CWA e-Newsletter: Feb. 5, 2015 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Feb. 5, 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.

Seeking to Fast Track a Bad Deal

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As the Obama administration works to secure Fast Track authority for its trade deal that critics fear will devastate American jobs, CWA members and activists in every district and sector have been generating calls and writing letters to members of Congress to stop Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The TPP, a massive trade deal that is being negotiated in secret by the U.S. and 11 other countries, makes it easier to offshore manufacturing and service industry jobs. TPP is specifically designed to guarantee and protect future profits for multinational corporations. It lets corporations sue a country over any law, like raising the minimum wage or protecting the public health, if it affects profits. TPP also would make "Buy American" laws illegal.

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Members of CWA Local 3603 Retired Members Chapter write letters and make phone calls to Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat who represents North Carolina's 12th district, asking her to oppose Fast Track for the TPP.

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At new local officer training in Florida, CWAers took time out to call their members of Congress and write letters urging them to vote NO on Fast Track for the TPP.

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Currency Manipulation Nowhere in TPP Negotiations

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In a new report, the Economic Policy Institute said Japanese currency practices have cost the United States as many as 900,000 jobs.

But ask U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman how his team is handling notorious currency manipulators in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations and he couldn't dance away fast enough from the question.

Don't ask me; currency is the responsibility of the Treasury Department, Froman began to say to Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week.

Froman came to Capitol Hill last week to urge lawmakers to grant the administration Fast Track authority for the trade deals it wants to negotiate. Fast Track supersedes the normal Congressional process and speeds everything up by not permitting amendments and requiring only a majority vote in the Senate instead of the usual supermajority of 60-plus votes.

But some lawmakers insisted that Froman address currency manipulation. Becerra quickly rejected Froman's usual parry that Treasury handles currency.

"You've been talking about intellectual property," he said. "That's usually handled by the World Intellectual Property Organization. You've talked about issues of labor. That's usually handled by the International Labor Organization. So I'm hoping you're willing to talk about currency manipulation, which is one of the severest forms of imbalanced and unfair trade that a country can engage in."

Rules on currency manipulation won't be part of the massive TPP deal, the administration has told lawmakers. The massive and secret deal, specifically designed to guarantee and protect future profits for multinational corporations, makes it easier to offshore manufacturing and service industry jobs. Firms can sue a country over laws raising the minimum wage or protecting public health if it affects profits. "Buy American" laws suddenly become illegal.

Trading partners hold down the values of their currencies to make American-made goods more expensive and their goods less expensive. This leads to the U.S. importing more than it exports.

American trade negotiators, beholden to corporations that are the behind-the-scene drivers of American trade policies, are not burdened by such concerns. Corporations are willing to destroy whole industries and sectors of the U.S. economy for profits to be derived from the holy grail of cheap labor in countries like Vietnam and Brunei.


Congressional Progressives Meet with CWA President Cohen to Discuss TPP Strategy

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CWA President Larry Cohen met with about 25 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to talk strategy to defeat Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals.

The Obama administration is aligned with House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in pushing for a trade deal that will devastate U.S. jobs, working families and communities.

Cohen laid down a set of principles on what 21st Century fair trade that benefits everyone, not just a handful of corporations, looks like:

  • New trade deals should actually reduce our trade deficits with our trading partners and create good jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits, not just pay lip service to that goal as we offshore more American jobs.
  • Consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished and trading partners must comply with International Labor Organization principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of the eight principles that cover workers' rights, organizing and bargaining rights, child labor and freedom of association.
  • Enforceable environmental standards are established.
  • Social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

"Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers," Cohen said. "It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we must strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies."


U.S. Trade Deficit Hits New High in 2014, More Proof of Trade Deals' Broken Promises

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The U.S. trade deficit grew by 6 percent to $505 billion in 2014, the U.S. Commerce Dept. reported, with a record high of $2.9 trillion imports.

For December alone, the trade deficit jumped 17 percent, the biggest one-month increase since July 2009. Exports fell while there was a record number of imports in consumer goods and non-petroleum related products.

These numbers sharply disprove the wishful thinking that supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are pushing, that is, trade deals like TPP will create U.S. jobs.

Under just three trade deals – NAFTA, China and Korea – the U.S. has lost 4 million jobs, and exports last year fell short of President Obama's goal. The TPP would make this grim trade picture even worse, driving U.S. jobs to countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.

A new CWA report, "The Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Latest in a Broken Record of Broken Promises" details the empty claims, particularly for workers and communities, that have been made about past trade deals and the TPP.

CWA and a coalition of more than 100 organizations – environmentalists, unions, people of faith, consumer groups, communities, students and more – are fighting to stop Fast Track authority for the TPP and other trade deals.


HuffPost Pushes Back on Presidential Criticism

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The President told a meeting of House Democrats last week that they shouldn't learn about trade by reading the Huffington Post.

In response, the online publication has consolidated coverage of the TPP, including several posts by CWA President Larry Cohen, so that readers could see why this trade deal is a bad deal for working and middle class families.

The research director for Global Trade Watch, a CWA ally in the fight to stop Fast Track and the TPP, said the President is trying "to reckon with the difficult reality that his trade agenda directly conflicts with and undermines his stated middle class economics agenda."


No Fast Track-No TPP Messages are on the Air

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Allies in the fight to stop Fast Track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are featured in audio news releases that are being broadcast in congressional districts and around the country.

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In this audio message, Sister Simone Campbell (pictured at right), the leader of Nuns on the Bus and NETWORK, the Catholic social justice organization, is calling on members of Congress to follow the faithful way forward and make sure that all voices in the Fast Track and TPP debate are heard.


One Day Longer, One Day Stronger!

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Nearly 2,000 CWA and IBEW members across New England have held the line for 112 days. Let's help them continue to stand strong this winter, as they strike for good jobs and quality customer service in their communities.

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Contributing to the IBEW-CWA Solidarity Fund helps striking workers pay for necessities like health care, shelter, transportation, and fuel to heat their homes during these cold, snowy months.

Every little bit helps. While CWA members have a strike fund to fall back on, our IBEW brothers and sisters have nothing.

You can send a check to:

IBEW-CWA Solidarity Fund
c/o IBEW Local 2327
21 Gabriel Drive
Augusta, ME 04330

Or you can give online by clicking here.

Thanks to your generosity we have already collected more than $250,000 to lend a hand to workers like Mike Pallozzi, an IBEW Local 2327 line technician from Windham, Maine. Recently, during a brutal cold snap, where temperatures dipped below zero, Pallozzi ran out of heating oil and one of his pipes burst.

"If it weren't for the Solidarity Fund, I couldn't have filled up my oil tank and paid for the repairs," said Pallozzi, who has worked for the telephone company for more than 28 years. "It's hard being on strike any time, but during a New England winter it's a killer. The incredible support that we've received from people all over this country is helping to keep me and my coworkers going. We are so grateful for the solidarity."


It's Really 'Right-to-Work' for Less

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Misguided politicians and their Big Business backers are pushing "right-to-work" legislation in Missouri, New Mexico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Illinois. They make bold claims that it's the cure-all to protect workers, improve jobs, attract business and boost the overall economy.

But let's stick to the facts.

Right-to-work makes it harder for workers to join labor unions so that they can collectively bargain for better wages and benefits.

Yesterday, during a House Workforce Standards and Development Committee hearing on the proposed Missouri bill, CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings testified that right-to-work "will hurt everybody."

"Communities don't work through issues by trying to destroy the middle class," he said.

Out-of-touch CEOs want us to think that right-to-work legislation is in our best interest, but it's really for theirs. These grossly misnamed, confusing laws are really an attempt to end unions as we know them. If we don't stop these attacks, the middle class will continue to fade away.

Under such laws, working families' quality of life doesn't improve – it plummets. The average worker earns about $5,000 less and receives fewer benefits each year in right-to-work states, according to Census data. Of the 10 states with the lowest minimum wages, eight have enacted right-to-work laws. Twelve of the 14 states with the worst pay gap between men and women are right-to-work states. In states with right-to-work laws, nearly 26 percent of jobs are in low-wage sectors, compared to 18 percent of jobs in other states, according to CFED, an organization working to create economic opportunity that alleviates poverty. The Kaiser Family Foundation found people in right-to-work states are less likely to have job-based health insurance.


Minority Leadership Institute: A New Generation of CWA Leaders

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For over 30 years, CWA's Minority Leadership Institute (MLI) has fostered leaders within the union. Just last week, the class of 2014-2015 graduated and headed back to their locals with new skills to build for the future.

For the first time, the MLI was split into two individual weeks. During the two DC-based weeks, CWA's Human Rights Department organized and led a series of seminars and workshops designed to provide these leaders with tools to organize and motivate their members. In between the sessions, participants engaged in individual projects and additional online training, developing skills needed in an ever changing and challenging environment.

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This year's participants (from top left to right): Kelvin Banks, District 3; Dwayne Phillips, District 4; Tamera Nelson, District 2-13; Dante Harris, AFA-CWA; Domonique Thomas, District 9; Arnise Porter, District 6; Donald Rodriguez, District 7; Michelle Devera, TNG-CWA; Angie Torres, NABET-CWA; Jenelle Blackmon, District 1; Joe Perales, IUE-CWA.


Media Reporting that Verizon May Sell Assets

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The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are reporting that Verizon Communications will announce a sale of some wireless towers and some local wireline assets for more than $11 billion.

CWA President Larry Cohen issued this statement:

"We expect some assets to be sold and this will require full regulatory review. CWA will be very active at the Federal Communications Commission and in the regulatory process at state levels. Our first priority will be jobs, and second, ensuring that the standard of living of our members and the service quality provided to our communities are preserved and strengthened."


Organizing Update

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More AT&T Workers from Alltel and Cricket Join CWA

AT&T Mobility Network employees in Idaho, formerly Alltel, and the former Cricket Wireless workers in Arizona have voted to join the Communications Workers of America. The two former Alltel workers now become members of CWA Local 7621 and the six Cricket workers are now members of CWA Local 7050.

The American Arbitration Association certified last week that its examination of the workers Consent Authorization cards showed more than 50 percent of them want to belong to CWA and have a voice in their own future through collective bargaining.

David Blackburn from Local 7050 and Valerie Packer of Local 7621 led the organizing efforts, CWA District 7 Administrative Director Al Kogler said.


Next CWA Telephone Town Hall Call is Feb. 19

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The next CWA town hall call is Thursday, Feb. 19 starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour.

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