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CWA e-Newsletter: Feb. 20, 2014

CWA e-Newsletter

February 20, 2014

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.

CWA Telephone Town Hall TONIGHT!

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Don't miss tonight's town hall call, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour. Today, we'll be discussing the flood of big money in politics and what we can do to restore our democratic elections. CWA President Larry Cohen will talking with Rep. John Sarbanes, who recently unveiled the Government By the People Act with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Listen to the call at www.cwa-union.org/cwalisten.


1 Million People Demand Better Banks

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Demonstrators gather outside Citibank's headquarters in Manhattan.

Below: Bank workers overseas show solidarity with U.S. workers.

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More than 1 million people demanded better working conditions in the United States financial industry in the streets and through social media on Tuesday. CWA partnered with UNI Finance and the Committee for Better Banks for the global day of action that culminated with an international delegation of workers protesting in front of Citibank's headquarters on Wall Street to denounce the inequalities and injustices faced by America's bank workers.

Support poured in from a variety of stakeholders, including CWA Local 1180; New York City Public Avocate Letitia James; UNITE, the largest union in the UK; UNI Finance affiliates from Ireland, the Netherlands, Malta, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Australia and Tunisia; New-York based community groups; the Occupy Wall Street movement; and more. Outside of Citibank, activists chanted, "Solidarity forever and the unions make us strong," a popular song in the African trade union movement, and "They got bailed out, we got sold out."

"I have been to sales rallies, where the top executives of the company brag about how great the stock is doing, then the next morning I have to listen to one of my tellers complain she doesn't have enough money to buy baby formula for her child," said Robert Freeman, a former bank worker who is now working to organize the industry.

A new report found that even in New York City, the world capital of finance, U.S. bank workers are worse off than their global counterparts. In fact, bank workers in developing countries – like Tanzania, Lebanon, the Philippines and Malaysia – have far greater rights because they have a voice in the workplace through their union.

The New York Daily News reported:

  • On average, bank workers in the 22 countries surveyed have six months of paid parental leave vs. the U.S., where most workers receive very little paid parental leave.
  • In Germany, bank workers get 72 weeks of paid sick leave at 100% pay; the average in New York is four weeks.
  • In Nepal, a collective bargaining contract has helped reduce the number of jobs being outsourced, whereas New York has shed 19,800 financial services jobs since 2008.
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Colombian bank employees join the rally.

Below: Activists from all around the world sent photos in support of the day of action.

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"It's ridiculous. How can the supposedly richest, most wealthy, most powerful country in the world treat its workers worse than countries that have lower living standards," said Alex Shalom, a Bank of America teller. "What's the difference? Why does Tanzania have better standards than the United States in banking? The only answer is that people there are organized and ready to fight for their rights, and here, we need to do that as well."

On Tuesday, UNI Finance Secretary General Philip Jennings also sent a letter to Citibank CEO Michael Corbat, asking for a meeting with the trade union movement.

Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary for UNI Global Union, said that this day of action was a new milestone for the U.S. bank workers campaign. "Nowadays, it is really hard to build unions in the United States and this kind of innovative solidarity movement can make a change by delivering the message to the U.S. workers that they are not alone," she said.

To learn more visit the UNI's campaign website here.

And click here to send a message to the CEO of Citibank.


New Jersey Homeowners Protest Sheriff's Sale of CWA Member's Home

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New Jersey homeowners marched on a Wells Fargo branch in Irvington on Wednesday, delivering a 2,000-signature petition demanding that the bank stop the sheriff's sale of a CWA member's New Jersey home.

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Activists protest a Wells Fargo branch in Irvington, NJ.

Below: Paulette McQueen fights to save her home.

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In 2010, Paulette McQueen, a CWA Local 1037 home child care provider and shop steward, missed one mortgage payment. The very next month she attempted to hand deliver the missed payment and the current month's payment, but Wells Fargo refused and began to foreclose on the home, where she works as a child care provider and lives with four generations of her family, including her 86-year-old-mother, Lavinia Curry. A sheriff's sale of the family home is now scheduled for March 25.

CWA has partnered with NJ Communities United, Occupy Homes and the Home Defenders League to help McQueen and her family. Activists in almost a dozen cities across the country also protested at their local Wells Fargo branches.

"We have the money to pay, but Wells Fargo refused to accept it," said McQueen. "For more than three years we've been battling to save our house so our mother can live out the rest of her years with dignity and respect in the place our family calls home. Wells Fargo needs to do right by our family."

Watch a video of the action here.

Last year, McQueen's story hit national news when the township of Irvington announced a plan that could save her home. Using the legal doctrine of "eminent domain," the new program would acquire houses with underwater mortgages and revalue them on behalf of homeowners so they can make more affordable payments.

You can read more about the program here.


1,500 New Jersey Public Employees Affiliate with CWA

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Camden County Council 10, an independent labor union representing more than 1,500 public employees in New Jersey's Camden County, voted 573-118 Wednesday night to affiliate with CWA.

The vote brings Council 10 members into CWA Local 1014. The affiliation increases the strength of both organizations.

A letter from Council 10 President Karl Walko strongly recommended the affiliation, saying, "Public employers have become more aggressive and small labor organizations have very limited leverage."

CWA conducted 10 meetings throughout Council 10's jurisdiction and met with and received a unanimous endorsement from Council 10's board of trustees and shop stewards. A package of materials was sent to all Council 10 members and it included a leaflet with pictures and quotes from activists in favor of affiliation.

Principal Library Assistant from the Camden County Library Linda Dilks said, "An affiliation with CWA is beneficial for many reasons. CWA not only has a remarkable reputation but I believe CWA is the strongest union in the State of New Jersey. There is no better union to affiliate with than CWA. "

New Jersey State Director, Hetty Rosenstein, praised the organizing drive.

"This affiliation is not about absorbing Council 10. It's about how we all go forward together within a stronger union," she said. "CWA now has over 5,000 members and family members in Camden County. That makes us a powerhouse in one of the most important political areas of the state. We are a union with a deep commitment to public services and fighting for cities."


Dunkin' Donuts Workers Ratify New Contract

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Guild negotiators seal the deal with Hudson News.

Dunkin' Donuts workers have unanimously ratified a new three-year contract that will give raises to some of the only unionized fast food employees in New York City. The Newspaper Guild of New York represents 67 workers at three Dunkin' Donuts shops at New York's Penn Station, which are operated by Hudson News, and 257 workers at the company's newsstands at several Manhattan travel hubs. Read more at the Guild's website.


Building Our Movement

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CWA Local 1103's Jon Edenholm, a Verizon worker, hosts a weekend WVKR radio show in Hudson Valley, N.Y. After learning more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a massive, secretive trade deal between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries – Edenholm decided to help out and get the word out about this bad trade deal. Using the material he received from his LPAT, he urged folks who listen to his station to call the CWA hotline 888-966-9836 and tell Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) and New York State Senator Terry Gipson to oppose fast track for the TPP.

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CWA members from AT&T Mobility were out at the T-Mobile call center in Springfield, Mo., to show their support for workers' fight for a voice.

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CWA members marched with UFCW and WESPAC members in support of the nine workers who were fired from Mrs. Green's Natural Market in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board charged Mrs. Green's with violating federal labor law by illegally interrogating and intimidating employees in the weeks leading up to their union election. The federal charges were settled in November, and Mrs. Green's agreed under federal order put up a poster, notifying employees of their basic rights that were protected under federal laws, in their store for 60-days. During that period, Mrs. Green's abruptly fired nine pro-union workers for "poor customer service." Read more over at UFCW Local 1500's website.

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A year-and-a-half after voting overwhelmingly for Guild representation, teachers at Kaplan are still fighting for a contract that provides basic benefits to 90 percent of the workforce that is part-time. Management refuses to budge. Kaplan ESL instructors, backed by their students, say enough is enough!


Cohen: Senator Corker Must Be Held Accountable for Attacking VW Workers

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CWA President Larry Cohen wrote this piece in The Huffington Post following the union election vote in Chattanooga:

Last week, on the eve of a long awaited representation election in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Senator Bob Corker made the outrageous statement that if workers voted "No," VW would add a new product to the plant. Even though the plant manager denied this, Corker persisted. Given the role of the VW Board of Supervisors in managing the global corporation, and the 50% membership of union members on that board, it is virtually certain Corker isn't telling the truth. It is also virtually certain that his campaigning for a No vote made a difference in the very close election against union representation.

Corker's comments were compounded by the Tennessee Governor and legislative leaders stating that if workers voted to join every other VW assembly plant in the world with a union, the state would not provide any additional benefits for expanded jobs and production. All of this was amplified by a campaign funded by Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers.

Never before in the 79-year-old history of the National Labor Relations Act has there been this type of blatant interference by elected officials. The stated goal of the Act is to promote collective bargaining, not intimidation by government.

The facts get even worse for Corker. Four years ago, he campaigned against President Obama's efforts to revive GM despite the fact that the plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee would close otherwise. Today, there are 2,000 jobs there and the plant is booming.

VW is currently, by most measures, one of the most effective car companies in the world. Worker participation at all levels, including collective bargaining, is a critical component, even at the plant in Mexico. Yet Corker seems to think he knows best and that his right wing ideology is much more important than the facts, or federal law.

Civil rights and human rights groups, democracy groups, and progressive labor all need to rally against Corker and his allies and on behalf of the courageous leaders of the UAW in the Chattanooga plant. Those workers live in a state where they will now be under pressure every day. Just as 80,000 rallied in Raleigh last week demanding voting rights, and as students and workers across Wisconsin turned out in the winter of 2011 against the extremism of Scott Walker, all of us need to stand with the workers in Chattanooga, the UAW, their German partners in I G Metall, and even VW management itself, in letting Senator Corker and his allies know that his extremism will be met by all of us who are all ready to Stand Up and Fight Back!


Unions Aren't Retreating in the South

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Despite UAW's organizing defeat in Tennessee, unions aren't backing down from their quest to give workers a voice in the South. At the AFL-CIO's winter strategy meeting in Houston this week, leaders vowed to strengthen and mobilize their allies.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said one of labor's strategies will be to link up with civil-rights and human-rights groups fighting issues such as voting rights.

"If we separate these issues, we all lose," he said. "The challenge for people in labor...is to build that kind of coalition," said Mr. Cohen. "There's now much more incentive to build that movement in Tennessee."

The Journal also blogged:

Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen said his union has done most of its organizing in the South over the past decade, "not because we focused on the South, but because we focused on certain kinds of work that was growing" in that region, he said. Mr. Cohen said the union of roughly 700,000 members in the U.S. and Canada has about 150,000 workers in the Southern U.S., including at AT&T Mobility. The union represents workers at that company in more than a half-dozen Southern states, including Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, according to the union's website.

Here's the take by Slate, which quoted Cohen saying:

"It's not so much a turning point in terms of working people and how they behave, but to have a U.S. senator, who takes an oath of office to be part of the federal government, ignore the preamble to the National Labor Relations Act, which clearly states that it's the policy of this government to promote collective bargaining. Instead, he attacked it."


'We Have Each Other's Back' was Message from CWA Customer Service Conference

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CWA customer service members met with colleagues from around the globe at this year's CWA customer service professionals' conference. In panels and one-on-one conversations, workers talked about improving wages, working conditions, respect on the job and professionalism.

The conference was jointly sponsored by CWA and UNI Global Union, the labor federation representing 20 million workers worldwide. Customer service workers from countries including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Romania, Philippines, Brazil and South Africa attended and spoke with their U.S. colleagues about building alliances to help build power for all customer service workers.

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CWA President Larry Cohen, speaking at the customer service professionals' conference in Orlando, says call center workers around the globe are supporting each other and raising standards.

CWA President Larry Cohen said that the work of call center workers was precarious, whether in the U.S., or Europe or Asia. "For all call center workers, from finance or telecoms and from global north or global south, all work is precarious. Whether it's outsourced to another nation or outsourced across the street, every call center worker in every sector faces this. How do we stand up and fight together? How do we say to multinationals – you will not pit us against each other? By standing together and raising our standards together," he said.

UNI Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman called for a new strategy to ensure dignity at work for all call center workers. "The workers in many cases share the same employers or share the same problems. They are underpaid but skilled and well educated and their working conditions do not reflect that," she said.

Josh Coleman, a top earner at the T-Mobile US call center in Wichita, Kans., who was fired because of his support for union representation, also addressed participants. The National Labor Relations Board announced that the U.S. government would prosecute T-Mobile US for violating federal labor law.

U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) talked about the disaster of "fast track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for workers, the environment and consumers. Grayson has characterized TPP "as a punch in the face to the middle class of America, but I'm not allowed to tell you why," in condemning the secrecy and one-sided negotiations of the trade deal.

CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins noted that "for the past few years, we've been working with UNI Global Union on issues for customer service workers, from dealing with job stress to increasing wages to pressing for greater professional recognition of the work that customer service reps and others do every day. This joint conference is taking that work to the next step, and that's exactly what we need to do in today's global economy."

Locals committed to actions that will get underway when participants return home. Activists signed up for these campaigns: Trans-Pacific Partnership, T-Mobile US organizing and American Airlines organizing.

These CWA Customer Service Committee members helped put the conference together: Sandy Kmetyk, Local 13500; Rosie Dunbar, 3902; Vickey Hoots, 3640; Mary Elizabeth Lewis, 4004; Rick Smathers, 4527; Monica Eason, 6016; Valerie Packer and Chris Pagnac, 7250; Lynn Johnson, 9333; Rick Hunt, 13500, and Kim Leiser, 31026.