs and too much debt, CWA said, citing the Moody's ratings agency's concerns about the $8.6 billion in debt that Altice would take on to complete the purchase.

CWA represents 300 Cablevision technicians and workers in Brooklyn. These CWAers successfully ratified a contract with Cablevision in February 2015 after a multi-year fight with the company, first over union representation and then for a fair contract.

"Altice's track record in France and Portugal clearly shows the danger this deal poses to Cablevision's customers and employees," CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor said. "Altice takes on too much debt, outsources as much work as possible and then downsizes its workforce. Customers get worse service and employees lose their job. Unless Altice makes commitments to protect customer service and Cablevision employees, the FCC should reject this deal."

Read the full filing here. Altice has outlined plans to take on $8.6 billion in debt to finance the deal – on top of Cablevision's existing $5.9 billion in debt. This level of debt will require such deep cost-cutting at Cablevision that both staffing and network investments are likely to suffer, harming consumers and workers. As a result of the heavy debt financing, Moody's immediately put Cablevision under review for downgrade, noting that its eye-popping debt level "creates risk for a company in a capital intensive, competitive industry."

According to the filing, Altice's planned $1.05 billion cuts in operating expenses and capital expenditures will likely lead to significantly worse customer service. This has been the experience in France, where Deutsche Bank reports that over the past year, Altice-owned Numericable-SFR lost 5.4 percent (1.256 million) of its mobile subscribers, another 246,000 retail broadband subscribers, or 3.7 percent, and 719,000 home connections, 7.2 percent of subscribers.

In addition, in France and Portugal, Altice has a troubling track record of refusing to pay its contractors. Recently, two Altice companies were fined the equivalent of $410,000 (in Euros) for not paying its contractors.

CWA will weigh in with the New York State Public Service Commission, the New York City Franchise Concession Review Committee and the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which play a role in reviewing the deal.


The Fed Thinks The Economy Is Healthy – But It's Not

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In a new Medium blog post, CWA President Chris Shelton outlines why the Federal Reserve's hints at raising interest rates are so troubling.

He writes:

In contract bargaining this year, we've seen very wealthy companies seek to shift higher health care costs to workers and slash retirement security. We've seen companies look to cut good, full-time jobs that support families and communities, only to replace them with temporary and part-time work with limited or no benefits.

The current struggle of working families will only deepen under higher interest rates. It'll make it more expensive for us to pay our credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car payments and more. That means we'll have less cash in our wallets to purchase the goods and services we need. And when families don't have money to spend, that extreme budget tightening quickly ripples throughout our communities. Local businesses earn less and hire fewer workers, and the economy slows.

We're making it clear: the American Dream isn't only for Wall Street bankers and the 1 percent. It's supposed to be for all of us. Workers helped corporate America make a full recovery. Now it's our turn.

In September, Shelton pressed this point when he joined AFL-CIO leaders at a meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. They warned Yellen that raising interest rates would further harm the ability of working families to improve their wages and standard of living.

But will the Fed listen? We'll find out when the central bank meets to decide monetary policy next week.

Read Shelton's full blog post here.


Organizing Update

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Nearly 1,000 Sports Broadcast Members Join NABET-CWA

Nearly 1,000 technicians and other workers who bring television sports to millions of viewers have joined NABET-CWA over the past year, following new work agreements reached with ABC Sports and NBC Sports.

NABET-CWA President Charlie Braico said the program, "Growing the Union at ABC Sports and NBC Sports," has been very successful and will continue to bring union representation to hundreds of workers, especially in sports field production.

"There has been a huge expansion in the coverage of sports, especially for college athletics. The number of college football games broadcast in a weekend – and covered by NABET-CWA collective bargaining agreements – has grown from five to as many as 35 games. Most of these workers are daily hires, who are hired show to show, season to season. It's clear that they want the benefits of NABET-CWA representation," he said.

Daily Hire/Freelance members are an integral part of NABET-CWA, and the union has focused on ensuring that these workers have the opportunity for a union voice.


Tragedy in North Carolina Kills Members of CWA Local 3676

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On Nov. 30, two members of CWA Local 3676, Dennis Martin and Daniel Anderson, were working on a huge transformer at SPX Transformer Solutions in Goldsboro, when they were overcome by nitrogen gas and died.

William Sariak, a co-worker who entered the transformer, was stricken but was taken to a nearby hospital and survived.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has begun an investigation to determine the cause of the tragedy and identify steps to prevent future cases. CWA's occupational safety and health director Dave LeGrande will work with the state regulators and the employer on the investigation.

The local and CWA District 3 are providing support to the grieving families and co-workers during this difficult time, said Local 3676 President Gilbert Cutlip and District 3 Vice President Richard Honeycutt.

SPX Transformer Solutions is one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of medium and large power transformers for the transmission and distribution of electric power.


Consumer Advocates Urge Regulators to Investigate T-Mobile's False Ads, Abusive Debt Collection

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Consumer advocates are calling out T-Mobile.

A coalition of leading civil rights, consumer, labor and social justice organizations has filed complaints with both the New York Attorney General's office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), calling for the regulators to investigate misleading ads and abusive debt collection at T-Mobile.

"It is profoundly disappointing that T-Mobile markets itself as a provider of equal access, but its misleading claims and aggressive debt collection likely have a disparate impact on communities of color and low income consumers," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change. "We believe an investigation is necessary, and will hopefully force much needed change at the company."

Led by Change to Win, the coalition analyzed more than 5,500 consumer complaints filed with federal agencies and the Better Business Bureau since 2013, when the company launched its campaign promising consumers "contract freedom" and "no contract."

Researchers found that while T-Mobile boldly claims to rip up contracts, its equipment financing plan locks customers into two-year contracts, just like before. As a result, about 90 percent of customers enter into contracts with financial penalties for early termination.

The complaints also detail the company's broken debt collection practices. Of consumers with accounts in collection, 71 percent said that T-Mobile gave incorrect information to debt collection agencies. Nearly half reported little-to-no notice of the debt before it was referred to an agency.

The report clearly got under T-Mobile CEO John Legere's skin. When USA Today covered it, Legere harassed the reporter, Kaja Whitehouse. "Makes me think you were suckered? OR you in someone's back pocket?" Legere tweeted. Whitehouse responded that she understood he was unhappy, "But personal attacks? Really?"

In its story, USA Today reports that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an investigation into the company. Advocates are urging the CFPB to do the same soon.

"We fear that without swift action by the CFPB, millions of more consumers will be put in harm's way by T-Mobile's misleading claims and unfair debt collection practices," said Nell Geiser, research director for Change to Win Retail Initiatives.

Learn more at www.callingouttmobile.com.