Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Verizon Update Call Tonight at 7 P.M. Eastern

Verizon-OWS-Oct20

Joined by Occupy Wall Street activists, CWA members march on Verizon's downtown NYC headquarters Oct. 21.

If you're not signed up to listen by telephone to tonight's national call updating Verizon bargaining, you can easily listen online. Click here or go to www.cwa-union.org/verizoncall.

CWA President Larry Cohen, Vice Presidents Chris Shelton and Ed Mooney, and Chief of Staff Ron Collins will speak. You'll also hear from a New York member who will talk about the energetic support Occupy Wall Street activists have given to the fight at Verizon and Verizon Wireless, and from a California member whose Sacramento local has been supporting the battle from the West Coast.

For updates at any time, photos, videos and more, check out CWA's Unity at Verizon website.

Huge NLRB Victory Restores Union Rights to NBC 'Content Producers'

In a resounding victory for NABET-CWA members, an NLRB ruling out of Region 2 in New Yorik City orders NBC to reinstate the bargaining rights of "content producers," a title the network created three years ago to strip union representation from nearly 100 photographers, editors and writers.

NABET_Protest@NBC

An NLRB ruling that will restore union rights to about 100 NBC content producers was a big boost this week for NABET-CWA members as they continue their fight for a fair contract at the network. Pictured are Local 52031 members outside the Washington, D.C., studios.

"On behalf of our affected members and their families, we are extremely pleased with this outcome," NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said. "NBC wasted shameful amounts of money to pay for outside legal counsel and consultants just so that it could take away union-negotiated wages and benefits from its workers, many of whom have been loyal NBC employees and NABET-CWA members for years."

NBC tried to claim that it was consolidating work and creating new, non-union jobs. But the ruling said testimony at hearings this year in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., made it clear that so-called content producers were doing the same work they'd always done, just with a different title.

"The evidence warrants the conclusion that content producers perform the same basic functions previously performed by bargaining unit employees," said Elbert Tellem, NLRB acting director for Region 2 (New York).

Because NABET-CWA filed the cases as "unit clarification," NBC has limited rights of appeal. Procedure allows for a full NLRB hearing but no further appeals in federal court, Joyce said.

The decision affects both NABET members who lost their bargaining rights, as well as new employees hired as content producers. Their rights are expected to be restored without delay, Joyce said, even while NBC pursues an NLRB appeal.

Content producers at NBC and NBC-owned stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are directly affected by the ruling.

The decision comes as NABET and NBC begin the fourth year of negotiations for a new contract. In August, NABET members overwhelmingly rejected an NBC proposal that would have rolled back seniority and benefit provisions, among other concessions.

Global Union Leaders March with Atento Workers in Mexico City

UNI Conference Passes Resolution Supporting T-Mobile U.S. Workers

Demanding justice at Atento Mexico, CWA President Larry Cohen and more than 150 other global labor leaders marched Friday through the streets of Mexico City with 1,500 call center workers fighting for fair union elections.

Under pressure, Atento and labor authorities this week announced that an election will be held Monday, Oct. 31, giving the company's 20,000 workers a new opportunity to elect the independent telecom union STRM as their representative. The rapid timeline presents a major challenge, and UNI Global Union is asking workers around the world to show their support. Click here to add a message of solidarity on Facebook.

"The union only has three days to find eligible voters among workers in eight locations and must do so without any access rights or list of eligible voters," said Marcus Courtney, a former CWA organizer who heads UNI ICTS, the telecom and IT sector. "Managers have already restarted their anti-union campaign to keep workers from voting to join the Sindicato de Telefonistas de la República Mexicana (STRM)."

LC_Atento-March

CWA President Larry Cohen and 150 other global labor leaders meeting in Mexico last week march with 1,500 telecom workers fighting for fair union elections.

Friday's march took place during the global UNI telecom and IT conference, attended by 158 union leaders from 38 countries. Cohen said many Atento workers wore masks to protect their identity during the demonstration, fearing retribution from Atento. The company is owned by the Spanish telecom giant, Telefonica.

"Telefonica is even larger in market value than Verizon — $150 billion vs $100 billion — and demonstrates again that there is no limit to greed," Cohen said. "Customer service work is sourced to Atento where turnover rates are near 90 percent, pay and benefits are far below benchmark and firings in the hundreds occur daily among nearly 10,000 workers at eight locations in and around Mexico City."

Atento workers have been subject to a company union that protects management's interests. When they tried to elect STRM in July 2010, managers threatened union supporters and produced a fraudulent voting list. The Mexican Labor Court voided the election but until this week had failed to schedule a new vote.

Cohen said Atento workers are in the same situation as T-Mobile workers in the United States: Both companies are owned by European corporations that are forced by law, in Spain and Germany, respectively, to meet high standards for workers' rights. But weak labor laws in Mexico and the United States allow them to exploit employees.

"In Spain, bargaining rights are near universal and this type of management behavior could never occur," Cohen said. "Global solidarity in all nations with Telefonica/Atento workers is the only way that workers in Mexico or El Salvador or Colombia will ever have an improvement in living standards or rights."

He said Friday's rally "demonstrated that unions in Brazil, the UK and Argentina are willing to stand with workers in Mexico and elsewhere and fight back. During the conference, we saw the same solidarity with telecom unions around the world standing with us as we step up organizing at T-Mobile."

At the UNI conference, leaders from the nearly 60 unions represented endorsed a solidarity motion demanding that T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom end its double standard of respecting union rights at home but not abroad.

"We expect Deutsche Telekom to live up to its claims of social responsibility in real life," said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings. "It respects workers' rights in Germany but is creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the United States and in other countries to keep unions out of those workplaces."

Cohen said the unions' resolve illustrates that with global solidarity in a global economy, "we have a chance to greet the multinationals with a united voice wherever they invest."

CWA Alliance for Green Manufacturing Training Exceeds Goals

Successful Program Trains Over 1,000, Lands Jobs for More Than 265

Jane Oates

Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, announces a new MSSC Green Production Certification Program, made possible by the success of CWA's training.

Below: Michelle Scales-Smith praised CWA's training for giving her confidence, new skills and a new job at Caterpillar.

Michelle Scales-Smith

At a conference in Dayton, Ohio, last week, the nation's leading employment and training experts from industry, higher education, government, and labor praised CWA's landmark Alliance for Green Manufacturing Skills Training program for providing valuable skills and job placements for workers devastated by layoffs during the 2007-2011 recession.

Launched by CWA's CWA/NETT training academy and IUE-CWA, with support of a $4 million Department of Labor grant in 2010, the MSSC (Manufacturing Skills Standard Council) certification program has exceeded its training, certification and job placement goals by more than 150 percent. The federal grant ends in January 2012, but the project begun by CWA will have issued more than 2,500 industry-recognized credentials to more than 1,000 participants in Ohio.

During the conference, Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, praised the success of CWA's program and said programs like it deserve strong support from the government. As a result of CWA's success, the Labor Department is launching a government-funded MSSC Green Production Certification Program.

CWA launched the program to address the needs of thousands of union members in the Dayton, Ohio, area whose livelihoods were devastated by plant closures at GM and Delphi.

In all, more than 1,000 workers from CWA, IUE-CWA and other unions participated in the training, completing more than 2,000 courses. More important, 265 of the 350 students who received CPT certification have been placed into new jobs, many after months, or even years, of being jobless.

Michelle Scales-Smith, one of many IUE-CWA members who lost their jobs at Delphi, landed a new job at Caterpillar earlier this year. After being out of work for nearly three years, she was put at the top of the company's interview list thanks to the new skills she learned in training.

"Everything I learned gave me the hope and confidence that I needed. It really helped me get my foot in the door at Caterpillar," said Scales-Smith, a featured speaker at the conference. She said the program also provided her with invaluable tips on how to write a resume and conduct an interview.

Another training success story was Robyn Besecker who landed jobs at Behr and recently Caterpillar. "It gave me the inside track to job offers at both companies," he said.

Workers attending the program also won job placements at GE, Tennaco, DMax, Cobasys, AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent, and other union employers.

NYC Occupy Activists Join CWA for Energetic March on Verizon

Verizon-OWS-Oct20_1

At least 1,500 union members and Occupy Wall Street activists marched and rallied in downtown New York City on Oct. 21 to demand a fair contract at Verizon. Later, nearly 20 CWA members camped overnight with Occupy activists at Zuccotti Park.

Verizon Worker@Liberty Plaza

Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists joined CWA and union allies Friday evening for a march on Verizon and Verizon Wireless in downtown New York City, declaring, "We are the 99 percent," and adding a second line to the popular chant, "This is what democracy looks like."

"That is what hypocrisy looks like," the 1,500 demonstrators shouted, pointing at Verizon headquarters at 140 West Street.

CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton fired up the already high-energy crowd, praising Occupy Wall Street activists for "having the guts to say, 'We're going to stay here until we win.'" Click here for video.

"What you're doing is for every single person in this country who works for a living or who wants to work for a living," Shelton said. "We're here to say thank you, thank you, thank you."

The Occupy activists marched with CWA, IBEW and other unions from the Verizon building to a Verizon Wireless store near Wall Street. Afterwards, nearly 20 CWA members from the New York area spent the night in Zuccotti Park with Occupy activists who have been there for more than a month.

Mike Gendrom, business agent for CWA Local 1108, said he was inspired by the activists' passion and their strong sense of community. Disgusted by critics who have demeaned and demonized them, he said, "It goes to show that there are some very close-minded people who have no problem putting a label on somebody without getting to know who they are or why they're there."

Gendrom, who will talk more about his experience on tonight's Verizon update call, said the 99-percent activists represent a diverse group but, "fundamentally, we all want the same thing. We want the chance to have a good job that will provide for ourselves and our families with a mild form of comfort and eventually be able to retire with some dignity."

Is your local involved in Occupy protests? Send details and a small selection of your best photos to the CWA Newsletter at news@cwa-union.org.

Ohio Polls Encouraging, But Campaign Volunteers Taking No Chances

Exhaustive Work Continues to Repeal Anti-Collective Bargaining Law

As CWA members continue their tireless efforts to overturn Ohio's anti-collective bargaining law, a new poll indicates they and the thousands of other campaign volunteers are having the desired impact: 57 percent of voters say they oppose the unjust law.

In every category of voter polled by Quinnipiac University — men, women, blacks, whites, college-educated, no college degree, union and non-union households — a majority said they want to repeal the law stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers. Only 32 percent of voters said they support the law.

Gov. John Kasich and Republican leaders rushed the law through the legislature in March. Less than three months later, unions and broad coalitions of allies had collected a record 1.3 million petition signatures for the referendum Nov. 8.

Activists have been working even harder since then to make sure voters understand what's at stake and go to the polls to vote "No" on Issue 2. A majority "No" vote would overturn the law. Among creative campaigning, firefighters distributed 250 pounds of "Vote No" peanuts Sunday to thousands of football fans arriving for the Cleveland Browns' game.

The Quinnipiac poll and others are encouraging, but no one is resting until Election Day is over — and even then there's still plenty of work to do, CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said.

"Across Ohio, hundreds of CWA members, officers and staff are knocking on doors, and talking with their co-workers about the importance of turning out to vote," Rosen said. "While we are far ahead in the polls, the only poll that counts is on Election Day, so turnout is critical. We need to win big because the fight isn't over on November 8th. We are focused on building a movement that fights for good jobs and strong communities over many election days, not just one."

The campaign volunteers include thousands of retirees. Last week, 25,000 retirees participated in a telephone town hall meeting with Alliance for Retired Americans President Barbara Easterling, CWA's retired secretary-treasurer and an Ohio native.

Easterling called Issue 2 "a pure, old-fashioned power grab" and said, "What upsets me the most is how the people who have dedicated their lives to public service — state and local government workers — are the ones being blamed for our state's financial problems.

"This is just flat out wrong. Public employees aren't the problem. They are the ones who make our communities better, safer places."

Guild, HuffPost Agree: Professional Writers Deserve Pay for Content

Discussions Over Shared Principles End TNG-CWA Boycott of Website

After months of talks about paying professional journalists for their contributions to the Huffington Post, the news website and TNG-CWA have reached an agreement on shared principles.

As a result, both the Guild and the National Writers Union have agreed to end a boycott that began earlier this year after AOL acquired the website for $315 million. The boycott led many writers to refuse to submit articles without pay.

Knowing how many freelance writers were out of work and eager for publication, the Guild was deeply concerned about the Huffpost model.

Guild President Bernie Lunzer and other union leaders met with website executives, including Arianna Huffington, who continues to run the AOL-owned site she created. Also participating was Ryan Grim, the website's Washington bureau chief, who spoke to TNG-CWA members last week at the Guild's annual awards banquet.

"In the emerging ecosystem, many people want to contribute, from curious citizens who shoot video of events and post them on YouTube to citizen journalists who want to be a part of the crowd-sourced news gathering process," Grim said. "But while the playing field is still being shaped, some of the ground rules remain the same, including the need for and value of journalists. And the requirement that journalists be paid for their work."

While no formal agreement spells out a payment schedule, Lunzer said the boycott and subsequent meetings have led to a mutual understanding that will benefit both writers and the Huffington Post, as well as readers who expect quality journalism.

"In many ways this work is just beginning as journalism continues to rapidly change," he said. "What hasn't changed is that quality journalism requires quality jobs, and we're pleased that Ryan and others at the Huffington Post understand that, too."

Click here to read the Guild's open letter to members about the Huffington Post situation.

Denver Airport Super Shuttle Drivers Join CWA after 2-Year Battle

Health Care, Fund-Raising and AT&T Retail Workers Also Organize

Super Shuttle

After a two-year fight for a union, Super Shuttle drivers at Denver International Airport voted overwhelmingly last week for CWA representation.

Overcoming two years of hostility, harassment and coercion, 94 Super Shuttle drivers at Denver International Airport finally got the chance last week to vote for a union. In a resounding victory, they voted 77-4 for representation with CWA Local 7777, which also represents 300 Union Taxi drivers at DIA.

The mostly African immigrant group filed their original petition for a union election in December 2009. Attempting to frighten its drivers and derail the vote, Super Shuttle management claimed the workers were independent contractors and therefore ineligible, terminated a driver on the organizing committee, and committed numerous other unfair labor practices.

CWA prevailed in seven ULPs it filed against management, with the NLRB eventually directing the election. It further ordered Super Shuttle to refund the drivers $65,000 in franchising fees, which the company had collected as retaliation for their union activities.

District 7 Organizing Coordinator Al Kogler said Local 7777 organizer Abdi Buni, a former Union Taxi driver at DIA, did an "incredible job" of holding the Super Shuttle drivers together, and local President Lisa Bolton provided critical support.

Besides drivers at Super Shuttle and Union Taxi, CWA represents 125 other DIA workers, including 70 at Avis and Budget rental car, and 45 at WallyPark, the airport's parking lot company.

In other organizing victories, 165 dieticians at the University of California have joined UPTE-CWA Local 9119. University management dropped its opposition to allowing the workers to become part of the union's health care unit at UC.

In Portland, Ore., call center workers at the Fund for The Public Interest voted 19-5 to join CWA Local 7901. Although the Fund bills itself as a progressive organization, management bitterly fought their employees' campaign. The employees work late hours making cold calls to raise donations.

In Elko, Nev., 11 AT&T Mobility retail store workers formerly with Alltel, won representation with CWA Local 9413.

Omni Air International Flight Attendants Join AFA-CWA

OMNI Flight Attendants

Omni Air flight attendants Mya Grap and Ken Heare celebrate their AFA-CWA organizing victory.

Flight Attendants at Omni Air International have overwhelmingly voted to join AFA-CWA. In results announced this week, the National Mediation Board said the tally was 284 to 47, with 80 percent of Omni's flight attendants casting ballots.

Within seconds of the election victory, the news went viral with elated Omni flight attendants from Morocco, Italy, Ireland, Kuwait, and across the United States reading the news on their campaign's Facebook page.

Based in Tulsa, Omni Air operates international and domestic passenger charters. The airline also provides regular cargo and airlift support for members of the U.S. military. Omni flight attendants are based in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, and Las Vegas.

Postcard, Petition Campaign Furthers Fight for Retirement Security

Social Security Rally

Flanked by boxes of petitions and postcards from worried Americans, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and other Democrats pledged at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday to protect Medicare and Social Security.

Rally signs

Fighting to protect Americans' retirement security, CWA and members of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign delivered hundreds of thousands of postcards and petition signatures to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Boxes full of signed cards and petitions were presented during a news conference called by members of Congress who are committed to protecting Medicare and strengthening Social Security. Click here for video.

The event came one day after reports leaked that the 12-member congressional "Super Committee" is discussing deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

"We should not tackle our country's fiscal problems by asking working and middle-class Americans to sacrifice benefits earned over a lifetime of hard work," said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) "These benefits stand for the premise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded with a measure of economic security when retirement comes. We cannot back out on this commitment now, particularly during tough economic times."

Pro-Worker 'Ed Show' Moves to 8 p.m. on MSNBC

You've seen President Larry Cohen, Verizon strikers, and other CWA members and leaders on Ed Schultz's news and commentary TV program many times in his old time slot.

Now Ed's moved to 8 p.m. Eastern, Monday through Friday on MSNBC, giving him an even bigger media megaphone to fight for workers' rights and America's middle class.

It's important for "The Ed Show" to have strong ratings in its new time slot, so we can continue to hear about the news and stories that matter to us. Tune in at 8 p.m. and/or 11 p.m. on the East Coast, and 5 and 8 p.m. on the West Coast.

If you can't watch live, you can always TiVo or DVR the show. Also, follow The Ed Show on Twitter @edshow, Facebook and at http://ed.msnbc.com.

And watch President Cohen on the Ed Show tonight!

GOP Kills Bill to Hire Teachers, First Responders

One day after teachers, firefighters, police officers and other workers converged on Capitol Hill last week, Senate Republicans killed legislation that would have funded 400,000 teaching and emergency service jobs nationwide.

Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic senators held a news conference with the workers Oct. 19, urging lawmakers to pass a tiny tax surcharge on incomes over $1 million to put teachers and first responders back to work. Someone earning $1.1 million, for instance, would have paid just $500 extra in taxes.

Calling the GOP's obstruction "unacceptable," President Obama said, "We must do what's right for the country and pass the common-sense proposals in the American Jobs Act. Every American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what's necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now."

The GOP's threatened filibuster, killing the bill, was the second time in less than two weeks that Republicans have blocked Obama's jobs creation package.

Click Here: A Workers' Roundup of the Web's Best

GetUnionWireless

Before your friends and family sign up for the next cell phone contract, urge them to check out www.getunionwireless.com. CWA created the site to show the benefits to working families of supporting the only wireless company, AT&T, that respects its workers' right to organize and bargain collectively. "For progressives who care about workers' rights, AT&T is the clear choice for wireless service," CWA President Larry Cohen says.

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