CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 2, 2014 | Communications Workers of America

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CWA e-Newsletter: Oct. 2, 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.

Voting Rights Update

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Why Would North Carolina Not Want People to Vote?

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked two provisions passed by the Republican controlled state legislature: one would have ended same-day voter registration during early voting period and another would have prevented ballots cast outside of a voter's precinct from being counted. The state has said it will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The NAACP, League of Women Voters and other groups challenged the extreme voting laws adopted by the state legislature last year, pointing out that the changes were intended to restrict voting among people of color, the elderly and students.

During oral arguments, one of the judges asked, "Why does the state of North Carolina not want people to vote?" A good question.

However, the panel let stand other attacks by the state legislature on the right to vote, including cutting the number of days of early voting to just 10, allowing county boards of elections to determine whether poll hours could be expanded to make sure all voters had the opportunity to cast their ballots and allowing outside challenges to voters.

Separately, the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity is being investigated by the state Board of Elections for mailing incorrect voting information to hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents. The mailing included the wrong address for voters to return their registration information, the wrong deadline for registering and other errors.

It's not the first time that the Koch's have made "mistakes" in the instructions it mails to voters. Read more here.

Ohio: Early voting restricted just hours before polls were to open

By a 5-4 decision, supported by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito,, Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas (no surprise there), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld restrictions on early voting in Ohio that were sought by the Republican controlled state legislature and Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Early voting would have begun just hours after the Court issued its ruling. Now there will be no early voting in "Golden Week," the period during which citizens can register and vote on the same day.

Husted and the Ohio legislature were determined to make early voting as tough as possible for ordinary people, and the Supreme Court shamefully approved this attack on the right to vote. There will be just three weeks of early voting, restricted mainly to weekdays. Early evening – that means after 5 p.m. – and most weekend voting is blocked, especially Sunday voting in advance of Election Day when many African-American churches organize "Souls to the Polls" events so that worshippers go as a group to vote after religious services.

Read more here.

Challenging Husted for Secretary of State is Nina Turner, a Democratic state senator who is a strong advocate of the right to vote and has made restoring voting rights for Ohioans a key platform of her campaign. "The ballot box is the greatest equalizer that we have because it is the only place that, regardless of our socio-economic status, our ethnicity, our gender, where we are totally equal," she said. As a state senator, Turner also worked to defeat SB 5, the attack on public workers' bargaining rights.

Wisconsin: Appeals court upholds restrictive voter ID law, 300,000 will have difficulty voting

A three member panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, including a judge that Republican Governor Scott Walker has called "one of our favorite jurists," has ordered that Wisconsin's restrictive ID law be implemented, now just one month out from election. An appeal to the entire court to reconsider the ruling failed by a 5-5 vote; next stop is the U.S. Supreme Court. The Republican legislature passed voting restrictions in 2011. Walker is in a close race for governor with Mary Burke, the former head of the state Department of Commerce.

In order to vote next month, 300,000 citizens, mainly people of color and students, will need to obtain a new state ID from Department of Motor Vehicle offices. The ACLU and other challengers to this voter suppression have calculated that DMV offices would need to issue 6,000 IDs per day to protect the right to vote. Of course two-thirds of the state's Department of Motor Vehicles offices are only open part-time, and just one is open on Saturday.


Elections Are About Choices. Which Side Are You On?

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CWA President Larry Cohen and Shelena Williams, executive assistant, spent several hours Wednesday evening at the AFL-CIO, calling union members and urging them to vote Nov. 4.

Election Day is just one month out. CWA activists across our union are staffing phone banks, signing up for labor walks and joining workplace events to make sure that every CWA member – and his/her family and friends – know exactly what's at stake.

Do we want to keep our path to workplace justice through the NLRB? Do we want to block a bad trade deal like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will ship thousands more jobs overseas?

If the answer is yes, it's time to get out there. Volunteer to work to elect senators who will support us and pro-worker issues. Sign up here.


Senator Alexander Needs to Read the National Labor Relations Act

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In CWA President Larry Cohen's most recent blog post on The Huffington Post, he lays out the reasons why Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is the "newest worst expert on U.S. labor law." Alexander has introduced Senate Bill 2814, which he says is to reform the NLRB but the real intent is to render it useless.

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Cohen writes:

The big Alexander fabrication is his contention that he would return the board to its initial umpire status. In fact during its first 10 years, the NLRB played a significant role, as collective bargaining coverage rose from 8 to 35 percent and 10 million American workers organized. During that period the general counsel was extremely aggressive in promoting collective bargaining, by law, for the first time in our nation's history.

Every other democracy in the world, but our own, has continued to promote collective bargaining. But in the U.S., with union busting management and their $1,000 per hour corporate lawyers hiding behind free speech rights, collective bargaining in the private sector is on the verge of extinction. Sad that Republican President Gerald Ford was the last president to actually extend collective bargaining coverage, in his case, to employees of private non-profit corporations such as hospitals.

Now the Republican Party and its "labor" leadership want to return to 19th century capitalism. In his senate speech introducing his bill, Alexander said that the NLRB was a significant cause of job flight to other nations like Mexico, with the U.S. losing its advantage. Once again this is a call for laissez-faire capitalism and a race to the bottom – cutting wages and worker protections rather than adopting national trade policy that sets minimum standards for imports that include labor rights.

Cohen writes that this should be a "call to action for working Americans whether or not they have a union." He says:

If Republicans take control of the Senate this November, Alexander will be leading the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. He is telling us now what he will do as chairman. We need to put his picture and quotes about cutting back on labor rights on flyers and distribute them in all seven states with close Senate elections. Sen. Mitch McConnell's statements supporting the Alexander legislation are just as outrageous, and the minority leader is locked in a close election. Those who care about workers' rights need to heed this warning and volunteer to knock on doors, make phone calls and turn out voters on election day.

In 1936 after passage of the National Labor Relations Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared on workplace posters saying, "If I was a worker I would join a union."

Now we need posters saying if Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate, Alexander will be gutting the little that's left of U.S. labor law. "Which side are you on?"

Thanks to McConnell and Alexander, we all have a new reason to engage in this debate between now and Nov. 4. This should be a wake up call for all of us.


In Memory of Daryl Steele

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CWA members at US Airways and Verizon are remembering Daryl Steele. Steele was vice president of CWA Local 1171, representing US Airways agents, and was dedicated to his union brothers and sisters. Steele had been working full-time in Dallas, supporting the efforts of passenger service agents at American in their long fight for a CWA voice. He passed away just a few days after the agents' vote.

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CWA Local 1171 vice president and activist Daryl Steele.

Connie Chambers, a Local 1171 member at New York's LaGuardia Airport, wrote a tribute to Steele on behalf of the members who recognized and honored his life and life's work.

"Daryl was a union man from his Verizon days at that...
He took on the position of our union VP when needed,
At the time of turmoil and confusion he continued...and he succeeded.
He wanted to retire after five years
But his plan was put on hold
He said: 'I must finish my quest
To help a union stay strong
And I promise to do my best
Unity is right from wrong."


A Step Towards Justice For SuperShuttle Drivers

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In a giant step toward workplace justice for SuperShuttle drivers at Denver International Airport, the National Labor Relations Board Region 27 issued a consolidated complaint against SuperShuttle on Tuesday.

"It's been a nightmare for the past six months," said Negede Assafa, a longtime driver who was illegally fired. "We think the NLRB did the right thing on behalf of us. We're not asking for anything special. We don't want to take advantage of the company. We want to coexist and make money with them."

The 100 drivers began organizing in 2009, and in 2011, they overwhelmingly voted to join CWA Local 7777, becoming the first unit of SuperShuttle drivers under the franchise system to win recognition as regular employees from the NLRB. But SuperShuttle and French parent company Transdev (formerly Veolia Transdev) have fought back viciously, attempting to block the drivers from forming a union by labeling them "independent contractors" and then refusing to bargain a fair contract. SuperShuttle tripled drivers' fees, imposed arbitrary fines, began firing and suspending drivers for minor infractions and increased surveillance.

The NLRB regional will pursue action against SuperShuttle for violating drivers' rights by illegally firing several drivers, illegally imposing a sham contract on the drivers that resulted in a 30 percent cut in take-home pay, slashing hours, conducting illegal surveillance of the drivers and other complaints.

As a remedy, the NLRB General Counsel will recommend that all drivers be "made whole" and compensated for their financial losses. Drivers previously had been able to work 60 or more hours a week and could keep 62 percent of all generated fares. Under the sham contract, drivers were limited to 40 hours of work per week and were paid just $10-$11.50 per hour. The General Counsel is calling for the reinstatement of previous work rules that enabled drivers to use their own vans and set their own schedules.

The General Counsel also will seek an order requiring the reinstatement of drivers Farid Lahlali, Abdulkadir Kasahun, Abdelkrim "Karim" Aouinat and others who were fired over SuperShuttle's imposed attendance policy. The hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled to begin on Jan. 13, 2015.

The regional office action comes as the Denver community continues to rally around the drivers and support their cause. The Denver Workers' Rights Board, composed of elected officials, clergy and community and civil rights leaders, is calling for fair treatment for the SuperShuttle drivers.

Many of the drivers are immigrants from North Africa who now are U.S. citizens. They came to the U.S. to build a better life for themselves and their families. These workers want a shot at the American dream. They believe that with hard work they should be able to make a living and provide for their family.

The drivers will finally have their day in court and justice will soon be served.


Americans Think Income Gap is Only 30-1

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A scant few weeks before elections in which America's wealthy will spend a little of their vast fortunes to extend their stranglehold on the nation's economic and political life, a Harvard University survey shows ordinary Americans know very little about how really rich the very rich are in this country.

Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton examined public opinion about executive compensation. They asked about 55,000 people around the globe, including 1,581 participants in the U.S., how much money they thought corporate CEOs made compared with unskilled factory workers.

The median American guessed executives out-earned factory workers roughly 30-to-1 and thought a fairer ratio would be 7-1. The actual estimate is that American CEOs out-earn assembly line workers 354-to-1.


Organizing Update

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Election Victory at CWA Local 1168

In an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, the clinical staff at Planned Parenthood in Central New York has voted 35 to 1 to join CWA Local 1168.

Workers have been demanding that management recognize their Union since July 17 when a strong majority of staff launched their organizing effort with a public mission statement and solidarity actions at their worksites. Throughout the summer they gathered political and labor support, petitioned management directly with their demand for recognition, and appealed to members of the community to support their organizing efforts.

Members of the organizing committee also appeared in local news articles and wrote letters to their local elected officials. As they fought for their voice on the job, the Central New York clinical staff received critical support from the already-unionized staff in Western New York.

The workers' impassioned efforts led to a quick agreement on the bargaining unit and kept management from hiring a union busting consultant once a decision was made to file for an election with the NLRB. In the days leading up to the election more than three quarters of the staff put their names on a public "we're voting yes" statement in preparation for t election.

The Central NY staff will now focus their mobilization efforts on negotiating a contract with management over the issues most important to them.

The campaign was truly a team effort with officers and staff from the Local and National all pitching in. Local organizers Patrick Weisansal II and Ann Converso led the organizing effort with oversight from D1 Organizing Coordinator Anne Luck-Deak; Cori Gambini, Bob Andruszko, and Sarah Buckley from Local 1168; and Debbie Hayes, Dave Thomas, Jennifer Tuttle, and Erin Bowie from District 1; with research assistance from Julian Brunner at CWA's Washington, D.C. Headquarters. Also supporting the effort was CWA's New Jersey area director Hetty Rosenstein.

A Victory at TNG-CWA Local 37002

32 organizers, canvassers and other staff of Take Action Minnesota (TAMN) have joined the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild (TNG-CWA Local 37002) this week. Take Action Minnesota is CWA's closest partner in movement-building in Minnesota and led the fight against a voter suppression law two years ago. This year TAMN helped to raise the state's minimum wage.

"We've long stood with the labor movement, now we stand as part of the Labor Movement," Terin Mayer, TAMN's Lead Economy Organizer, said. Over 500 CWA members have joined Take Action over the past few years. TNG-CWA Local 37002 President Janet Moore worked on the campaign.


CWA Telephone Town Hall Call Now a Podcast

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Big News: The CWA Union Hall Call is now available as a Podcast. Each month, activists and leaders discuss how we can take back workers' rights, restore our democracy and build a movement.

iTunes – Subscribing to our Podcast in iTunes is easy. Click here or search for CWA Union Hall Call and then click "Subscribe." Once subscribed, monthly episodes of our Union Hall Call will be delivered to iTunes every time you open the program.

Podcast Feed URL – To receive the podcast through other software, just copy and paste the following address into the receiver: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:32349498/sounds.rss.


Chris Christie Shows His True Self – Again

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What does Gov. Chris Christie do when he's under attack? He resorts to name calling. Asked about a recent series of articles investigating New Jersey's troubled pension system, Christie responded, "David Sirota's not a journalist, he's a hack."

Christie may be side stepping the tough questions, but Sirota certainly isn't.

In one article headlined "Gov. Chris Christie's Economic Numbers Don't Add Up," Sirota looks into the administration's claim that it delivered 16.9 percent returns in fiscal year 2014, when the actual returns were 15.9 percent.

Then in another story, "Christie's Pension Overseer Invested New Jersey Money In Fund He Is Linked To Privately," Sirota discovers a huge ethical lapse. Robert Grady, a longtime Christie friend who oversaw the state pension fund's investments, "was pushing to invest New Jersey public money in the same Blackstone fund in which his own firm was investing – without disclosing that fact to N.J. officials."

Yikes.


T-Mobile US Parent Company Celebrates "Respect and Integrity" Guiding Principle

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T-Mobile's U.S. workers hope the telecommunications corporation would adhere to its parent company's values in Germany.

10a_German_Worker On September 25, T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom wanted to celebrate "respect and integrity," one of the guiding principles the company prides itself on following. Across Germany DT workers, members of ver.di , used the day to show their solidarity with T-Mobile workers in the U.S. who are fighting against T-Mobile’s attacks on workers’ rights. The ver.di members wore stickers demanding that T-Mobile show respect and integrity toward U.S. workers.

Above, Ashley Charzuk, who works at the Albuquerque, NM, call center, says "we expect better."

German giant Deutsche Telekom celebrates every year one of its five "guiding principles" with big events and lots of talk about the importance of company values. This year, the company picked "Respect and integrity guide our behavior."

Meanwhile, in the U.S., "Respect and Integrity" is hardly what T-Mobile workers experience from the company. Call center supervisors, for instance, make a habit of harassing workers for daring to organize their workplaces, including subjecting some, like a group of Harlem, NY, workers, to repeated captive audience interrogations, and firing activist workers.

The German government is the largest shareholder in DT. DT's workforce in Germany and the rest of Europe is largely unionized. ver.di, the union representing DT's German workers, has held many solidarity events as part of its continuing efforts to pressure DT into stopping T-Mobile's U.S. labor abuses.

To stand in solidarity with their coworkers in the U.S., hundreds of Deutsche Telekom workers wore stickers to work that read:

We have to live the guiding principles –
not just promote them.
Also at T-Mobile US.
Respect and integrity everywhere.

They also did workplace actions and handed out leaflets. A group of DT activists put together a leaflet detailing how Deutsche Telekom is not following their guiding principles when it comes to the workforce at T-Mobile US.

"We will continue to support this campaign with full force. We are looking forward to the next joint action," Michael K. from Dortmund said. "Greetings and solidarity to all of our coworkers in the United States."

TU members in Albuquerque, Wichita, Nashville and Springfield also wore stickers to work in support of respect and integrity for everyone.

10b_German_Workers_Support_TU

Call center workers in Dortmund, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany support their U.S. colleagues.


For TPP Negotiators, Perhaps a New Caterer?

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In a recent editorial lamenting the slow pace of negotiations on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, The Washington Post pointed out that Japanese trade negotiators barely said hello before they said goodbye at a September 24 session.

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As U.S. and European Union negotiators discussed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – the latest proposed trade deal that threatens U.S. jobs, working conditions, environmental protections and more, CWAers and activists from Citizens Trade Campaign, Sierra Club and other coalition partners were out in force, protesting the special rights for corporations and investors that some negotiators want to include in trade deals like TPP and the TTIP.

They left so fast – within an hour – that they did not touch a lunch spread their American hosts, anticipating a full day of negotiations, had prepared for them.

If only U.S. negotiators guarded our nation's economic interests as steadfastly as the Japanese do. Japanese negotiators have refused to give ground on opening its agricultural and automobile sectors to increased imports.

America's trade negotiators, meanwhile, continue to roll American workers in trade deal after trade deal. With each successive deal, more American jobs are shipped overseas and more sectors of the American economy are undermined as foreign goods flood our markets.

Here's an example of how truly out of whack things are. Under TPP, NAFTA and other trade deals, the interests of corporations and investors trump all others, including laws passed by the elected representatives in the partner countries, through something called investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS.

TPP is the latest in a string of trade deals that would allow corporations to challenge the laws and regulations that our elected representatives have enacted. How? Foreign investors simply have to show that future profits may be affected by a country's environmental standards, or public health laws or even a "Buy American" program. Then, the corporations can bypass a country's courts and directly sue national governments in international UN or World Bank tribunals. Three private attorneys sit on the tribunal and get to determine whether the country must compensate a corporation for losses in profits. These attorneys are not accountable to the citizens of any country. There is no outside appeal. This process makes a mockery of our democracy.


Health and Safety Update

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A landmark program to help protect telecom workers from unsafe levels of lead exposure has been expanded to cover all CenturyLink techs in every CWA district under an agreement reached by District 7, CWA's Occupational Safety and Health Department and CenturyLink.

The training and medical testing program now will cover the company's 3,550 techs who work with lead-sheathed cable and may face a serious health risk. CWA members employed as cable splicers, linemen, air pressure technicians, and other outside plant technicians sometime work with lead-encased telecommunications cables.

Lead is a carcinogen, a reproductive hazard and affects development of the central nervous system. It also causes brain disorders.

The program includes notification and training for techs who may work with lead-encased cables, new engineering and administrative controls and personal protective equipment to prevent and control lead exposure, voluntary blood testing and medical follow-up.

CWA Safety and Health Director David LeGrande is encouraging affected CenturyLink techs to participate in the voluntary testing program. Techs interested in participating will be asked to have their blood drawn no later than November 30, 2014.

Questions? Contact CWA's Safety and Health Director Dave LeGrande at legrande@cwa-union.org.