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CWA e-Newsletter: June 4, 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.

Upstate New York Hospital Workers Vote to Join CWA Local 1126

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After years of effort, 730 support workers at Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare in Utica, NY, have voted to have a voice in their work destiny by joining CWA Local 1126. The vote in the election was 309-210.

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Workers at Faxton St. Luke's Health Care celebrate their CWA win.

"By organizing with my co-workers to have a successful and strong vote to join CWA, I feel like we've begun the work necessary to bring us real power and a real voice in our workplace," Beth Dowd, a unit secretary in Maternity Services at the hospital, told the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

Local 1168, which represents health care workers in upstate New York, has been working with members and leaders of this bargaining unit for more than 15 years; two previous attempts by workers to organize fell short. A key to this effort was a partnership between more than 50 committee members at the hospital and over two dozen Local 1126 member activists who helped with assessments, card signing, and get out the vote.

Faxton St. Luke's support workers were particularly motivated by unilateral changes being pushed upon them as part of the hospital's recent merger with St. Elizabeth's Hospital. They have seen benefits whittled away and positions eliminated without having any say in the matter. The more than 800 workers already represented by CWA at the Faxton St. Luke's Hospital have a structure in place to deal with workplace issues and they could bargain with the hospital on a contract.

Local 1126 organizers Karen Marrotta, Maryanne Reardon, Sue Fobare and Fred Thur worked tirelessly on this effort for almost two years, building the support needed, along with Special Assignment Organizer Dave Thomas and District Organizing Coordinator Anne Luck-Deak. In the final stages of GOTV, Local 1168 organizers Ann Converso and Patrick Weisansal, along with Organizer Jonathan Poindexter and Special Assignment Organizer Fareeda Mabry, joined the team as well. The entire leadership team of the Local, starting with Local 1126 President Frank Murphy, remained committed to organizing this workgroup through many ups and downs and is a shining example of what it means to demonstrate solidarity "one day longer, each day stronger."


Bargaining Update

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G. E. Contract Talks Open This Week for 10,000 IUE-CWAers

IUE-CWA's contract negotiations with General Electric Co. got underway on June 1 in New York City. The negotiations cover 10,000 IUE-CWA workers and another 6,000 workers from other U.S. unions. The contract expires June 21.

Critical issues for workers are healthcare and retirement security, jobs and wages. IUE-CWA members want a fair contract, one that reflects the company's continuing financial success and workers' contributions to the company's bottom line. In 2014, CEO Jeffrey Immelt received $37 million in compensation, about 1,057 times the pay of an average worker of $36,134.

IUE-CWA members from every GE local have been holding solidarity rallies, and will continue to mobilize for a fair contract.

IUE-CWA President Jim Clark, CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton and Bob Santamoor, IUE-CWA GE Conference Board chairman, kicked off the negotiations.

Clark said, "These will be difficult negotiations, but GE is financially healthy enough to meet our very reasonable demands. We have the full support of our membership behind us, and we are ready to work hard and get a good contract."


CWAer Mike O'Day Reminds Vermonters of Bernie Sanders' Support of FairPoint Strikers

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On a sun-dappled day, Lake Champlain shimmering behind him, Mike O'Day gave one of the major introductions of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in Vermont last week. O'Day, vice president of CWA Local 1400's District 6, which covers Vermont, told the crowd of several thousand people exactly why he came to introduce Sanders.

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Michael O'Day, an officer of CWA Local 1400, tells crowd how Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stood with FairPoint workers.

Sanders was making the official announcement of his 2016 presidential bid.

"Bernie's message is clear," O'Day said. "A level playing field for the American worker and no trade deals that benefit other countries and not the U.S. first. NAFTA was a disaster for the American worker and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is much worse."

He continued:

"This past winter, we were on strike against FairPoint for four-and-half long, cold months on Hinesburg Road. Our fight was textbook, Wall Street dictating a rate of return at the expense of workers. After the contract expired, FairPoint imposed the elimination of all retirement benefits, healthcare, pensions and job security language.

"There wasn't a week that passed without Bernie checking in on our well-being. He asked to host a Thanksgiving Dinner for all the strikers and their families in Vermont. He wanted to make sure that everyone had a great holiday meal. There were 200 of us at Burlington High School that night. Bernie met with every family and let us know that he supported our decision to strike and would help us in any way he could. I can't thank him, Phil, David and the rest of his staff, enough."

Nearly 2,000 CWA and IBEW members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont went back to work at FairPoint Communications after enduring a historic 18-week strike and gaining new contracts that provided improvements in health care, restrictions on outsourcing and elimination of two-tier wages.


Wikileaks Publishes More Secret Trade Documents

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On Wednesday, Wikileaks released 17 secret documents from the ongoing Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations, which have been going on behind closed doors for the past two years.

Wikileaks also tweeted out CWA's comment that "Once again, WikiLeaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government," and linked to this statement by CWA President Larry Cohen:

"Once again, Wikileaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to giant trade deals that affect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted. The leaks of the TISA text reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track Authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights. This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights. Those in the U.S. Congress considering Fast Track should take heed. TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and in both cases our government's secrecy is the key enabler."

The disclosed documents – covering the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries – illustrate "the aim to further deregulate the financial sector, despite widespread consensus that lack of oversight and regulation was the main cause of the last global financial crisis of 2008," said Wikileaks.

Negotiations for TISA, which also cover communications and other service sector work, are nearly complete, yet there has been very little information made public about this deal, despite the fact that services account for 75 percent of U.S. economic output and 80 percent of U.S. private sector jobs. Fast Track would apply to TISA as well as other deals proposed between now and 2021.

Read more here:


Despite President's Invitation, TPP Critics Shut Out From Reading Agreement's Text

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CWA President Larry Cohen fired up a crowd of over 200 activists and critics of the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before leading them on a march to the United States Trade Representative's office to try to read the text of the agreement.

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CWA President Cohen rallies the crowd as activists get ready to march to the USTR's office and demand to see the text of the TPP.

"We are every union," Cohen said. "We have said loud and clear to Ambassador Froman and the president: you cannot divide us. We are united. We stand together against Fast Track and the TPP."

Under a huge "Show Us the Text, Show Us the Jobs" banner on the AFL-CIO building, Cohen spoke about the fight to protect American jobs.

"Which side are you on? Are you a corporate Democrat or are you a people's Democrat? Are you on the side of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or do you stand with the working class of America?" Cohen asked.

At the end of the press conference, a delegation of critics that included a faith leader, a nurse, an environmental activist, a veteran, a postal worker and a student, along with the large crowd, marched to the USTR office to ask to read the text. They were responding to the invitation that President Obama issued through the media in claiming that critics who say TPP is a "secret" agreement are being misleading.

"Show us the jobs"; "show us the text," members of the crowd chanted as they marched. Alas, they were disappointed when they tried to enter the public visitor entrance and found the doors locked.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre also addressed the activists gathered to protest Fast Track and TPP, driving home the message that working people won't stand for another bad trade deal. Joining them in were Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd District) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX 35th District). Both made it clear that they are not going to let another bad trade deal sail through Congress.

"Thank you for letting the country know about the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Fast Track," said DeLauro, who has been championing the fight against Fast Track in Congress. "Thank you for pressing Congress and the administration and saying do the right thing for the American people."


Rep. Sander Levin: TPP Jacks up Everyone's Drug Costs

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In a Huffington Post Op-Ed, Rep. Sander Levin wrote that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will roll back gains made in making medicine affordable in this country and significantly increasing the cost of medicine in the developing world.

Intellectual Property provisions in the deal, that the U.S. is negotiating with mostly Pacific Rim nations, will protect future profits of drug companies at the expense of everyone else by extending drug patents and preventing low cost generics from being manufactured.

"In 2007, House Democrats insisted on changes to four pending trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Those changes, among other things, created the most progressive medicines provisions in U.S. trade agreements. Unfortunately, TPP is currently failing to live up to that standard," Levin (D-MI 9th District) wrote.

"Generic medicines can improve access by dramatically lowering costs," he continued. "For example, a decade ago, a year of antiretroviral treatment for HIV infections cost approximately $10,000 – roughly two or three times the per capita income in Peru. Once generic alternatives became available, the average cost of treatment dropped dramatically. Today, the cost can be as low as $200 per patient in developing nations with access to these low-cost generic drugs."

Levin recognized that "pharmaceutical companies need incentives to invest in the research and development necessary to develop innovative products" because "[t]here would not be a generic version of a medicine if an innovative drug company did not first develop a patented version of the product. Innovative drug companies are responsible for extraordinary advances in public health."

However, he said, "U.S. negotiators in TPP are attempting to roll back some of these provisions and to introduce still further protections for patent applicants or patent holders, at the expense of access to medicines."

Continue reading the rest of the article here: Is TPP the Most Progressive Trade Agreement in History? Not If You Need Access to Affordable Medicines.


Down to the Wire for Fast Track and TPP

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As House members were back on Capitol Hill this week, just in time for CWA activists and allies to bombard their offices with phone calls urging them to reject Fast Track Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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IUE-CWA Local 801FW members in Janesville, WI, (top photo) and IUE-CWA Local 755 members in Dayton, OH, called their members of Congress to them to say #NoTPP and #NoFastTrack.

The National Fast Track Call-In Day was organized by CWA, the AFL-CIO, and more than 180 partner organizations that spread the word among thousands of activists, urging phone calls to every member of the House of Representatives. The calls are ongoing. To participate, please call 1-855-980-2256 now to speak with your member of Congress.

The message to every member of the House of Representatives is simple: The Fast Track trade bill in Congress will send jobs overseas and give more power to giant corporations. It continues the same failed trade policies that leave working people behind.

Opposition to Fast Track and the TPP continued across the nation.

Last week, activists participated in day-long political TPP boot camps in Delaware and Maryland. They reviewed the broader political and economic narrative of workers in this country and practiced critical conversation and organizing methods to best articulate this narrative to the broader public. Using those tools, they were able to formulate concrete campaign plans for how to engage their community on critical issues like the TPP for the weeks and months ahead.

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Representative Ami Bera Being "Made an Example Of"

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"Congressman Bera needs to understand and recognize that he's losing the support of his base," said Robert Longer of CWA Local 9421 to staffers in Rep. Ami Bera's district office in Sacramento, CA, last week. CWA was joined by partners from the Democratic Party of Sacramento, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, Citizen's Trade Campaign, Women Take Back the Night, and Veterans' organizations, who all told Rep. Bera that he needed to "clean out his ears" and listen to constituents, using oversized Q-Tips as props.

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Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA 7th District), who supports Fast Track, is feeling the heat from TPP opponents in his district who have sought to make an example of him in the state of California. Bera has been complaining to House leaders about how he's being targeted for his support of the TPP. "Ami Bera won off the support of working families' boots in the district, knocking on doors for him, but no one's saying, 'Let's not call him out because we're scared of a Republican taking him out,'" AFL-CIO spokesperson Amaya Smith told Politico.

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Salem, MA, City Council Passed Unanimous Resolution against Fast Track

Last Thursday the Salem, MA, City Council passed a unanimous resolution opposing Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The City Council worked closely with members of the North Shore Labor Council in drafting and reviewing the resolution. Salem is the third city, along with Beverley and Lynn, in Representative Seth Moulton's Congressional District to pass such a resolution.

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Price Continues to Hear from Constituents. Will He Listen?

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Also on Thursday, a coalition of groups in North Carolina got together at Rep. David Price's Chapel Hill, NC, office to ask him to oppose Fast Track. CWA activists have been joined at events asking Price to oppose Fast Track by members of Organization for Women, Witness for Peace Southeast, Workers' Right Project at NC Justice Center, Food & Water Watch, and other organizations.

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A Tweet at Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL 7th District)

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Making sure ‪@RepTerriSewell knows: American workers are opposed to Fast Track, ‪#TPP! ‪#StopFastTrack ‪#p2.

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AFA-CWA Flight Attendants Fight Back against Fast Track

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AFA-CWA Flight Attendants in crew rooms throughout the U.S. are engaging Flight Attendants to call on their representatives to say NO to Fast Track. From left: AFA-CWA United Flight Attendants Eileen Lovell, David Hammonds and Louis Breece. No Fast Track! #RingYourRep #NoFastTrack


Fighting for a Fair Workweek in Albuquerque

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Our union is helping take the fight for a fair workweek to Albuquerque.

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Tonight, CWA and TU are partnering with the Center for Popular Democracy and local community organization OLÈ to host a town hall discussion with elected officials about how to build an Albuquerque economy that works for all workers. They'll be tackling earned sick days, predictable scheduling and full-time employment.

Organizers are hoping to turn out about 100 people, and Albuquerque City Council members, Isaac Benton and Klarissa Peña, who will soon consider common sense policy solutions that invest in working families and give hourly workers a chance to succeed, will be in attendance. The crowd will be hearing from several TU members, including Luis Castaneda and Ashley Charzuk.

"The Fair Work Week Initiative ABQ is important to me, so I can actually take time off without being penalized for it and can get a schedule that works for me and my family," said Charzuk, a retention representative at a T-Mobile call center in Albuquerque.

The community is building off a recent success at T-Mobile. Just last month, the company announced important nationwide changes regarding its workers' ability to request and receive time off, following weeks of public pressure by its Albuquerque call center workers.

Up until the change, each day the company allots a certain number of "pre-approved time-off" (PRETO) hours that workers can use on a first come, first serve basis. If a worker wakes up sick, he immediately calls in to claim those hours. But if a second worker also calls in sick, those PRETO hours may be used up. As a result, that second worker is given a "Today Code," similar to being written-up, which has a negative effect on the employee's rank and end-of-the-year bonus.

On May 15, T-Mobile announced that it would be doubling the amount of PRETO hours available for workers to request off, so it'll be easier for employees to get the time off they want, when they want it.

The change was announced shortly after Charzuk joined the Center for Popular Democracy on a national press call to discuss the organization's latest report, "Hour by Hour: Women in Today's Workweek." Charzuk explained that in order to care for their young daughter, she and her husband were forced to choose between his night shift job and her inconsistently schedule job at T-Mobile. In the end, her husband quit his job, so Charzuk could keep hers. It's just one of the sacrifices her family has had to make because of T-Mobile's unfair scheduling.

Another T-Mobile call center worker in Albuquerque, Nancy Chacon, explained in the report how her monthly performance dictates her schedule. Chacon, who is putting herself through school while also supporting her family, said, "I had a situation where I needed a day for a doctor's appointment, and one for a school exam. Both dates were denied for approval even though I had requested them three months in advance."

While CWA welcomes this scheduling change, it is not enough. Workers still need approval to receive time off and oftentimes the approval is not granted. When workers get sick or need to take care of sick family members, they risk being written up if their request for time off is not approved. Workers need the ability to have access to last-minute time off without being penalized.

New Mexico's Bernalillo County has almost 472,000 hourly workers – nearly two-thirds of its total workforce – who would benefit from updating workplace protections to match our modern workweek, according to a new report that will be released at the town hall.

That's why we're growing a coalition to restore a fair workweek.


T-Mobile Workers Take Their Case to Shareholders

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Two TU members had a pointed message for T-Mobile shareholders: There's no excuse for breaking the law!

At the company's annual shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Tuesday, Eddie Aranda and Luis Castaneda raised awareness about their fight for collective bargaining rights at their Albuquerque call center – and at T-Mobile locations around the country. They spoke to attendees, passed out flyers and delivered a petition to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, demanding the company tell workers the truth about the recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that found T-Mobile guilty of engaging in nationwide labor law violations against its workers.

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At T-Mobile's annual shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash., on Tuesday, workers spoke to attendees and passed out flyers.

TU is the union of T-Mobile workers.

It's been more than 77 days since the NLRB ruling. The judge ordered the company to rescind its illegal policies and inform all 46,000 employees about the verdict and the policy changes.

But, to date, the company has not followed the judge's orders, nor has it appealed 9 of the 11 guilty findings. In fact, the law breaking continues. T-Mobile now faces two hearings for unfair labor practices and more charges are pending.

Aranda was recently fired from his job for re-routing a call. But the real reason that he was singled out was because of his union support. Last month, CWA filed a charge, and the NLRB has notified both CWA and T-Mobile that it will issue a complaint unless the company admits it was wrong.

"My example, and many others like mine at T-Mobile, suggests the need for human rights reporting," Aranda told shareholders.

Aranda urged them to vote "yes" on a proposal urging the board of directors to disclose how it assesses human rights risks in its operations and supply chain. Sponsored by the AFL-CIO's Office on Investment, the proposal pointed out that T-Mobile is a known violator of its employees' freedom of association rights to organize and bargain collectively. The proposal was inspired by the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which T-Mobile's parent Deutsche Telekom already endorses.

Castaneda, who still works as a senior representative at the call center, spoke about the need for greater democracy at T-Mobile, urging shareholders to vote "yes" on another proposal for "proxy access," which would allow certain shareholders to place their own director nominees on the company's proxy ballot alongside the company's own candidates. Marco Consulting, a Chicago-based registered investment adviser, sponsored the ballot item.

"I love T-Mobile. I want T-Mobile to succeed. Yet, I also believe T-Mobile employees need a voice," said Castaneda during the question-and-answer session featuring Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges. "We need a voice to correct mistakes of our managers. We need a voice to push for changes that will address the concerns of employees. Employee churn is very high at T-Mobile. A voice at work will lower that churn. Mr. Höttges, your U.S. management is making this process so adversarial. CWA-TU wants T-Mobile to succeed. Will you work with CWA-TU and with American management to bring to a close the active anti-union campaigning?"


4 Out of 5 Americans Believe There's Too Much Money in Politics

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Republicans and Democrats agree: It's time to get big money out of our politics.

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A new poll by The New York Times and CBS has determined that "Americans of both parties fundamentally reject the regime of untrammeled money in elections made possible by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and other court decisions and now favor a sweeping overhaul of how political campaigns are financed."

It found:

  • 84 percent say money plays "too much" of an influence in political campaigns
  • 85 percent think the system for funding political campaigns needs "fundamental changes" or that "we need to completely rebuild it."
  • 66 percent say that the wealthy have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.
  • Republicans in the poll were almost as likely as Democrats to favor further restrictions on campaign donations. 77 percent support limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns
  • 54 percent do not believe money given to political candidates to be a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, confirming similar results from a 2014 YouGov/HuffPost poll.

Organizing Update

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51 Tenn. Cricket Retail Workers Now Part of CWA

The 51 Cricket retail workers in Tennessee are joining the movement of wireless workers who are becoming members of CWA, as a strong majority of the AT&T Mobility Tennessee Cricket Retail Group demonstrated their support for CWA representation. Local Organizers Darlene Stone of Local 3802, Debbie Helsey of Local 3805, Esther Pond of Local 3806 and Misty Robinson of Local 3808 assisted the workers in their fight to get a union.


Stay Connected with Larry

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President Larry Cohen is ending 10 years as president of CWA on June 8.

To stay connected with Larry and his movement building and democracy work going forward, go to his website, eachdaystronger.org, and click on the "sign up" button in the upper right corner.