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CWA e-Newsletter: Mar. 6, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

Send tips to blog@cwa-union.org or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at www.resistancegrowing.org.

Hundreds of Union Workers and Allies Storm Capitol Hill to Tell Lawmakers to Stop Fast Track

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60 activists and leaders from across CWA sectors on Tuesday night as they prepared for a busy day of lobbying.

In a show of solidarity, as many as 800 union and community activists from across economic sectors came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to tell their members of Congress to reject Fast Track for bad trade deals.

CWA President Larry Cohen briefed the union's contingent, 60 leaders and activists from all CWA sectors, on Tuesday night as they prepared for a busy day of lobbying. Whether it's factory or Internet jobs, the fight is about economic justice, Cohen said.

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The leaders and activists being briefed on what to expect on the day of lobbying to come.

“The Standard & Poor's 500 is hitting new records and NASDAQ hit 5,000 yesterday,” he said. “Meanwhile, American workers haven't had a pay raise in 30 years. That's unprecedented in the history of this country.”

President Obama has asked Congress to grant him Fast Track branded Trade Promotion Authority for trade deals, including for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that experts have warned will wipe out millions of U.S. manufacturing and service-sector jobs. Fast Track means up-or-down vote with no opportunity for Congress to debate or amend trade deals.

Joe Mayhew of CWA Local 1103 said having a diverse coalition was critical when meeting with members of Congress.

"The key for us was building a community coalition, and asking other groups to get on board," Mayhew said. "That made a huge a difference when we met with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY). It wasn't just labor, it was the entire community."

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CWA Local 1104's Nick Hoh and Local 1108's Mike Gendron are among the group meeting with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Below: CWA Local 2201's Richard Hatch with Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia's 7th District.

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On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, CWA Senior Campaign Lead Angie Wells and CWA retiree Tom Coley visited two North Carolina members of Congress, Reps. Alma Adams of District 12 and David Price of District 4.

"We had a great meeting with Rep. Adams," Wells said. "She fully supports us on voting against Fast Track and she supports our position against the TPP."

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CWA Senior Campaign Lead Angie Wells, right, with CWA retired member Tom Coley gave more than 200 hand-written letters opposing Fast Track to Rep. Alma Adams.

Rep. David Price has not come out against the TPP but said he is frustrated with Fast Track. "I think we still have an opportunity to work with him to oppose Fast Track."

Herb Keener, CWA Local 6215, was part of a group that visited five members of Congress. “The most powerful thing for us was the look of disbelief from our elected representatives that all labor groups were opposing Fast Track. One member kept trying to find the union that had not signed on but couldn't.” One of their targets, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson moved up the meeting by four hours because she was scheduled at the last minute to meet with the President, we believe on Fast Track, Keener said. “This has made me even more energized and determined to get more letters from our members, so we can bury our members of Congress in an avalanche of letters,” he said.

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Mauro Camporeale, CWA Local 1037, (second left) joined union activists heading out to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress.

As the activists learned on Tuesday, all their work the phone calls, e-mails and letters to members of Congress, office visits, rallies and town halls is beginning to pay off. A Fast Track bill had been expected to be introduced at the beginning of the year but keeps getting pushed back. Part of the reason is the near unanimity in the Democratic Caucus, along with a growing number of Republicans, that Fast Track is not the way to go.


Labor Leaders join Lawmakers to Announce Opposition to Fast Track

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As part of a day of high-stakes lobbying of their members of Congress on Capitol Hill yesterday, CWA members attended a press conference where Congressional and labor leaders announced their opposition to Fast Track for labor deals, especially the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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At a Capitol Hill news conference, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), leading the fight against Fast Track, is joined by other members of Congress and union leaders and activists.

CWAers, joined by brothers and sisters from across the labor movement, came to Capitol Hill as part of the campaign to defeat Fast Track.

“Oregon voters overwhelmingly oppose fast track authority,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain, speaking of the procedural method Congress would use to give up most of its power over international trade to the United States Trade Representative and the Obama administration. California Labor Federation Chief Officer Art Pulaski told those in attendance that “trade policy has become a mountain of broken promises” that has failed to create jobs for Americans.

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CWA Local 9588's Martina Rangel-Ortega, from Colton, CA, unfurled a banner proclaiming opposition to Fast Track.

“Working Americans are hurting, they cannot afford another bad trade deal,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who has been a leader in opposing the TPP and has been reaching across the aisle to Republicans in Congress to bring them on board to oppose Fast Track.

While the Obama administration has been pitching the TPP as a means to undermine Chinese economic power in the Pacific, Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon hit the nail on the head, saying “China loves this, they see all sorts of ways to decimate American manufacturing."


All of Labor United on Defeating Fast Track

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The entire labor movement — every AFL-CIO union plus the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the Carpenters — have all signed a letter to the House and Senate making it clear that: “If you stand for higher wages, more jobs and greater opportunities for America's hard working families, you must oppose fast track.”

The letter sent to all members of Congress this week makes it clear that the entire labor movement is on board and sees defeating fast track as our top priority.

That letter was followed with a pledge that unions would not make any contributions to candidates or political parties until Fast Track is resolved.


On TPP, It's Warren Vs. Zients. Warren Wins

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In his Huffington Post column, CWA President Larry Cohen shows why Senator Elizabeth Warren is exactly right: TPP and the investor state provisions “tilt the playing field” in favor of multinational corporations.

Last week we were treated to an unusual debate on a key provision of the Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP), Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Senator Elizabeth Warren's Op-Ed in the Washington Post was followed by a rebuttal from Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, one of two bodies that advises the President on economic matters. Senator Warren charged that ISDS "would tilt the playing field" in favor of multinational corporations versus citizens in the US and globally. Zients counters that it is "an often repeated, but inaccurate, claim that ISDS gives companies the right to weaken labor or environmental standards...."

Sadly, Zients is parsing words. ISDS in fact allows multinationals to sue governments when they pass legislation after the enactment of the trade agreement that harms future corporate profits. The key word is "after," and all Zients is saying is that current regulations in the US, Vietnam or the other TPP nations would not be vulnerable.

In fact there now are more than 500 ISDS cases brought by multinationals that do exactly that! Many are focused on environmental regulations that nations adopted after making trade deals that included ISDS. Most of us would agree with Senator Warren that the right of the US or the other 11 nations to protect the welfare of its citizens in the future is just as important. Zients ignores that reality.

Just as important, Zients focuses solely on the ISDS record against the US. But for Americans the cases brought by US and other multinationals against other governments are equally damaging. When Philip Morris sues Australia or Uruguay because they increased warnings on cigarette packages, are we really on the side of Philip Morris? When Pacific Rim sues El Salvador for blocking gold mining because of water contamination, are we really on the side of Pacific Rim? Pacific Rim is seeking $300 million in damages and the costs of the trial to date have been more than $10 million, prohibitive sums for El Salvador.

As Senator Warren notes and Zients ignores, ISDS cases go in only one direction multinationals can sue governments for unlimited amounts but nations and citizens cannot sue multinationals under ISDS no matter what they do. Our claims must make their way through courts or, more typically, in government-to-government discussions that drag on for years. Complaints filed under the labor provisions of CAFTA against Honduras and Guatemala have languished for years. The final enforcement of those provisions or environmental standards rests with the US Trade Representative, the same office that negotiates these one way deals trade agreements that many of us believe favor multinationalsin the first place.

President Obama argues that Fast Track and TPP are about "China or US." It is ironic that we insist on ISDS being included when the governments we are trying to woo would never include it. In fact opposition to ISDS is growing from Brazil and South Africa to Germany and France, and the TPP nations are no different.

Mr. Zients hints that this time ISDS may be limited. But of course we do not get to see the text, nor has Congress. This in itself is a good reason to reject Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority which is expected to be introduced any day. No other nation in the TPP group has Fast Track. Many are not democracies so there will be no debate. But for Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Peru, Mexico, Chile there is no fast track. In those nations the Congress will be able to debate after reading the agreement. Only in the US are we told that the USTR needs Fast Track to get the deal, and that without it, the other governments will doubt our sincerity.

Mr. Zients is protecting a House of Cards. ISDS is in fact a one way street for the multinationals, and that's why it is supported actively by the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable even while opposition to it grows around the world. It is obvious that if corporate profits with low labor costs are protected in Vietnam, US jobs are more likely to go there. It is obvious that if there continue to be no meaningful environmental protections in Vietnam, US production will move there. ISDS protects the status quo, and Americans are quite aware that the status quo in Vietnam a 75 cents an hour average wage and few environmental protections works against us all. Americans are harmed by ISDS as it relates to other nations, not just by claims against the US.

Most importantly, if the TPP is so different and improved, we should be able to read those provisions and debate them, not be called on to write a blank check for this President and likely the next one by passing Fast Track. Even the President admits there is reason to be skeptical based on past trade agreements. This time let's read the 1,200 pages before we write a blank check based on wishful thinking.


CWAer and Partners Mobilize Against Fast Track

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CWA Local 3204 at Atlanta Fast Track Rally

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Over 600 activists gathered at a town hall during the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Atlanta to hear Robert Reich, the former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary and a strong supporter of NAFTA, talk about the evils of Fast Track and trade deals like TPP. Also attending were members of CWA Local 3204, including Ed Barlow,  right, the new local president, and Walter Andrews (seated behind him), past president.

St. Louis, MO Fast Track Town Hall

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CWAers, along with Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, Interfaith Committee on Latin America, Jobs with Justice, and the American Postal Workers Union, participated in a town hall meeting last week, then followed it with a call on Rep. William "Lacy" Clay (D-MO) to vote against Fast Track authority for the TPP.

The Old College Try

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CWA Local 9421 visited Sacramento State University urging students to write letters and make phone calls to their members of Congress to tell them to reject Fast Track for the TPP. Some 40 students wrote letters.

Take Action Minnesota

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More than 400 CWAers, community and other activists rallied at the TakeAction Minnesota Annual Meeting. They cheered Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), left, a champion of working families and a leader in the fight to stop Fast Track.


40 Year Journey

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On Wednesday, Rick Engler, the director of the NJ Work and Environmental Center was sworn in for a five year term as a member of the Chemical Safety Board by Senators Booker and Menendez. Larry was the MC in the historic Senate Foreign Relations room of the Capitol. The Chemical Safety Board serves to protect the most dangerous work in our nation and the communities surrounded by those facilities.

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Rick Engler, newly sworn member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, with CWA President Larry Cohen. Engler's nomination was bottled up for three years as Senate Republicans sought to block executive and judicial nominations.

40 years ago Rick moved to Philadelphia to start the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA had recently been passed. Larry was a mechanic, a student and a public worker across the river in NJ. Amazingly Rick brought his well worn car to “Larry's Garage” and while Larry worked on his car (frequently) Rick tied up the phone building Philaposh. Soon after that, Larry and others formed the State Workers Organizing Committee and years later, now part of CWA, SWOC won representation elections for 40,000 state workers.

Even more amazingly, Rick was asked by the White House to serve on the CSB three years ago! His nomination, like many others, was tied up by the Senate Republicans.

In November 2013 when our efforts to save the NLRB and change the Senate rules on nominations succeeded, Rick thought he would finally be confirmed. But there were hundreds of nominations tied up and like most of the others, he never got a vote and was then re-nominated by the President in January 2014. It was only on the last day of the last Congress that Rick finally received a vote and was confirmed.

The 2015 Senate led by Mitch McConnell likely would have held it forever.

For Rick and Larry, March 4 was a special day.


Bargaining Update

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Tentative Contract at AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico

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Verizon Wireless workers in Everett, Mass., members of CWA Local 1400, show their support for AT&T Mobility bargaining.

After weeks of tough bargaining, the CWA Mobility bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Mobility Puerto Rico. CWAers across the country showed their solidarity with AT&T Mobility members of CWA Local 3010 in photos and tweets that said ¡Si Se Puede! Yes We Can!

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AT&T Bargaining Begins

Negotiations got underway today with AT&T Midwest, covering 13,000 CWAers in District 4, and with AT&T Legacy, covering 4,800 workers in Telecommunications and Technologies. Contracts expire on Apr. 11. Keep up with the latest at www.cwaatatt.com.

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NY Guild, El Diario Reach Tentative Agreement

The New York Guild, TNG-CWA Local 31003, and El Diario/ImpreMedia reached a tentative agreement Monday night to settle pending unfair labor charges before the National Labor Relations Board and to extend the current Guild contract with the company by two years.

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El Diario workers, members of TNG-CWA Local 31003, and supporters rally for a fair contract.

“I'm pleased that we finally have an agreement that will provide benefits and protections to Guild members at El Diario as well as a measure of justice to the people who lost their jobs last year,” said New York Guild President Bill O'Meara.

The agreement didn't have any givebacks. It provides significant financial settlements to seven Guild members, who were terminated in violation of the contract in June 2014, in lieu of the right to return to work. It gives Guild representation to nine digital journalism jobs, which were previously wrongfully excluded from the contract. The contract extension also includes wage increases and a ban on layoffs through the end of this year.

Pending approval from the NLRB, the agreement will be presented to Guild members for a ratification vote on Monday.

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Organizing Update

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Telluride Ski Patrollers Join CWA

In a 47-to-1 vote, Telluride ski patrollers voted last Thursday for CWA representation.

“I'm thrilled with the vote,” CWA District 7 Organizing Coordinator Al Kogler told the Telluride Daily Planet. “First and foremost that sends a huge message that these guys remain united in their resolve to address the things that need to be addressed.”

CWA already represents other Colorado patrollers at Steamboat, Crested Butte, and the Canyons.

Read more here.

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Perseverance: One Day Longer, One Day Stronger!

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Cablevision workers in Brooklyn, who finally got a contract that they ratified overwhelmingly after three years of holding strong, want other workers to know, they can do it too.

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“This provides hope to not just us but to all fast food workers, airline workers, Verizon, T-Mobile workers, people out there struggling,” said Jurtreau “Caress” Villegas, a technician in Brooklyn for 11 years. “One Day Longer, One Day Stronger.”

Watch their video here.


Unions to Sue Christie Over Pension Payment Shortfall

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CWA joined more than a dozen public-sector unions in announcing on Tuesday that they will sue New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to force him to obey the law and increase payments into the pension system.

"Gov. Christie flippantly said he wants to 'flip the script.' But this isn't a House of Cards script," said CWA New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein. "It's a legal obligation. And ignoring the law is what caused this very problem in the first place, which will never get fixed so long as Christie refuses to meet both his moral and legal responsibilities."

Last week, a state judge ruled that Christie broke the law when he cut $1.57 billion from a promised payment to public workers' pension system. The issue dates back to 2011, when Christie and state lawmakers increased workers' pension contributions, boosted the retirement age and slashed cost-of-living adjustments. In return, the state pledged to start making larger payments each year into the pension system to make up for years of skimping. But while workers held up their end of the deal, Christie backed out.

A day after the judge's ruling, in his state budget address, Christie announced his intention to continue violate the funding requirements of the 2011 law.

This lawsuit seeks to hold the governor accountable to follow the law he signed. This is the third consecutive budget in which Christie has violated the contractual rights of pensioners, putting at risk the retirement security of our members.

To learn more read Rosenstein's op-ed in The Record.


Next CWA Telephone Town Hall Call is March 19

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The next CWA town hall call is Thursday, March. 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.