In Rain and Shine, Protesters Carry On to Deliver '99 Percent' Message
CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton fires up the crowd Nov. 10 in Albany as CWA members prepare to begin a 150-mile march to New York City in the fight to stop corporate greed at Verizon and other companies.
Below: In Silver Spring, Md, CWAers get ready Nov. 16 to begin a two-day march into Washington, D.C.
East Coast CWA members collectively put thousands of miles on their sneakers this week as they led multi-day marches to denounce the greed that is driving Verizon Communications and other hugely profitable corporations to destroy good jobs and, with them, America's middle class.
Joined by Occupy protesters, fellow union members and other progressive allies along the way, CWA members set out Nov. 10 in Albany, N.Y., for a week-long march to New York City, more than 150 miles away. In Silver Spring, Md., CWA members began a two-day, 25-mile march on Wednesday, ending Thursday with rallies in Washington, D.C.
"It's been fantastic," Local 1115 Vice President Tom Oakley said by cell phone Nov. 16, six days after taking off in Albany and walking roughly 20 miles a day. "Every time we come into town, we've got a group of people waiting for us — CWA members, local politicians, other unions."
Oakley is among a core group of eight marchers, two women and six men ages 25 to 60, who walked the entire New York route. They enjoyed glorious sunshine the first five days. "The weather's been gorgeous," he said. "We've heard people say it lots of times: 'God loves the CWA.'"
With other CWA members and allies joining for stretches in New York and Washington area, about 15 to 20 marchers and their signs could be seen alongside area roads at any given time. In towns along the way, they met with local leaders, did media interviews and leafleted outside Verizon Wireless stores.
As the CWA Newsletter was published, marchers were participating in huge rallies and demonstrations taking place in both cities, marking the two-month anniversary of the Occupy/99 Percent movement.
Naomi Bolden, vice president of CWA Local 2204, made a four-hour trip from Roanoke, Va., to march in Washington, beginning the day the weather turned. Ten miles into the rainy trek, Bolden's feet were soaking wet and she'd dropped her cell phone in a puddle. Even so, she described high spirits and "lots of honks, people yelling out their windows, cheering us on."
Bolden came further than anyone else for the march. "I wouldn't have felt right if I didn't do it," she said. "I look at it this way, I'm a leader and I want to lead by example. I want my members to get involved, and so I need to show that I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Local 1105 Chief Shop Steward Dominic Renda joined the New York march on Monday, November 14. Though his feet ached, he said the cause and the camaraderie were well worth it. "We've had people ask what we're doing and when we explain that we're fighting to stop the corporate greed, that we're part of the 99 percent, people are really supportive," he said. "The way I see it, if companies like Verizon with all their profits don't want to hire people and pay them decent wages, who will?"
In the final miles of their trek, CWA marchers pass through the Bronx before marching from the north end of Manhattan to Wall Street.
Phil Griffith of Local 1118, marched the full week, fueled by outrage about what's happened to America's working families. "When we talk about the 99 percent we are talking about the millions of people who are out of work because their jobs have been sent overseas, the millions that still don't have affordable health care, the millions that are losing their homes...The 99 percenters are the heart of America and we're marching to Wall Street to tell the corporations to bring those jobs back and get the country back on its feet."
Along the march route, local TV stations and newspapers did stories on the passing visitors. In a community about 40 miles outside New York City, a high school newspaper reporter approached Local 1103 Business Agent Joe Mayhew.
"He asked a question I didn't expect, which was 'What do you think of how they cleared out Zuccotti Park,'" Mayhew said. "I told him, 'You can't evict an idea.'"
If you're not already signed up to listen by phone to tonight's national mobilization call, you can hear it online at www.cwa-union.org/cwacall. The call begins at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
In addition to Verizon bargaining and other reports from CWA national officers, you'll hear from a member who took part in CWA's march from Albany to New York City; an Ohio member who helped with the hugely successful effort to overturn the state's anti-collective bargaining law; and an Oregon member who will talk about the shared goals of CWA and Portland's Occupy movement.
CWAers Sign, Circulate Petitions to Unseat Anti-Worker Governor
Just after midnight Nov. 15, CWA Local 4603 Vice President Clinton Rodgers was one of the first Wisconsin voters to sign a petition to recall anti-union Gov. Scott Walker.
Below: CWA members and other Recall Walker activists march through Walker's Milwaukee neighborhood, where even some of his neighbors have yard signs supporting his ouster.
At 12:05 a.m. Tuesday, with a long line of happily sleep-deprived Milwaukee residents behind him, CWA Local 4603 Vice President Clinton Rodgers became one of the first Wisconsin voters to sign a petition to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
"In my neighborhood, which is near the recall headquarters in Milwaukee, there were about 300 people waiting to get in the door and sign the petition at midnight," Rodgers said. "People were excited. Everyone wanted to be the first to sign."
The midnight petition parties throughout Wisconsin kicked off the campaign to recall Walker, an anti-union governor who began attacking public workers' collective bargaining rights as soon as he took office last January.
Within days, thousands of public and private sector union members, a broad range of activist groups and community members — even some Republicans — joined in round-the-clock protests at the state capitol in Madison. Wisconsin Senate Democrats even fled the state to try to stop Walker's anti-collective bargaining bill from being pushed through the legislature without due process.
Walker's public approval has plummeted with his pursuit of tax breaks for the rich, and wage, benefit and social service cuts for everyone else. A new poll this week shows that 58 percent of voters want him recalled.
Funded by the infamous billionaire Koch brothers and other corporate donors, Walker began fighting the recall with expensive ads during Green Bay's Monday night football game.
On Tuesday, CWA members and hundreds of other activists gathered at 5 p.m. at a school near the Walker family home in Milwaukee. Even some of his neighbors displayed "Recall Walker" signs in their yards, Rodgers said.
"We marched to his block, chanting the whole way, things like 'When I say recall, you say Walker,' and 'Union-busting is disgusting,'" he said. "About five of his neighbors had tables set up in their yards with petitions."
The Recall Walker campaign has just under two months to collect 540,208 valid signatures — 25 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Rodgers said the campaign's wants to gather at least 800,000 signatures to ensure that there are enough valid ones to put the recall on a statewide ballot next spring.
Report Shows How Company Shifts Tax Bill to the 99 Percent
A new report this week reveals how Verizon achieves a negative federal tax rate to avoid paying its fair share of taxes, and how the company aggressively uses tax loopholes and subsidies to cut its tax bills even more.
"Unpaid Bills: How Verizon Shortchanges Government Through Tax Dodging and Subsidies," (PDF) was produced by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) and Good Jobs First, a national policy resource center.
The report shows that Verizon, a $100-billion corporation, paid an effective federal tax rate of -2.9 percent between 2008 and 2010. In 2010 alone, Verizon's federal tax rate was -5.7 percent. In fact, the company received a federal tax rebate of nearly $1 billion.
The report is especially timely as the congressional "super committee" meets on budget and tax issues. Verizon has put the "Reverse Morris Trust" tax loophole to extensive use, avoiding $1.5 billion in taxes on the sale of its landlines and other assets, CWA Senior Director George Kohl said.
"Verizon doesn't use its tax avoidance gains to keep up its copper network or extend its fiber optic technology to cities like Boston, Baltimore, Buffalo or other communities, or create quality jobs. It isn't negotiating a fair contract with the workers who have made this company so successful," Kohl said. "Instead, it is demanding nearly $1 billion in givebacks and making sure that its top executives stay in the top 1 percent of American earners. That's why we say 'the 99 percent' are picking up Verizon's tax tab."
CTJ recently identified Verizon as one of the nation's top tax avoidance offenders, manipulating state revenue rules, seeking economic development subsidies, and structuring its business and tax affairs to produce a negative federal income tax rate. Further, Verizon has received state and local tax subsidies in at least 13 states.
CTJ Director Robert McIntyre, the report's lead author, said the billions of dollars that companies like Verizon receive are "wasted dollars that could have gone to protect Medicare, create jobs and cut the deficit. Too many corporations are gaming the system at the expense of the rest of us."
Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and also a report author, said Verizon and other tax dodgers "aren't using these tax givebacks to create good jobs or invest in their companies in ways that would improve our communities. Ordinary Americans are struggling to pay their own taxes and are picking up the tab for these corporations as well. It's a system out of control."
Union's Outreach Creates Opportunity for Member to Meet with VP Biden
Protesting layoffs and wage cuts, Manchester Newspaper Guild-CWA members picket in the rain at an intersection near the Union Leader newspaper building.
Below: Manchester Guild member Carol Stevens was part of a small group of local labor activists who had the opportunity to meet Nov. 10 with Vice President Joe Biden.
Balancing activism and restraint, members of the Manchester Newspaper Guild-CWA are waging a strategic battle for a fair contract against an employer that is unilaterally slashing jobs and wages.
Last week, the union held an informational picket outside New Hampshire's Supreme Court building, where winners of a contest co-sponsored by the Union Leader newspaper were being honored. Two days later, members rallied and picketed with union allies outside the newspaper's building in Manchester.
The Nov. 10 action was held in advance of a speech by Vice President Joe Biden at the First Amendment Award ceremony in Concord. The event was sponsored by the Union Leader's single largest shareholder, the Loeb School of Communications.
Weighing the possibility of a picket at the Concord event, leaders of the Manchester local, as well as CWA and the AFL-CIO, had multiple discussions with Biden's office.
"Mr. Biden's staff made it very clear that if we did picket in Concord, the vice president would honor our picket line, and would not attend the Loeb event," Manchester Guild President Norm Welsh said.
Because Biden is recognized by CWA and other unions as a lifelong friend of labor, the local decided against a picket. "Many people, including our own members, expected us to make a high-profile showing at the Loeb School event," Welsh said. "But that would have put both our union and the vice president in an awkward position, a situation we didn't wish to create. We're reasonable people, just looking for a reasonable contract."
As a result of the talks with Biden's office, about 15 local union members were invited to meet with Biden at the airport after the Loeb event.
Manchester Guild member Carol Stevens said finding out that her union chose her for the meeting "was such a bright spot, the first good news I'd heard in weeks." Stevens is one of six veteran workers who were issued layoff notices after the Guild unanimously rejected the Union Leader's concession-filled contract proposal in late October. After the vote, the paper also cut all wages by 10 percent. A Guild grievance is pending.
Biden "talked about how he's never seen labor unions and the middle class hit so hard, and that without labor unions there wouldn't be any middle class," Stevens said.
The Manchester Guild, Local 31167, represents about 120 news, circulation, advertising and other workers at the Union Leader. Bargaining began Sept. 12.
"In the recent past, we've agreed to layoffs, pay cuts and freezes, furloughs, and increased health care costs to help out this company," Welsh said. Now the company is demanding more concessions, despite paying dividends to shareholders and giving raises to executives."
"Our membership said 'No' to that business strategy," he said. "They're fed up with the bullying, gun-to-our-head bargaining tactics this management employs."
At the AT&T Mobility local leadership conference, D6 staff join VP Claude Cummings, center, and CWA-TU members Blake Poindexter and Jamone Ross, 4th and 5th from left.
CWA AT&T Mobility local leaders from across the Southwest met in Dallas Nov. 7-8 to discuss and vote on bargaining goals and priorities. The contract covering 9,400 Mobility workers in District 6 expires Feb. 24.
CWA District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings joined participants in discussing ways to build membership mobilization and support for organizing, and pledged support for T-Mobile workers trying to get their union.
Also at the meeting were two CWA-TU organizing committee members, technical care specialists from T-Mobile in Frisco, Texas. Jamone Ross and Blake Poindexter talked about problems at their call center, including unattainable and constantly changing metrics, mass terminations and the lack of respect for workers on the job.
Ross and Poindexter got a firsthand look at CWA democracy in action, as Mobility members set bargaining goals, planned mobilization and moved forward on bargaining.
CWA will hold a Mobility leadership training session in December in Detroit; CWA President Larry Cohen and UAW President Bob King will be on hand.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller and CWA are condemning anti-union GOP leaders in Congress for threatening another costly shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, once again putting jobs at risk and delaying vital construction and air safety projects.
"We cannot continue on this disastrous path, but we do stand on the precipice of losing another FAA reauthorization bill this year," Rockefeller said, speaking this week to airline industry officials at the Aero Club in Washington, D.C.
The fight for FAA funds involves an entirely unrelated union issue. Delta Air Lines is pressuring lawmakers to stop funding the FAA unless a rule guaranteeing fair and democratic union elections for airline workers is overturned. The rule, set by the National Mediation Board last year, treats union elections in the airline industry like any other democratic election: only votes cast are counted. Previously, workers who didn't vote were counted as "No" votes.
Click to watch "Delta: Drop the Attacks, Put Jobs First," highlighting Delta's role in the FAA funding impasse and the consequences of another shutdown.
"I am angry at the situation," Rockefeller said. "I do not understand how this fixation with one airline can be seen as paramount (such) that the House would shut down the FAA to get its way."
A new CWA video, "Delta: Drop the Attacks, Put Jobs First," highlights Delta's role in the funding impasse and the consequences of another shutdown. Watch it here.
The earlier shutdown in July sent home 4,000 agency employees for two weeks, as well as construction crews on FAA-funded projects nationwide. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars in fees airlines pay to the FAA went uncollected.
Rockefeller said another shutdown would have the same consequences, and would further delay progress toward the long-needed modernization of the FAA's air traffic control system.
Thinking about holiday shopping? Remember that AT&T Mobility is the only union wireless company, one that respects workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively. Make sure your family, friends and co-workers get the word that AT&T Mobility is the only choice for real progressives who care about workers' rights. Check out www.getunionwireless.com.
In the wake of the eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters, editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich has something to say about who's really messing up downtown New York, and all of America. Click here.