Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

AFA-CWA Seeks Election for 24,000 Flight Attendants at Merged UAL/Continental

In the wake of the merger between United and Continental Airlines, AFA-CWA is seeking an election to bring Continental's 9,300 flight attendants into the union and ensure that they have all the benefits and advocacy that AFA provides.

"This merger and the extraordinary financial turnaround underway at United are only possible because flight attendants at both airlines have invested hard work and sacrifices over the years," said Greg Davidowitch, AFA United President. "Management must know that the flight attendant workforce is unified, and that we expect the best contract at the world's leading airline."

Specifically, AFA-CWA has asked the National Mediation Board to declare that the United/Continental merger has created a single transportation system, which would trigger a representation election for the combined workforce. AFA-CWA already represents 15,000 United flight attendants. With Continental's employees, 24,000 flight attendants would be eligible to vote.

AFA-CWA is reaching out to Continental's flight attendants, now represented by the Machinists, about the many ways AFA-CWA has improved its members' wages, benefits, working conditions and safety.

"As the world's largest flight attendant union, run by and for flight attendants, this is a wonderful opportunity to welcome our flying partners at Continental to AFA," AFA International President Veda Shook said. "AFA has been the leader in advancing the flight attendant profession since a group of United flight attendants joined together in 1945 to create our union. Throughout the years, AFA has fought for and won major changes in our industry. We have transformed our profession."

AFA-CWA President Veda Shook Joins CWA Executive Board

Veda Shook

CWA President Larry Cohen swears in AFA-CWA President Veda Shook as a member of the CWA Executive Board, as her husband and children watch.

New AFA-CWA International President Veda Shook was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the CWA Executive Board, which met this week at CWA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Shook, previously the union's international vice president, was elected president at the AFA-CWA convention last summer. She replaces Pat Friend, who has retired. Shook's husband and two young children were on hand as CWA President Larry Cohen swore her in as a board member.

"I am proud to serve as the flight attendant voice on the CWA Executive Board," Shook said. "Since AFA partnered with CWA over six years ago, flight attendants have benefited in many ways from the powerful voice we formed. I look forward to working alongside President Cohen and my fellow union leaders as we continue to improve the lives of our members through our collective strength."

Joining CWA: AFSCME Organizers, Journalists and Dispatchers

La Opinion

Reporters and photographers at Los Angeles-based La Opinion, the nation's oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper, voted last week to join TNG-CWA.

Reporters and photographers are now union at La Opinion, America's oldest and largest Spanish-language daily newspaper. The workers held fast against management's fierce anti-union effort, voting 14-5 for TNG-CWA representation in the NLRB-supervised election held last week at the paper's Los Angeles office.

"They want respect and a voice in their workplace so they can deal with their increasingly heavy workload as well as other issues," District 9-TNG Staff Representative Sara Steffans said.

Everyone in the bargaining unit voted, and the number of union "Yes" votes increased as the workers' campaign progressed, Steffans said. Meanwhile, management hired an outside anti-union consultant to lead its campaign against them, holding one-on-one and larger captive-audience meetings.

Steffans credits CWA Local 9400 organizers Jeff Finley and Marco Ramirez for assisting the workers and helping them remain strong.

In other election reports, 27 staff employees working for AFSCME Local 3299 in Oakland, Calif., voted to affiliate their independent union, the United Organizers Union, with TNG-CWA's Media Workers Guild. Their employer represents workers at the University of California/Oakland.

In Monroe, Ohio, 911 dispatchers working for the city voted 5-1 for representation with CWA Local 4322. Local organizer Tomeka Cooley assisted the workers.

ITUC Meeting: A Global Response to Multinationals

ITUC

At Thursday's ITUC meeting of global unions in Washington, D.C., CWA President Larry Cohen, left, and ver.di National Executive Board member Lothar Schröder discuss efforts to organize T-Mobile workers.

Members of the International Trade Union Congress and Council of Global Unions are meeting with U.S. union leaders this week in Washington, focusing on ways to support international organizing campaigns and take on multinational companies. Much of their help is directed at the United States, where workers' rights now lag far behind other industrialized nations.

More than 60 global trade union leaders are attending the two-day session organized by the ITUC and the AFL-CIO. They also attended sessions with World Bank and International Monetary Fund senior officials.

The ITUC is headed by General Secretary Sharan Burrow, past president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Elected in 2010, Burrow is the first woman to lead the world's largest trade union federation.

This week's meeting featured a presentation on Deutsche Telekom and subsidiary T-Mobile that outlined how T-Mobile workers in the United States and other countries face management campaigns of intimidation and harassment just because they want a union and bargaining rights.

Lothar Schröder, a ver.di National Executive Board member, CWA President Larry Cohen and Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI, talked about the TU campaign to end the double standard that DT uses to allow T-Mobile's union-busting.

For more on the T-Mobile USA campaign, go to www.loweringthebarforus.org.

Campaign for Senate Rules Reform Picks Up Speed

At a news conference this week, Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) outlined their proposal to restore real debate and accountability to the U.S. Senate, and a growing number of senators are signing on.

Harkin focused on why reform was necessary: "What has the filibuster become? A means whereby a minority in the Senate dictates what we can and cannot do. We have stood democracy on its head. The minority has the power, and not the responsibility, to [stop] legislation. The majority has the responsibility, and not the power, to enact legislation."

The Harkin-Udall-Merkely proposal wouldn’t eliminate the filibuster but would change the rule determining whether a bill gets to the Senate floor for full debate, among other reforms.

Next week, senators will start to debate the proposed rule changes.

CWAers and members of Common Cause, Sierra Club and many other progressive organizations are calling their senators, asking them to support reform. Keep your ears open for radio interviews with CWA President Larry Cohen, Common Cause President Bob Edgar and other leaders who are talking about the dysfunctional Senate and what must be done to make it work again.

For more information, go to www.fixthesenatenow.org.

NLRB Warns States Not to Restrict Workers' Organizing Rights

The National Labor Relations Board is threatening lawsuits against four states for violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution in their attempts to restrict the rights of workers to organize unions.

At issue are state constitutional amendments that voters in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah approved Nov. 2, acting on misinformation spread by anti-labor groups. The new amendments bar private sector workers from organizing by any means other than secret-ballot elections.

The National Labor Relations Act specifies that voluntary recognition, when an employer agrees to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards seeking representation, is a legal option for organizing.

The Board has warned the states' attorneys general that enforcing the new laws requiring elections would conflict with the NLRA and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says states must uphold the rights of citizens guaranteed by federal law. "The state amendments impair the rights that federal law grants employees and employers," the NLRB said.

In South Carolina, the amendment is only one of the major challenges facing workers, who have a powerful enemy heading the state's labor department. Anti-labor attorney Catherine Templeton was appointed by newly elected Gov. Nikki Haley to help stop Boeing employees from organizing the company’s plant in Charleston. "We're going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it," Haley said.

The political attacks on unions have spread to the West Coast, as well, where an Oregon House bill proposes an amendment to the state constitution to let voters decide whether or not to approve public workers' collective bargaining agreements. Under Republican Rep. Kim Thatcher's bill, cities, counties, the state and other public employers would be prohibited from executing a negotiated contract until it can be placed on a general election ballot and approved by voters in the affected jurisdiction.

Cincinnati March for Public Workers, Unions Honors King's Legacy

MLK Vigil

CWAers were among hundreds of union members at a candlelight march and vigil in Cincinnati to protest Ohio Gov. John Kasich's attacks on public workers and collective bargaining rights. The event was part of the AFL-CIO's annual Martin Luther King Day observance and conference. Photo by Andrew Richards/AFL-CIO.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy of peaceful protest, CWA members were among hundreds of union activists who carried candles and marched to Cincinnati's City Hall last week to support public workers and the rights of all workers to bargain collectively.

The Jan. 14 vigil was part of the AFL-CIO's MLK Day observance, a three-day conference held annually over the holiday weekend, this year in Cincinnati. The Friday night event addressed recent attacks by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on public workers and unions, as well as proposed budget cuts by the Cincinnati City Council.

One of the most aggressive of the anti-union governors elected last November, Kasich wants to strip union rights from 14,000 child and home care workers, take away teachers' right to strike and kill rules requiring the contractors on public projects pay union-scale wages.

"I struggle every day to get by in this tough economy, just like every other Ohio working person, and do the best I can for my family and for the families who depend on me to care for their children while they are working," said Ella Hopkins, one of the low-paid child care providers Kasich is targeting. "Why does Governor Kasich want to make it harder for all of us to support our families and do the right thing for the parents and children we serve?"

The march also served to remind people that King stood not only for civil rights, but for the dignity of work and justice for all working people. His 1968 murder occurred while he was in Memphis to lend his powerful voice to 1,300 public sanitation workers who had been on strike for two months.

Up to 129 Million Americans Have Pre-Existing Conditions

House GOP Shrugs at Numbers; Votes to Repeal Health Care Reform

Up to 129 million Americans, roughly half of the country's population under the age of 65, have pre-existing medical conditions that would put them at risk of losing their health insurance or make it impossible to get coverage without the Affordable Health Care Act.

The staggering figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were met with collective apathy from House Republicans, who voted Wednesday to repeal the bill. The repeal is expected to die in the Senate and, if not, would be vetoed by President Obama.

New polls show that most Americans like many of the reform bill's specific provisions, especially coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the ability to insure children up to age 26. Further, tens of thousands of small business owners have eagerly signed up employees for health care thanks to a tax credit in the bill.

Data from HHS finds that up to 82 percent of all people with employer-based coverage have pre-existing conditions, meaning they could lose their insurance if they change jobs. Among uninsured Americans, up to 25 million could be denied coverage.

A "pre-existing condition" doesn’t have to mean something as serious as cancer or heart disease. HHS notes that some insurers will refuse to write policies for people with medical conditions as commons as asthma or high blood pressure.

Under the new law, insurers can't deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and by 2014 it will ban the practice for adults. In the meantime, the law is giving uninsured people with medical conditions access to care through the new, temporary Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which serves as a bridge until 2014.

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