Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Exuberant CWAers Celebrate Huge Workers' Rights Victory in Ohio

'When We Work Hard and Work Collectively, Anything is Possible'

Ohio Members with Seth

CWA members, including District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen, gather early on Election Day for a final day of GOTV efforts.

Below: Later, members get ready for the vote count and celebration. 'We did it!' exclaimed Local 4310 Vice President Diane Bailey, pictured in the front right.

Ohio Members with Diane Bailey

With Tuesday's overwhelming victory for collective bargaining in Ohio, voters showed Gov. John Kasich and other politicians that they can't get away with extremist agendas attacking workers and the financial security of working families.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters exercised a "citizens' veto" that spelled the end of Senate Bill 5, the law Kasich and Ohio GOP leaders pushed through the legislature in March to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers.

It spurred the formation of the biggest, broadest coalition of activists in Ohio history, a network that will continue to grow and fight back to "rebuild the American Dream," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said.

"The attacks on workers' rights, civil rights, our communities and environment are all connected, and we will stand together," Rosen said. "In Ohio, union members, community groups and individual citizen activists, are building a broad movement to fight for good jobs and strong communities, over many election days, not just one."

Thousands of CWA members from public and private sector locals were among the army of volunteers who gathered a record 1.3 million signatures to put the law's repeal on the ballot. In the weeks and months leading to the election, volunteers made phone calls, knocked on doors, handed out flyers at worksites and talked to coworkers, friends and neighbors at every opportunity to get out the vote.

Their efforts generated Ohio's highest voter turnout in 20 years for an off-year election, one with no state or federal races. Between the push for early voting and Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts, turnout was 46 percent, with 82 of 88 counties voting to repeal the anti-union law.

CWA members were exuberant as the votes came in. "I just feel like, 'Wow we did it! Yes We Can, Yes We Did!" said Local 4310 Vice President Diane Bailey, who poured her time, energy and heart into the campaign.

"When we work hard and work collectively anything is possible," Bailey said. "Politicians need to know that we are awake and no more will we sit back and take the attacks on the middle class. Just thinking back and realizing how long we've been fighting and seeing the payoff make me so proud of CWA, my union."

Volunteers like Bailey made the strong turnout and huge margin of victory possible, even after Kasich's controversial order to shut down the state's early voting last Friday. Nor were voters swayed by the tens of millions of dollars worth of misleading ads and robo-calls funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers and other right-wing donors.

Coupled with the election results, a telephone survey conducted for the AFL-CIO this week shows that Kasich's political coalition has taken a major hit as a result of the Senate Bill 5 fight. Overall, the survey found that 26 percent of voters who helped elect Kasich in 2010 rejected the law. "By a 62-28 margin, Kasich defectors now disapprove of (his) job performance," the AFL-CIO said.

The survey also showed that two-thirds of voters overall, 66 percent, say they favor public sector collective bargaining. Among independents, 60 percent support it, as do a significant minority, 43 percent, of Republicans.

Next CWA National Call Set for Nov. 17; Sign Up Now Online

Join CWAers from around the country next Thursday, Nov. 17, for a national telephone call featuring updates on Verizon bargaining, terrific news about Election 2011, and the many ways we're building a movement for good middle-class jobs and collective bargaining rights.

Click here and fill in the form so you can be connected to the call, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Pittsburgh-Area Comcast Techs Win Progressive New Contract

A CWA unit of Comcast technicians near Pittsburgh ratified a favorable new contract Tuesday, the latest victory for workers who time and time again have shown the anti-union cable giant that their solidarity is unbreakable.

Less than 24 hours after negotiations wrapped up, the South Hills unit of CWA Local 13000 voted to ratify the three-year contract by a 6-to-1 margin. It includes annual raises with an extra pay bump for lower-wage workers, a signing bonus, changes in GPS monitoring practices, better procedures for overtime and holidays, and other progress.

Comcast Techs in Pittsburgh

At a contract ratification party Nov. 8, former anti-union agitator Carl Cupp, center, thanked CWA Local 13000 members for fighting Comcast on his behalf. From left in back are Matt Keddie, Mark Onofrey and Sam Rocca.

"We had no givebacks, no concessions," unit President Sam Rocca said, recalling how company negotiators asked Monday what it would take to get a contract that members would ratify. Union negotiators "shot for the moon, and we landed among the stars," he said.

The South Hills unit, one of three CWA units at Comcast near Pittsburgh, has a long history of resolve. It took them five years and four elections to get their first contract in 1999, and in the years since, the company has routinely tried to get South Hills and the other units decertified.

Rumors of a South Hills decertification campaign began again this fall, two months before the contract's Nov. 7 expiration. "Sam and his council met it head-on," said Marge Krueger, CWA District 2-13 administrative director and chief negotiator. "They put together a petition with a photograph of their Verizon brothers and sisters rallying in New York, and explained to their co-workers that this is what unity looks like."

Before a decert attempt could even get off the ground, 48 of the 58 South Hills members signed the petition, which hung on a union bulletin board. "It sent a strong message," Krueger said. "The company knew they could waste their time, but ultimately we were going to win."

The contract's supporters even included technician Carl Cupp, who, in four decades at Comcast and its predecessors, had never signed a union card. In past years, Comcast rotated him among worksites to sign decertification petitions and vote "no" in representation elections. The company rewarded his loyalty earlier this year by cutting his quality control job and telling him he could leave or go back to work as a service tech, meaning he'd be climbing poles in his late 60s.

CWA went to bat for Cupp, demanding Comcast honor contract language that requires the company to offer employees in his situation a buyout. The union got him 44 weeks of pay, a retiree health and cable package, and other benefits.

At the contract celebration Tuesday night, a humble and grateful Cupp thanked his new friends. Rocca said, "He stood up and said, 'The company did nothing for me. When I needed help, it was the union that helped me out.'"

Contracts for the three Pittsburgh-area Comcast units expire six months apart. The Alle-Kiski unit ratified a contract last May and bargaining for Corliss will begin in spring 2012.

CWA Activists Help Deliver Election Victories for Working Families

Mississippi

CWA activists played a key role in the re-election of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, and also worked with coalition partners on 10 targeted legislative races. Results that will determine which party controls the Mississippi House were too close to call as the CWA Newsletter was published.

CWA is the biggest union in Mississippi, and CWAers played an important role turning out voters Nov. 8.

Despite activists' best efforts, Mississippi voters adopted a voter ID requirement. CWA is working hard to stop voter suppression, which disproportionately is affecting college students, older Americans and people of color.

Brenda Scott, president of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees-CWA Local 3570, crisscrossed the state to make sure members knew what was at stake.

"Under Governor Haley Barbour, state workers saw their retirement security, jobs and health care attacked," she said. "We can't separate the work we do as public employees from the politics of this state. We're proud of the work we do every day, serving the people of Mississippi, and that's why we're standing up for our jobs, our families and our communities."

Kim Sadler, president of CWA Local 3511, said activists focused on worksites in Jackson and mid-state, leafleting and getting information to members about ballot issues and candidates.

"If we're going to turn around this economy and improve conditions for working families, we have to make our voices heard loud and clear. That's why this and every election are important," Sadler said.

Kentucky

In Kentucky, CWA's Legislative-Political Action Team made all the difference, helping CWA-backed candidates sweep all statewide offices with the exception of the Agriculture Commissioner.

Democratic Governor Steve Beshear won big, and Democrat Jack Conway was elected attorney general, a race that was a big focus for CWA. LPAT leaders Barue Wilson, Local 3310, and Steve Wimsatt, IUE-CWA Local 83761, energized activists and members for months leading up to the Nov. 8 elections.

Activists distributed more than 23,000 leaflets at worksites, in addition to member mailings and nearly 22,000 robo-calls. Wilson said the team worked to visit as many worksites as possible and turned out members for neighborhood walks and get-out-the-vote activities through email blasts and other communications. "Our coalition work and our retiree support made a huge difference, along with activists from CWA Locals 4400 and 4401, who covered northern Kentucky," he said.

Wimsatt and Art Stone of IUE-CWA local 83701 focused on IUE-CWA members at the Louisville and Madisonville GE plants, with worksite leafleting and mailings a big part of the effort.

Showing just how effective CWA's political program in Kentucky is, every Democratic candidate running for statewide office came to meet with local presidents at CWA's most recent state meeting.

New Jersey

New Jersey voters elected a number of progressive Democrats, despite Governor Christie's attempt to create a blank-check legislature for the rest of his term. Democrats maintained their numbers in the state Senate and picked up an additional seat in the Assembly to strengthen their majority.

CWA New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein said hundreds of CWA members volunteered their time to make more than 126,000 phone calls, knock on tens of thousands of doors and pass out thousands of leaflets.

Maine

In a big victory for voting rights and democracy, voters by a wide margin rejected the GOP attempt to eliminate Maine's same-day voter registration.

Iowa

Democrat Liz Mathis won a special election for an open Senate seat, keeping Iowa's Senate in Democratic control.

Michigan

Voters recalled Republican Rep. Paul Scott, who voted to cut $1 billion from schools, tax pensions and give more tax cuts to corporations. The last time a Michigan legislator was recalled was in 1983.

Virginia

Control of the state Senate hangs on the recount of a single race. If Republicans take the seat, they will control the governor's office and both legislative chambers.

Cable Company Guilty of Misclassifying Workers as Contractors

Cohen: Federal Case a Victory against Industry that Exploits Subcontracting

In a case that should chill employers who cheat workers out of overtime and other rights and protections on the job, a federal judge has ruled that an Ohio company broke federal labor law by misclassifying 250 cable installers as "independent contractors" instead of fulltime employees.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas M. Rose found ample evidence that the workers are employees, meaning they are entitled to overtime pay. The U.S. Department of Labor, which brought the case, is seeking $800,000 in back pay and an equal amount in damages. A hearing on damages is set for Nov. 22.

The workers' employer is Cascom Inc., which contracts with Time Warner in the Dayton, Ohio, area to install cable TV, Internet and phone services.

CWA President Larry Cohen said the court decision is a victory against the "massive issue of job misclassification in the United States, particularly in the cable industry. Misclassifying workers has made cable organizing harder because of the threat or the actual use of subcontractors."

Dave Bahus, president of a Pittsburgh-area unit of Comcast technicians represented by CWA Local 13000, says companies that depend heavily on contractors are also cheating their customers.

As a quality control technician, Bahus said he spends every day returning to homes where contractors have failed to fix problems. One issue is training; another is the fact that they're paid per job instead of hourly wages with overtime, which encourages contractors to move quickly from job to job.

"Our subscribers are paying for quality service. They should expect nothing less," Bahus said. "Subscribers should have the right to have a trained, experienced union technician to deliver the services they deserve. Too many times the contractors here represent themselves as Comcast technicians and our customers are sadly disappointed. It's only after several service calls before they receive a union Comcast technician that their problem is resolved."

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called misclassification an "alarming trend" and said the DOL is taking steps beyond the court case to end the practice. A new agreement between the Labor Department and IRS, for instance, will allow the agencies to share more information to ensure that employers are complying with the law and catch those who aren't.

One Year Later, Determined Piedmont Agents Still Fighting for Contract

Agents at Piedmont Airlines marked the first anniversary of their union victory last week with a clever demonstration protesting management's refusal to bargain a first contract.

Piedmont Contract NOW

At North Carolina's Charlotte airport, CWA members at Piedmont Airlines demonstrate for a fair contract on the one-year anniversary of their union representation victory.

Wearing large letters on their backs spelling out "CONTRACT NOW," agents marched through Terminal E at Charlotte Douglas International Airport demanding that the airline get serious.

"Contract negotiations began last February, but you wouldn't know it from management's bargaining proposals," said Abdur Bilal, a longtime union activist at Piedmont. "After nine months, we haven't been offered any serious proposals addressing agents' most pressing economic needs."

Talks are now under the auspices of a federal mediator because Piedmont was not willing to offer proposals acceptable to the workers. The union bargaining committee is meeting with the mediator Nov. 15.

A key issue is fair raises, with agents averaging only $10.74 an hour. Some make significantly less: Agents in Phoenix average just $8.50 an hour, with a maximum of $10 an hour. Further, more than 60 percent of Piedmont agents are part-timers who get no paid sick leave, holiday pay, or health insurance.

Nearly 3,500 CWA-represented agents work at 74 airports across the Piedmont system. For more information about the agents, bargaining updates and issues, visit their website at www.PiedmontAgent.org.

Verizon's '1 Percent' Business Model Exposed at Occupy D.C. Teach-In

At an Occupy D.C. teach-in covered by C-Span and other media this week, a CWA panelist called out Verizon for following a national business model of corporate irresponsibility that has "created austerity for many in order to generate prosperity for the few."

CWA scores Verizon at OccupyDC

At an Occupy D.C. teach-in Nov. 9, CWA Research Economist Ken Peres, seated at right end of table, discusses Verizon's embrace of an irresponsible corporate business model.

CWA Research Economist Ken Peres said Verizon pocketed $1 billion in federal tax refunds even though it earned $33.4 billion in profits over the last three years.

"We did not get jobs; Verizon eliminated 40,000. We did not get increased investment; the company cut its capital investments by $1 billion," Peres said. "But they are asking workers for more than $1 billion in concessions" in bargaining.

"Corporations and government policies that reward such behavior are preventing us from doing what we need to do to get out of the recession," Peres said. To create jobs and make the economy work for the "99 percent," he urged policies supporting organizing and bargaining rights to raise workers' standard of living; public investment in schools, roads, bridges and infrastructure; Wall Street regulations; strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements; investment in green jobs; and restoring real democracy by reforming U.S. Senate rules, campaign finance and corporate governance.

The panel also featured economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who criticized proposals in Congress to cut back Social Security, and Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program, who argued for real reform to make health care affordable for all Americans.

CWA members have joined with Occupy movements in communities across the country to promote workers' rights and other critical issues. In New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other cities, Occupy activists are standing with CWA in calling for fair contracts at Verizon and Verizon Wireless, and pressing T-Mobile to respect workers' right to organize.

Last week in New York, hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protestors marched with CWA members to a T-Mobile store in Lower Manhattan to protest the cell phone carrier's anti-worker tactics.

Click here to watch Peres' presentation, or here to watch the full panel discussion as recorded by C-Span.

Website Helps Working Families Make Finance, Investing Decisions

Have questions about buying or renting a home? Need a strategy to pay off debt or save for college? A new website from the National Labor College is bursting with information to help you make a wide range of personal finance and investing decisions.

NLC screenshot

Created in partnership with the AFL-CIO, the Investor Education Program is free of charge, and free of any sales pitches. "This website exists to help working families understand the concepts and tools that enhance everyone's financially security," the NLC says on the project's homepage.

With interactive features to help you plan your financial future, the website offers guidance on life's many happy events and its challenges — new babies, school tuition, marriage, divorce, preventing foreclosure, planning for funerals and more.

The website was well reviewed recently by Los Angeles Times personal finance columnist David Lazarus who called it a "straight-shooting resource" that distinguishes itself by refusing to endorse any specific products or services.

"It isn't trying to sell you anything," Lazarus wrote. "Many sites that purport to focus on financial literacy are in fact trying to deepen your relationship with a bank or brokerage."

"We have no skin in the game," Zach Teutsch, AFL-CIO investment education coordinator told Lazarus. "We're just offering information in plain English that's unbiased and easy to understand."

Click here or go to http://invested.nlc.edu to access the website.

Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC. All Rights Reserved.
501 Third Street, NW Washington, DC 20001Facebook Twitter