Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

CWA National Mobilization Call Tonight; Listen By Phone or Online

If you haven't signed up for tonight's national mobilization call, you can still listen to it online on CWA's website.

The call begins at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. It will feature an update on Verizon bargaining; reports from New York and San Francisco on the Occupy Wall Street movements and how they tie into CWA's fight for good jobs; a report on Customer Service Month and the changes that CWA's customer service professionals are fighting for; and details about the final weeks of the campaign to overturn Ohio's law stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Click here to listen or go to www.cwa-union.org/cwacall.

Cohen Joins Ohio CWAers in Fight to Repeal Anti-Bargaining Law

Cleveland Jobs with Justice

CWA members in Cleveland and other activists joined with UFCW members on strike at six Rite-Aid stores for a demonstration that began at a Rite-Aid and ended at a nearby Verizon Wireless store.

Cleveland Rally

Ohio union activists campaigning tirelessly to repeal the state law stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers got a new volunteer last week when CWA President Larry Cohen turned out for an AFL-CIO precinct walk in Columbus.

Cohen headed out with three CWA members who work at AT&T, and said he was proud to see firsthand how hard they and other private-sector workers are fighting to stop the assault on public employees.

"We had 150 union activists go out, including 50 from CWA," Cohen said. "Among our members, it was a wonderful mix of public and telecom. They absolutely understood the link to AT&T bargaining, and that if we don't stick together and stop the attacks now, that everyone's rights at work are at risk."

Or as CWA Local 4310 Steward Natalie Carson put it, it's about preventing the "domino effect." Carson knocked on doors with Cohen and said while many people she met understand what's at stake, she knows others don't — and that's why she and others are giving so much time and energy to the campaign. "You'll see someone interviewed on TV and it's clear they're willing to believe the Republican claim that it's all about taxes. We still have our work cut out for us," she said.

Canvassing in Ohio with Larry

Going door to door in Columbus, Ohio, last week, CWA President Larry Cohen and Local 4310 Steward Natalie Carson urge residents to vote "No" on Issue 2 on Nov. 8 to save public workers' collective bargaining rights.

A broad coalition of Ohioans, from students to senior citizens to small business owners, have joined unions to campaign for a "No" vote on Issue 2 on Nov. 8. A majority "No" vote would repeal the anti-collective bargaining law that Gov. John Kasich and Republican leaders in the state legislature pushed through earlier this year. In order to get the referendum on the ballot, unions and their community allies gathered a record-breaking 1.3 million signatures.

Now they are working just as hard to get out the vote. "With less then four weeks remaining, getting volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls is the most critical task," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "When we have the chance to talk with voters, they understand how voting 'no' on Issue 2 helps us in the fight for good jobs and strong communities. The more people we talk to, the better we will do."

Ohio's CWA members are also furthering the fight as they continue to stand with Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers. In Cleveland on Tuesday, Local 4340 joined with UFCW members who are striking at six Rite-Aid drugstores in a fight over health care costs. About 80 activists rallied outside a Rite-Aid that happened to be a block from a VZW store, their next stop.

Customer Service Professionals Voice Concerns, Seek Changes

Birmingham Call Center

Locals nationwide marked Customer Service Week, the first week of October, with celebrations honoring CWA's customer service professionals. Members of Local 3902 in Birmingham, Ala., (above) and Local 9505 in Pasadena, Calif., (below) show off their festivities.

Local 9505 Celebration

CWA customer service professionals in telecom, airlines, public agencies, newspapers and other businesses are making sure that October's Customer Service Month is about more than a one-time pat on the back.

Members working in call centers want changes that will reduce stress and improve their ability to serve their customers' needs, rather than just pushing them to buy new products and services.

Those issues are reflected in CWA's new blog where customer service workers can share their struggles and solutions. "Our members needed a place where they can express their issues and concerns," said Local 9416 President Pam Suniga, who helped create the forum and believes it can lead to real change.

Each month, the blog will feature a specific topic — this month it is "electronic sweatshops" — but participants are free to discuss any subject relating to their work. The blog is open to all customer service workers, not just CWA members. A sampling of comments so far includes:

  • "Micro-management is NOT working in call center settings...The turnover rate is so high the 'powers that be' need to take this into account and change it!"

  • "With electric monitoring is has become very easy for managers to instruct workers. Some managers and coaches have never done the job themselves."

  • "Companies can't understand why their insurance costs are always increasing. Perhaps they should look at ways to prevent the need for employees to be on medication just to make it through the day. It's a shame that so many customer service professionals must live in a state of numbness to survive the workplace."

Larry Cohen & Ron Collins greet worker

CWA President Larry Cohen and Chief of Staff Ron Collins, right, visit with Local 2108 member Jonathan Bohannon at an AT&T call center in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 10. The CWA leaders spoke with many members during a Customer Service Month tour of the call center complex.

Below: In Bakersfield, Calif., Local 9416 Steward Mona Baca-Watson prepares to distribute information to call center members about CWA's new customer service blog.

Local 9416 Call Center

Some Local 2108 members got a chance to share those kinds of concerns directly with CWA President Larry Cohen when he visited an AT&T complex of call centers in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday.

"Our members were thrilled to have the chance to talk with him about the challenges they face every day," Local Vice President Marilyn Irwin said. Cohen's tour included the "retention" call center, where workers have the difficult job of trying to stop customers from canceling services they don't want or can't afford.

When Irwin started in a C&P Telephone business office in the 1970s, it was about 20 years before the first Customer Service Month was celebrated. "But the fact is, we felt much more appreciated on a daily basis than today's customer service professionals do," she said. "We had the freedom to handle a variety of calls and we learned to solve all sorts of problems for customers. We did it all, and I loved it. We were truly customer service representatives, with the emphasis on service."

Click here or go to http://cwacustomerservice.org/ to join the customer service discussion online.

CWA: Colombia Free Trade Agreement Rewards Abuse of Workers' Rights

Following House passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday night, CWA expressed deep disappointment that Congress choose to ignore the country's gross abuses of workers' rights and the deadly violence against people who fight for unionization.

The trade agreement passed 262-167, with 31 Democrats and all but nine Republicans voting in favor of it. The House also passed trade pacts with Panama and South Korea.

Fighting the Colombia pact, CWA members nationwide sent emails and wrote letters to Congress urging lawmakers to oppose it. In just the first day of the campaign, union activists made 10,175 contacts with members of Congress in 43 states.

CWA's statement said:

This seriously flawed agreement will not improve conditions for workers in Colombia and lacks the accountability and the ability to enforce its call for the protection of workers' rights.

With the approval of this agreement, the Colombian system will remain abusive to workers as the majority of workers in Colombia are classified as 'cooperativos' and contractors. This status means that 15 million of the country's 18 million workers are not eligible for workplace protections and collective bargaining, nor can they receive government-backed health care and retirement benefits that are provided to "workers."

CWA has shown, through testimonials from Colombian workers, that Telefonica, the multi-national communications firm, and Avianca, a Colombian-based airline, have taken no steps to address workers' rights. Avianca has gone so far as to require new employees to sign a voluntary benefits plan (PBV) prohibiting union membership and to verbally instruct new employees to sign on to the plan before they are permitted to sign employment contracts.

Union organizing in Colombia remains dangerous and deadly. Violence and murder are routinely used to intimidate workers from organizing and bargaining for a better life. Over the past 25 years, nearly 3,000 union activists and leaders have been murdered there, more than in all other countries combined. Last year 51 trade unionists were murdered. Yet, the Colombian conviction rate for these murders and other forms of violence against trade unionists is in the single digits.

House Approves Trade Adjustment Assistance

After voting the wrong way on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the House of Representatives did the right thing by joining the Senate in extending trade adjustment assistance to workers hurt by foreign trade. The House voted 307-122 for TAA; the Senate approved the benefits last month.

Service workers, including high tech and customer service workers, also are eligible for financial support for job training and subsidies to be used for health insurance.

Singing CWAers Spell Out Demand for J-O-B-S at Iowa City Rally

march for jobs

Protesters, including John Potash of CWA Local 7103 (center), chant as they march through downtown Iowa City during a rally urging job creation and tax reform for large corporations on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011. (Copyright Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

Merging classic disco with the fight for good jobs, District 7 CWA members attending training in Iowa made a big splash at a rally last Friday with their J-O-B-S version of the Village People's "YMCA."

The CWA troupe performed on downtown Iowa City's pedestrian mall, where they marched from their dormitory at the University of Iowa. The march and rally capped a week of leadership training at the university's Labor Center for 42 CWA members from eight states.

As part of their coursework, the CWAers planned the rally and networked with Iowa Labor Federation, the Iowa Citizen Action Network and other allies. After the downtown mall, they demonstrated in front of a Wells Fargo bank and then at one of the nearly 70,000 U.S. bridges that need repair — projects that could create immediate jobs.

JOBS sung to Iowa Congressmen

District 7 CWAers attending a leadership school in Iowa City last week worked with local allies to plan a march and rally for jobs. As part of the Friday event, CWAers broke into song, calling for "J-O-B-S" to the tune of "YMCA." Watch it on You Tube.

Click here to watch the song-and-dance performance on You Tube. Click here for a story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and a photo gallery that includes several pictures of CWA members.

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