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CWA e-Newsletter: Nov. 20, 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.

Cohen: Which Side Are You On?

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American workers, who are fighting every day for their livelihoods and a fair wage, aren't going to sit by as President Obama finalizes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, CWA President Larry Cohen told The Ed Show.

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CWAers and coalition partners have been rallying across the nation against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. We are urging members of Congress to say no to “fast track” trade promotion authority for the secretive TPP trade deal.

"Millions of us have to stand up and say, 'No,'" said Cohen, noting that workers are fed up with the government trading away our jobs. "And we have to stand up and say to Republicans and Democrats in the Congress, 'Which side are you on? The Chamber of Commerce or working America?'"

Right now, corporations and the Chamber of Commerce are putting pressure on lawmakers to pass "Fast Track," a bill that will speed the TPP and other trade deals through Congress without debate and without amendments. But a coalition of community organizers, consumers, labor and greens are mobilizing – particularly in rural America – to raise awareness on how this controversial trade plan will hurt our economy, health and safety.

Cohen explained that Vietnam, one of the 12 nations participating in the Pacific Rim trade deal, tramples the rights of its 90 million people, who earn a 28-cent hourly minimum wage. Multinational corporations can't wait to take advantage of even lower wages and fewer regulations.

Cohen said, "The State Department believes this will move Vietnam closer to the U.S. and a few steps from China. And meanwhile, the president will say things like, 'It will increase jobs.' But every fifth grader knows that you have to do subtraction, not just the addition. And we'll have a net loss of manufacturing jobs to Vietnam and service sector jobs to other nations that will join the TPP. There will be a net job loss as there has been on every trade deal since NAFTA."

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In addition, a dangerous corporate sovereignty chapter is being written into the deal, which will allow multinational corporations to sue national governments in secret tribunals for any loss of future profits. This backdoor legislation will allow Big Business to circumvent our Congress, our laws and our regulations.

"This is once again a deal where labor rights will be symbolic and the enforcement of them useless," Cohen said.

Watch the full interview here

And Cohen wrote the "Opposing View" column in USA Today to the newspaper's editorial endorsing TPP: "This deal is not about trade; it is about foreign policy and about protecting the profits of multinational corporations," he writes.


Mobility Members Building a Movement

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This week CWA's AT&T Mobility Leadership Conference brought together about more than 210 members from across the country to Orlando, Fla., for three days of networking, workshops and union building.

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Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill at start of Mobility conference.

Participants exchanged ideas on workplace issues and the positive effect that the Unity@Mobility training has had on members' enthusiasm and participation. More than 3,500 CWA Mobility members have completed the training so far. The Unity@Mobility  training educates members, many of whom aren't familiar with unions, with the benefit of having a union contract.

CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill said the conference and the training made clear that "Unity@Mobility is no longer just a slogan. It is a movement for Mobility workers."

Conference workshops covered the fundamentals of grievance handling, the Family and Medical Leave Act, bullying in the workplace, building for future political victories and other topics.

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Participants from across the country attended the Mobility leadership conference.

Participants also sent a video shout-out to Mobility workers in Puerto Rico who are bargaining a new contract, chanting "Si se puede." During the conference, hundreds of Mobility members joined a telephone town hall call to talk more about building their union power, and heard from CWA President Larry Cohen.

Mahalia Corley, executive vice president from Local 3680 and a Mobility call center worker from Fayetteville, N.C., said she found the workshop on mentorship to be one of the conference's best. "So many people want to get involved and have no one to mentor them and navigate the intricate workings of the union. That one was awesome to me."

Check out more photos from the Mobility conference on the CWA app.

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More than 200 Mobility members met in Orlando for three days of networking and union building.


CWA Member Stabbed at Work

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On Monday, Leah Coleman, a CWA Local 1038 member and child protective services worker at the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, was stabbed 21 times by a deranged client at work. There was no security in the office. It was Leah's coworkers who saved her, tackling the assailant and treating her wounds until the ambulance arrived.

While she has gotten through surgery, Leah is still in critical condition. Her coworkers, friends and family are praying for her. We are also collecting funds to help Leah and her family at GiveForward.

Click here to donate.

The incident happened just a few days after the Christie administration pulled police officers out of all of its child welfare offices.

"These workers are very brave. They risk their lives every day to protect children," CWA New Jersey area director Hetty Rosenstein said. "It is incomprehensible that the Human Services Police were pulled out of the offices. It's inexcusable."


CWAers and Others Show Solidarity with Post Office Workers

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Members of the American Postal Workers Union, are joined by supporters from CWA and other unions to protest efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to close post offices, reduce hours and outsource work. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, a big proponent of contracting out work, had just resigned.

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Senate Committee Holds Hearing Today on New NLRB Nominee

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) meets today to consider the nomination of Lauren McFerran to replace Nancy Schiffer on the National Labor Relations Board. President Obama withdrew the nomination of Sharon Block in the face of unrelenting GOP opposition to her.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), HELP committee chairman, called Obama's withdrawal of Block "truly disappointing." The "only consolation is the president's choice of Lauren McFerran," Harkin said, calling McFerran "an incredibly talented lawyer with deep knowledge and strong character who will be a great asset to the Board."

McFerran is well known to the senators who are considering her nomination, having served as the longtime chief labor counsel for the HELP committee. She also worked for Harkin and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who will replace Harkin as HELP committee chairman, wants to weaken the NLRB – an agency that is crucial to working people in the nation – and has been coming up with ways to undermine it, including legislation that he and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cooked up to create a perpetual impasse on the board.

Preferring a non-functioning NLRB, Republicans had not been allowing its vacancies to be filled, in a deliberate effort to cripple it. Block was one of the recess appointments that Obama made to fully staff the board for the first time in a decade. The fight wound up at the U.S. Supreme Court where its GOP majority justices ruled against Obama in NLRB v. Noel Canning. When Obama nominated Block again, this time to replace Schiffer, whose term ends in December, GOP senators took it as a deliberate affront.

McFerran, if confirmed in the Lame Duck session, could join the NLRB in time for its work to continue uninterrupted.


Organizing Update

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New York Lotto Technicians Join CWA

In a National Labor Relations Board election, G-tech workers have voted 19-8, with two abstentions, to join CWA Local 1101.

A four person organizing Committee overcame a blistering anti-union campaign for this victory for workers. The workers, who fix New York State Lottery machines in the tri-state area, lost an election last year but the local maintained contact with the group. Organizers Ken Spatta and Keith Hogarty worked on the campaign.

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57 New Mexico Communications Technicians Gain Workplace Voice

57 workers at the Space Communications Network Services White Sands Complex, employed by Exelis Inc. in Las Cruces, NM., have voted 29-19 to join the Communications Workers of America.

They work in classifications that include Communications Services Controller, Satellite Controller, Site Specialist, and Space Network Real-Time Scheduler. Their functions include working in the Operations Department in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Operations Control Center at the Second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Ground Terminal and the White Sands Ground Terminal TOCC.

Eric Hayes was the leader of the organizing committee, with support from President Jim Clark, Al Kogler and the IUE headquarters staff.

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New England Verizon Workers Poised to Join CWA

The Everett, MA, Verizon workers are not deterred by the telecommunications giant's patented hostile anti-union campaign. They will vote Dec. 10 on their future. In response to repeated forced anti-union meetings, the workers have signed a statement to Verizon management asking them to stop and let them do their work.

Watch this video of Brooklyn Verizon workers dispelling some of the company's misinformation and this video of the New England AT&T Mobility members talking about the job security having CWA representation brings to them. For instance, a worker identified as Adam, who has been with AT&T mobility for seven years, spoke of a wrongful termination situation.

"My manager somehow got me fired. The union fought every day. I got my job back. I got back pay – lost pay so I got back over $100,000, one check, and then I got my seniority back. All the money that I paid out of my pocket for health insurance, I got all that reimbursed. I got all my vacation time paid out to me and everything I would have lost, I got back because I'm in a union," Adam said.


CWA/USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference Scheduled for March

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The 2015 CWA/USW Health, Safety and Enviroment Conference will be held March 9-13, at the Pittsburgh Convention Center and Westin Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA. Designed for participation by local union occupational health and safety activists, the conference will emphasize increasing participant knowledge and skills and developing strategies to improve day-to-day member working conditions.

The joint conference convenes on Monday, March 9, with an all-day, union-only session. Monday's plenary session and workshops will be followed by a special CWA meeting. All plenary sessions and workshops afterward, from Tuesday, March 10, through Friday, March 13, will be joint labor-management (per collective bargaining agreements between the USW and represented employers, management health and safety representatives participate in the conference.)

Workshop sessions conducted Tuesday through Friday will target various specialized topics such as a Union Approach to Health and Safety Committees, Industrial Hygiene, Ergonomics, Heat Stress, Lead, and Labor and the Environment. Occupational and environmental health and safety remains a key concern for our members and the joint conference will expand our opportunities to improve the Union's health and safety programs.

The conference will end at noon on Friday.

Click here for the registration website and conference logistics.


Bargaining Update

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Washington Post Guild Members Picket Newspaper

Braving a snap winter spell, dozens of Washington Post staffers, fellow Newspaper Guild-CWA members and supporters fired up a noon picket-line Tuesday to protest "a lot of terrible take-backs" that Guild leaders said the newspaper's management has thrown on the bargaining table.

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Newspaper Guild-CWA members and supporters fired up a picket-line Tuesday to protest "terrible take-backs" being proposed by management at the Washington Post, including an unwarranted proposal to freeze their pension when it is actually overfunded.

"Negotiations are in a really, really tough place," Fred Kunkle, co-chair of the Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Guild, said. "We're just going to keep mobilizing to make this be a place where we can take a stand for treating workers fairly."

The workers, bundled up in winter coats, hats and scarves against the bitter cold, said management's negotiation stance is unfair to workers. Financial writer Michael Fletcher questioned, for instance, why the Post's management is proposing to freeze pension when it is actually overfunded.

FairPoint Strikers Hold Montpelier Rally and Boston Protest Today

FairPoint strikers are mounting two actions today: a major rally in Montpelier and a delegation of workers and allies in Boston protesting against the telecom company's biggest shareholder.

The 1,700 FairPoint workers of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have been on strike since Oct. 17. Strikers say that damaging cuts the company is seeking would make it impossible for them to provide quality service to their New England customers. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., FairPoint has been struggling since the strike began to maintain its system with replacement workers hired from outside northern New England. On Monday, Vermont's Department of Public Service reported that it has received 271 complaints from FairPoint customers during the strike, a significant increase.

"No matter how far FairPoint executives and shareholders travel, we're going to be there," CWA Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi said. "We will not let this North Carolina company and its Wall Street investors evade their responsibilities to the people of New England."


On the Year Anniversary of Senate Rules Reform, More Work Remains to Be Done

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On November 21, 2013, the United States Senate reformed its rules to eliminate filibusters on executive branch nominations and federal judicial appointments other than those to the Supreme Court. It worked. Up to a point.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of that historic rules change and a key coalition that fought for that common sense action is asking Americans to again call their Senators and tell them they cannot leave Washington without voting on nearly 150 key nominations that are still pending.

GOP senators, intent on thwarting President Obama, are using cloture to waste maximum time in the confirmation of even non-controversial nominees. In 2014 alone, the GOP blocked votes on more than two dozen nominations that they later voted unanimously to confirm.

The Fix the Senate Now coalition – part of the Democracy Initiative that CWA convened with groups like Alliance for Justice, Sierra Club, Common Cause, USAction, Daily Kos, NAACP, UAW, NY Citizen Action, Working Families Party and others to work on senate rules reform and other democracy issues – last year mobilized 200,000 members to call and email senators.

The resulting rules change meant that in May 2014, for instance, the Senate confirmed 22 judicial nominees. The broken Senate rules had kept the National Labor Relations Board from having a full slate of commissioners, limiting what it could do. The coalition pushed the Senate to confirm the first full slate of NLRB members. As part of that effort, the Senate also confirmed leaders for other top agencies, including Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today, as the 113th Congress comes to an end December 31st, Democracy Initiative organizations – whose memberships number more than 50 million people – are urging simple up or down votes on pending judicial appointments, ambassadorships and vacancies in executive offices charged with protecting worker safety, the traveling public and other key government functions.

At the same time, Democracy Initiative organizations are also asking the Senate to continue pursuing reforms that bolster accountability and transparency – keys in a democracy – while refraining from the partisan obstruction-for-obstruction's-sake actions that anger the American people.

Ultimately, the Senate should prioritize moving nominees forward during its remaining weeks in session – part of the job it was elected to do.


CWA Telephone Town Hall Call TONIGHT!

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You won't want to miss tonight's town hall call, starting at 7:30 pm ET. The call will last half an hour. If you haven't registered you can find out how to listen online at www.cwa-union.org/cwacall.

We'll be hearing from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), CWA Local 9421 Executive Vice President Robert Longer, CWA Local 3680 Executive Vice President Mahalia Corley and CWA President Larry Cohen about what's next in the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This disastrous trade deal will lead to even more offshoring of our jobs and give even more power to corporate CEOs to challenge any laws that stand in the way of their profits.