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CWA e-Newsletter: Dec. 11, 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.

Judge Finds Cablevision and CEO Dolan Guilty of Illegal Actions

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A Federal Administrative Law Judge ruled late last week that Cablevision and its CEO James Dolan broke multiple labor laws in an attempt to stop workers in Brooklyn and the Bronx from unionizing.

CWA will now begin the process to get New York City to bring the corporation into compliance with its cable franchise and, if necessary, declare it in default of the franchise for violations of the labor rights provisions of the agreement. The franchise requires the company to comply with Federal labor law.

The ruling stemmed from charges that two separate National Labor Relations Board regional offices authorized against the company in April 2013: in Brooklyn, for illegally firing 22 workers, bargaining in bad faith, and spying on workers, and in the Bronx, for illegally intimidating, harassing and essentially bribing workers during a union representation election.

"Finally, the NLRB has spoken in an unprecedented 300 page decision that outlines the deliberate law breaking of James Dolan. In any other jurisdiction he would face arrest," CWA President Larry Cohen said. "Yet, based on his past behavior, Mr. Dolan likely believes his personal fortune and family control of Cablevision will allow him and Cablevision to avoid any real penalties. Since the trial, Jim Dolan and Cablevision have escalated their attacks on their employees and their union. The NLRB needs to take immediate action. The City and State of New York need to treat Cablevision and all Dolan family controlled entities like the major law breaker that is documented extensively in this decision."

The long-awaited decision is a major boost to the Brooklyn Cablevision workers' campaign for a fair and just contract. The decision comes after a trial concluded in December of 2013. Just last month, the NLRB issued a third sweeping federal complaint against Cablevision, including citing Dolan specifically, for new violations of federal labor laws at its Brooklyn unit.

Cablevision was charged with illegally firing Jerome Thompson, a pro-union worker, conducting an illegal sham poll of workers following CEO James Dolan's in-person visit designed to intimidate employees with a highly prejudicial speech, and illegally implementing changes in working conditions without bargaining with CWA. A trial on these charges is expected to begin shortly and CWA is confident that Cablevision will be found guilty of these charges as well.


T-Mobile Workers' Message Resonates at Global Union World Meeting

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The struggle by T-Mobile US workers for a voice in the workplace found strong support among delegates to the UNI World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, this week, CWA President Larry Cohen said.

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CWA President Larry Cohen and ver.di leader Lothar Schröder talk T-Mobile.

Below: ver.di members in Germany show support for their U.S. colleagues at T-Mobile.

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Cohen presented a video demonstrating the partnership between T-Mobile US activists and members of ver.di, the union that represents workers at Deutsche Telekom (DT), the German corporation and parent company of TMUS. Cohen was joined in the presentation by Lothar Schröder, deputy chairman of the supervisory board of DT and a ver.di leader.

See the video here.

"The video we've just seen documents a new standard of international solidarity," Cohen said. "ver.di has been amazing. The solidarity has been spectacular and goes deeper than the bond between Lothar and I. ver.di and CWA created TU, which is a true partnership. Our TU members belong both to ver.di and CWA."

More than 2,000 labor leaders from around the world came to the UNI Global Congress in Cape Town on the 20th anniversary of South Africa's emergence from the apartheid regime that saw that nation's leaders like Nelson Mandela jailed and the black population disenfranchised. UNI Global Union is a global federation that represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 service sector unions worldwide.

T-Mobile call-center supervisors harass workers in the United States for daring to organize their workplaces, including summary firings and repeated captive audience interrogations. The German government is the largest shareholder in DT, which holds a 67% stake in T-Mobile. DT's workforce in Germany and the rest of Europe have bargaining rights.

Schröder pointed to solidarity as one of the main reasons for joining with T-Mobile US workers. But he said an equally important reason is that if the Deutsche Telekom corporation is a well-oiled machine, with workers as indispensable components in how it functions, then the virulent anti-labor practices of its U.S. subsidiary T-Mobile are a defect in that machine.

"T-Mobile's labor relations disrupt that model. ver.di does not want Deutsche Telekom or other German companies to import the American model of disposable workers back to Germany," Schröder said.


Congress Set to Cave in to Even More Big Money in Politics

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CWA issued this statement on the CROmnibus spending bill being considered by the House and Senate:

As we mark the 66th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, Congress is taking up an omnibus spending bill that includes a big cave-in to big money in politics. International Human Rights Day was launched by Eleanor Roosevelt in the UN in 1948, but now we are witnessing U.S. politics bought and sold by billionaires.

The CROmnibus spending bill is a travesty that, if adopted, will weaken our democracy. It would increase by tenfold the limits on an individual's contribution to a national political party every year to $324,000 and expand the corrupting role of big money in our election process. That could give even greater control over our democracy to the wealthiest of the 1 percent.

The Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court decisions made this wave of obscene spending possible. It's not surprising that voters are cynical, and that turnout in November was at record lows. How can citizens believe that their votes count when they see corporations and wealthy individuals spending millions and getting their way?

Because of this "pay to play" politics, it also looks as though Wall Street will succeed in rolling back financial regulations just six years after Wall Street excesses resulted in an economy that came crashing down on working families. The bill would allow the big banks to again gamble with taxpayer dollars, knowing they will be bailed out by working families when their deals fall apart.

As we celebrate International Human Rights Day, we need to recommit to mobilizing millions for a 21st century democracy. Tomorrow, the Democracy Initiative convenes in Washington. Fifty-five organizations, including environmental, community, civil rights, labor, and democracy, are all ready to stand up and fight back. We hope that members of Congress stand with us.


Organizing Update

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Verizon Wireless Retail Store Workers Vote for CWA in Massachusetts

Retail workers at a Verizon Wireless store in Everett, Mass., voted for bargaining rights and CWA representation.

The vote is a huge victory for these workers, who stayed strong despite an aggressive and intimidating management campaign to dissuade them. There are 16 workers at the Everett store. Fairness in promotions and discipline and greater job security were key issues in the campaign.

It follows the vote last May by nearly 70 Verizon Wireless store workers at six Brooklyn stores who also made a successful stand for bargaining rights to address their issues on the job.

"There's a real movement of Verizon Wireless workers that we knew we wanted to be a part of, to stand up with our colleagues for fairness and our rights on the job," said Mike Tisei, a retail worker at the Everett store. "Today, we joined that movement."

A growing wave of retail workers is looking for bargaining rights to make real changes on the job. Hundreds of Verizon Wireless workers are building the movement online too, through Facebook and other social media.

"We welcome the Everett retail store workers to our union family. All of us are stronger when we stand together," said Chris Shelton, CWA District 1 vice president.

Just as in Brooklyn, and for more than a decade nationwide, Verizon Wireless management put extreme pressure on the Everett workers in an effort to block the vote for CWA representation. There were countless one-on-one captive audience meetings, where managers forced workers to listen to one-sided attacks on union representation.

VZW has done everything possible to prevent Wireless workers from joining the 40,000 Verizon Communications workers, 80 Verizon Wireless technicians and nearly 70 Verizon Wireless workers who have CWA representation. Today's vote shows that Verizon Wireless's wall of resistance to workers' bargaining rights is crumbling.

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NABET-CWA Wins NLRB Election for Workers in Congress

Technicians and other workers at the U.S. House of Representatives Recording Studio have voted to join NABET-CWA. Fighting against a vicious anti-union campaign by management in the election that the National Labor Relations Board ran last week, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America won 11 of the 19 votes that workers cast.

NABET-CWA will represent the 24 workers in the unit in contract negotiations with their employer, Maslow Media Group. Workers in the unit do the same type of work as 45 NABET-CWA members who work in the House Recording Studio and are employees of the U.S. Government.

Tyrone Riggs, who lost his job at CNN 11 years ago, led the campaign with NABET-CWA staff Representative Carrie Biggs-Adams, and Local 52031 Local President Rich McDermott.


Help Striking FairPoint Families This Holiday Season

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Soon, 1,800 CWA and IBEW members will be entering the ninth week of their strike at FairPoint Communications locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Let's make sure these valiant union members, who had the courage to strike, can provide for their families this holiday season.

FairPoint, New England's largest telecommunications company, unilaterally imposed a contract that ended restrictions on subcontracting and outsourcing, froze pensions, increased health care costs for active workers and cut retiree health care, added a two-tier wage plan with big pay cuts for new hires and other cuts that forced workers to walk out.

While CWA's Members' Relief Fund covers 215 striking members, the 1,500 striking IBEW members have no strike fund.

Make a donation to the IBEW-CWA Solidarity Fund by clicking here. Your support will help them continue to stand up to corporate greed.

A strike can be especially hard on the children of the striking parents, who have already begun to tell their kids that Christmas is going to be much smaller this year. So CWA Local 1400 has compiled a wish list of gifts for the children of its members in three states. There are hundreds of items to choose from, from diapers to gift cards to toys. Click here to see the list and help make the holiday season brighter for the children of these striking workers. 

Lastly, if you live near one of the many strike lines throughout New England, please come show your support. Hold a sign, bring some coffee or order a few pizzas for workers standing out in the cold! IBEW and CWA are also asking for people to drop off gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations.

We can't allow our brothers and sisters to be starved or frozen back to work. This holiday season, please stand with workers fighting for a fair contract.

To learn more and stay up to date on the strike, visit Fairness at FairPoint on Facebook.


Protests Beset TPP Negotiations

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CWAers joined hundreds of activists from labor, environmental, consumer, human rights, public health, Internet freedom, faith and family farm groups in a week of protests outside the office of the United States Trade Representative against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal under negotiation inside.

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Activists in Washington, DC, protest outside TPP negotiations.

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CWA Senior Director George Kohl said the protesters are not against trade but they are against the secrecy that has cloaked the TPP negotiations from the beginning and against some of the terms that have been leaked so far. They deserve to know what deal the negotiators are trying to reach.

"We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations," Kohl said. "In the weeks ahead, we will mobilize like never before against Fast Track authorizing legislation and the TPP, and for 21st century trade that gives workers' rights, environmental issues and other concerns the same standing as corporate profits."

As negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim nations hoping to join the partnership met inside the USTR office, protesters with bullhorns and other noisemakers unfurled banners and placards to denounce the deal they are busy crafting. "TPP=Polluters' Bill of Rights," proclaimed one sign. A person carried a sign saying "Protect Families and the Environment: No Fast Track, No Toxic Trade." Another group had a gigantic banner that said: "Secret TPP Negotiations Here!" while another banner, equally as big, exhorted onlookers to "Stop TPP. Transparency: Release the Text."

Among those participating were Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, The National Family Farm Coalition, the Citizens Trade Campaign, Food and Water Watch and The International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Americans have repeatedly said they will not tolerate trade deals that undercut wages and export jobs overseas. They have said they do not support "Fast Track" legislation that asks Congress to give up the right to scrutinize an eventual deal. Americans are sick of NAFTA-style deals. CWA members in the communications and manufacturing sectors – among others – know well what happened with past bad trade deals. Good-paying, family-supporting jobs vanish overseas, where pay is minimal, benefits non-existent and working conditions brutal.

Bad past trade deals were driving factors in population migration like the one earlier this year when children fled Central American cities in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, crossing the Mexico-U.S. border unaccompanied by a parent, to escape poverty and gang violence. Other undocumented immigrants are often forced to live outside basic labor law protections – without a way to regularize their immigration status.


CWA Commends Confirmation of Lauren McFerran to NLRB

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The Senate voted 54-40 Monday night to confirm Lauren McFerran as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Her seat on the five-member board ensures current NLRB policy will carry on for the next two years and that the board will continue to meet its responsibilities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). McFerran, as a labor counsel to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has extensive knowledge of labor and employment law.

CWA President Larry Cohen said, "It is unfortunate that the nomination of another highly qualified candidate, former Member Sharon Block, did not proceed despite a positive vote of the HELP committee before the Senate election recess. Soon-to-be Majority Leader McConnell, in his initial meeting with the president, demanded Block's withdrawal even though he did not have the votes to block her confirmation and at least one Republican on the committee had voted for her. The president agreed; we should all view that as a wake-up call for attacks on workers' rights in the next Congress.

"The anti-worker ideological bent exhibited by the new Senate majority is without precedent since the passage of the NLRA 80 years ago. Working people now are on notice that Senator McConnell will be aiming at workers' rights as a core part of his leadership, and with the full support and encouragement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is up to the rest of us, not just labor, to support workers' rights as we build a movement for economic justice and democracy."


Supreme Court Denies Amazon Warehouse Workers Pay for Security Screening

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In a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday morning that employers don't have to pay their employees for the time they spend waiting in line for security checkpoints at the end of their shifts.

The central question was simply, "Is this work?" Every day, Amazon warehouse workers line up for an airport-style security check for as long as 25 minutes without pay, so that they can be searched for stolen goods

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the mandatory screening process is not a "principal activity" of jobs in the warehouse under the Fair Labor Standards Act and therefore is not subject to compensation. In doing so, the Supreme Court reverses a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found screenings were actually vital to workers' jobs – both for themselves and their bosses – and should be compensated.

CWA has been a longtime supporter of Amazon warehouse workers, both in the U.S. and Germany. In February, CWAers and other activists rallied outside Amazon's worldwide headquarters in Seattle to show their solidarity with German Amazon workers who have been carrying out rolling strikes since May 2013 to push Amazon to negotiate with the German union ver.di.

This week more than 500 German workers at two Amazon warehouses went on strike again to protest their pay and working conditions. Read more here.


Standing Strong at Verizon, Then and Now

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CWAers from Local 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1106, 1108, 1109 and 1120 filled the streets outside Verizon headquarters in New York City, marking the 25th anniversary of the return to work following a 17-week strike in 1989 at NYNEX, the corporation that became Verizon. In 2015, workers at Verizon East are bargaining for a new contract.

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