Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

CWA Contract Returns 400 Outsourced US Airways Call Center Jobs

US Airways is returning more than 400 outsourced call center jobs to the United States as part of an agreement CWA and the Teamsters negotiated with the airline after the company's second bankruptcy in as many years.

US Airways Jobs to Return

Local 3640 President Vonda Hardy discussed the return of jobs in a TV interview in Winston-Salem.

About half of the jobs will be at the airline's reservations center in Winston-Salem, and the other half at centers in Phoenix and Reno. "We are excited about the jobs coming back from Manila," said Vonda Hardy, president of CWA Local 3640. "It is a great, great day."

The jobs, once held by stateside US Airways agents who took early buyouts when the company was in bankruptcy, were offshored to Manila and other foreign cities. However, as stipulated in the union contracts, US Airways agreed to bring the jobs back to the United States by Nov. 1, 2011.

"We made a diligent effort to be able to save and retain as much protection for workers in the contract as we could, faced with the economic times," Hardy said. Click here to view an TV news interview with Hardy about the returned jobs.

CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins, who oversees customer service issues, said, "This move shows that quality, professional customer service wins over low-road, low-wage, high-turnover operations every time. CWA is committed to building the customer service profession and we're pleased that US Airways is a partner in this effort."

Overall, CWA and the Teamsters represent more than 6,000 reservations and customer service employees at US Airways.

At an event in Winston-Salem with US Airways CEO Doug Parker to celebrate the returned jobs, Hardy said that bringing the jobs back will improve the quality of customer service in the United States. "There is a certain comfort to our customers when they call US Airways now; they know their call will be answered in one of our three U.S.-based centers," she said.

Missouri CWA, JwJ Convene Innovative Hearing on Social Service Cuts

Testimony Airs on Web as Workers, Clients Speak from Sites Statewide

Missouri Hearing

At a hearing aired online from five locations across Missouri last weekend, CWA Local 6355 member Lacy Proctor, left, was among social service caseworkers testifying about the state's devastating budget cuts.

Below: An audience at the University of Missouri in St. Louis watches as testimony airs from another city. CWA and Jobs with Justice organized the hearing.

Missouri Hearing2

At a unique statewide hearing that CWA helped organize in Missouri last Saturday, caseworkers and clients testified about the devastating impact of cutting and consolidating the state's network of social services.

The two-hour hearing was streamed live online from five University of Missouri campuses, where CWA-represented social workers, clergy, people in need and others gathered to watch and give testimony.

"It was fantastic," said Bradley Harmon, president of the Missouri State Workers Union-CWA Local 6355. "We had a lot of rank and file members give very powerful testimony about why we do this kind of work — work that doesn't pay very well and has a lot of stress attached to it. We also heard from people who've been able to turn their lives around because of the services our members provide."

The hearing was convened by the Missouri Jobs with Justice's Public Good Project, a coalition that CWA helped launch last year. It is bringing together unions, clergy, community groups and other allies supporting a strong public sector that serves the common good.

The coalition is preparing a report on the hearing that it will submit to Missouri's Democratic governor and Republican-dominated House and Senate before the next legislative session in January. "It's a continuation of our effort to change the narrative, away from the 'cut-cut-cut' mantra," Harmon said.

Over the last two years, 432 state social services jobs have been cut through attrition, the majority of them CWA-represented "eligibility specialists." Local 6355 Organizing Director Richard von Glahn said 1,705 of the jobs remain but full staffing would require nearly 500 additional employees. "The need for workers has actually increased at the same time that the jobs have decreased," he said.

Officials from the affected state agencies were invited to participate in the hearing but declined. Publicly, they are claiming the cuts will better serve clients by making the agencies more "efficient."

Among the alleged efficiencies, the state's Family Support Division has been cut back to a single employee in many counties. The agency takes applications for food stamps and other welfare programs.

A CWA member who was once a client herself said caseworkers are now handling an average of 750 cases, an overwhelming burden for workers and people in need.

"I feel a loss of purpose," Lacy Proctor testified, quoted in The Columbia Daily Tribune. "You feel like you are destined to fail every single day when you walk in the door."

A standard caseload for eligibility specialists should be 285 to 315, von Glahn said, explaining that under a law CWA pushed for, union and state officials meet every two years to review the figure. Despite agreeing in 2010 that 315 cases should be a maximum, workers in some offices are handling 1,200 cases or more, he said.

Proctor was a pregnant undergraduate student when a Family Services Division caseworker helped her get Medicaid and food stamps. As a result, she said she was able to stay in college, keep herself and her baby healthy and prevent a lifetime of medical debt and poverty. Before her daughter was 2 years old, Proctor had graduated from college and gotten a job as a caseworker herself.

"It was the best feeling in the world to be able to call my caseworker to report that I would no longer require their services," Proctor said. "The pride and self confidence that I had and continue to have from this experience is irreplaceable. I want to help others have that same feeling."

Video of the hearing is archived on the Missouri Jobs with Justice website. Click here to view.

CWA, Occupy D.C. Activists Jointly Protest Verizon, Corporate Greed

Local 2222 President: Verizon a 'Poster Child for the 1 Percent'

Larry Marches with Occupy DC to Vz

In a joint march against corporate greed, CWA members and Occupy D.C. activists march Wednesday through downtown Washington. Stops included a Verizon Wireless store and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rally @ Verizon Store w Occupy DC

Hundreds of CWA members and Occupy D.C. activists joined forces Wednesday for a downtown march that included demonstrations outside a Verizon Wireless store and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Events began at 5 p.m. at Freedom Plaza, one of two major Occupy D.C. sites. Speaking to the crowd before the march, Occupier Kevin Zeese of Maryland said, "The strength of the Occupy movement grows the more we are joined by workers and labor, the more we fight for the things workers are fighting for, like CWA's battle at Verizon for a fair contract."

Local 2222 President Jim Hilleary told Occupiers, "Your fight is our fight," describing the telecom giant as "a corporation that could be the poster child for the 1 percent."

Hilleary and CWA President Larry Cohen said the struggle at Verizon and Verizon Wireless illustrates how out of control corporate power and greed has gotten in the United States, with a hugely profitable company demanding even more sacrifice from workers. "If we can't hold the line at a company like Verizon and Verizon Wireless, we can't hold the line," Cohen said.

He told Occupy activists, "We will stand with you, but we need your help, too. Whether it's our new retirees or children who are here, we're all in this together."

Marching alongside CWA members on a gorgeous fall day, willing and eager Occupiers carried signs protesting Verizon and loudly chanted against union-busting outside a downtown Verizon Wireless store.

The march continued several blocks north and west to the second main Occupy site at McPherson Square and continued to the Chamber of Commerce, where the stately exterior shamelessly displays giant banners that spell out, "J O B S." The crowd chanted, "Shame" and "You are the 1 percent," denouncing the greed that is keeping the Chamber's rich corporate membership from creating good jobs in the United States.

Marchers passed in front of the White House before winding their way back to Freedom Plaza. Throughout the parade route, city and federal police officers quickly and efficiently blocked rush hour traffic, allowing marchers to move through major intersections without incident. Many drivers honked and waved in support.

Are you participating in Occupy events in your community? Please send details to Ron Collins, CWA Chief of Staff, at

Local 1109 President Invited to White House for Meeting on Jobs Bill

White House Jobs Meeting

Local 1109 President Rolando Scott was among union members and other progressive activists invited to a White House meeting this week to discuss the jobs bill with President Obama. Scott stopped by CWA headquarters beforehand to meet with President Larry Cohen (below).

Rolando Scott and Larry Cohen

Calling it the "experience of a lifetime," a CWA local president was among two dozen union members invited to the White House on Tuesday afternoon to meet with President Obama about the American Jobs Act.

"I was glad to be a part of history," Local 1109 President Rolando Scott said. "I don't believe any sitting president has ever had a symposium of that sort, to have regular working people come into the White House and speak directly to the president."

The union members, many from skilled trades who are eager for the opportunity to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure, were among 150 progressive activists invited to the East Room meeting.

Before Obama spoke, Scott said he had the opportunity to mention concerns about offshoring during a give-and-take with White House senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett. She was followed by Vice President Joe Biden and finally Obama, who spoke and took questions for about a half hour.

Scott described the president as articulate and eloquent, but also very firm in his resolve to put Americans back to work. Scott had hoped to ask a question and said, "I had my hand up, and he looked in my direction, but he acknowledged the woman next to me."

But as Obama left the room, Scott positioned himself perfectly near the exit. "I stuck my big hand out and I was the last hand he shook," he said. "And then as he started to leave, I said, loudly, 'My international president, Larry Cohen, sends his regard.' He turned back around and shook my hand again. I was humbled and so proud to be able to be there."

California Terminex Workers Survive Poisonous Anti-Union Campaign

Victory for Pest Control Unit First of Its Kind for Local 9586

Despite anti-union tactics that included a management "ride along" on election day, a group of Los Angeles-area Terminex sales, clerical and technical workers voted Oct. 28 to join CWA Local 9586.

"It was wonderful to see their faces when the votes were counted," said Local Vice President Yvonne Melton, who worked on the campaign with CWA organizer Victor Serrano. "These are good people, very nice, respectful people who just want the right to be able to have a say in changes at work."

Overtime hours and compensation have been a major issue. In September, Terminex agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit over unpaid overtime for trainees in California from 2004 to 2010. Terminex tried to argue in court that termite inspections are sales activities exempt from overtime. A federal judge disagreed.

Even as the court case proceeded, Melton said the newly organized technicians were working 12 to 14 hour days without breaks. "One of them told me he'd go in on Sundays just to catch up on his other work, without pay," she said.

Fed-up workers approached Local 9586 earlier this year. Their commercial unit had been part of a larger group of Terminex workers who tried to organize with CWA three years ago but lost the election.

As soon as the new drive began, Terminex unleashed an anti-union campaign, with captive audience and one-on-one meetings, threats of discipline and an "anti-committee" that workers could join to oppose the union.

The result of the company's tactics was a close vote, 20-19. Melton said it would have been 21-19, but one "yes" voter was delayed. "He was held up by the company," she said. "They did a ride-along to discourage the vote, and he got there a half-hour late."

Other California locals have also been busy adding new CWA members. Local 9423 in San Jose recently organized 24 workers at Telecom Networking Systems, Inc., and Local 9003 in Los Angeles organized a unit of six employees of the California United Homecare Workers Union, SEIU/AFSCME Local 4034. Also, after a year of legal wrangling and outreach, UPTE-CWA Local 9119 has gotten the University of California to agree that 165 dietitians can be added to the health care bargaining unit.

Guild a Watchdog for Rights of Journalists Covering Occupy Protests

As police officers in Oakland, Calif., and other cities attempt to remove Occupy protesters, the Newspaper Guild-CWA is keeping a close eye on how authorities are treating reporters and photographers.

Ray Chavez TNG

Oakland Tribune photographer Ray Chavez, a member of Pacific Media Workers Guild TNG-CWA 39521, is caught up between a line of Oakland police officers and Occupy protesters. Photo by Karl Mondon.

A dramatic photograph last week shows Oakland Tribune photographer and TNG-CWA member Ray Chavez, held at weapon-point by two police officers in riot gear. "Shortly after the photo was taken, a police officer grabbed at his camera, breaking off the flash and throwing it to the ground," CWA District 9 and Guild Representative Sara Steffens said. "As he continued to work, he was bruised by non-lethal weaponry — either tear gas canister, bean bags or rubber bullets."

Among other accounts of journalists caught up in Occupy sweeps or ordered to stop recording events, a weekly newspaper reporter was arrested last week as Tennessee state troopers evicted Nashville protesters. The young man, whose publisher is calling for the governor to apologize, attempted to stay out of the way of authorities and repeatedly identified himself as a reporter.

"Journalists know that their jobs can be dangerous," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said. "What they don't expect is to be detained, attacked or otherwise interfered with by police, as happened to at least three journalists in Oakland. All were clearly wearing press passes and carrying professional photo gear."

Using a link set up by the Guild, TNG-CWA members have been sending letters to Oakland City Hall reminding officials of the duty to respect the role of journalists in a free society. Click here to participate in the campaign.

Lunzer said the Guild will continue to serve as a watchdog and respond accordingly as the Occupy protests grow nationwide.

Ohio Volunteers Determined to Bury Anti-Collective Bargaining Law

Rosen: 'CWA Is Putting Everything We Have into These Last Few Days'

Ohio Canvassing

Niki Snead, Local 4320, and Jodie Deshong, Local 4310, knock on doors to urge voters to defeat Ohio's anti-collective bargaining law.

With just days to go until Ohio voters decide the fate of their state's anti-collective bargaining law, CWA members are among thousands of volunteers continuing to knock on doors and make phone calls to get out the vote.

The campaign to defeat Issue 2 has long included many working Republicans disgusted by the law's attack on public workers and the way Governor John Kasich and GOP leaders rushed the bill through the legislature early this year. But now some high-profile Republicans are also speaking out against it.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas recalled how Ohio led the nation in work stoppages by public safety employees in the decade before the state's 1984 collective bargaining law. No such stoppages have occurred since.

"When a city and its safety forces had a dispute concerning wages, working conditions, and adequate staffing, there was no way to resolve the dispute," Douglas said. "That is why we passed the collective bargaining law. The law has worked. It would be tragic for our communities to return to those dark days. That is what Senate Bill 5 — if it becomes law — would do. To fully protect our citizens and police officers and firefighters, (it) must be rejected."

Senate Bill 5 was the legislation creating the law stripping collective bargaining rights from Ohio's public workers. Voters can repeal it by voting "No" on Issue 2 on November 8's ballot.

Another GOP opponent is Lancaster Mayor David Smith, who says it's Gov. Kasich's budget cuts, not collective bargaining, that is hurting his city's ability to afford enough police and firefighters.

Smith recently had to lay off 13 firefighters and close a fire station, despite the fact that fire and police forces agreed to forgo raises for the past two years and made other concessions. "Fire and police had closed contracts, but they opened them up to allow us to work with them on a number of issues," Smith said. But that couldn't make up for the huge loss of Ohio tax revenue that Kasich has diverted from local communities to balance the state budget.

The support and public polls are encouraging, but with corporations and anti-union groups spending millions of dollars to stop the repeal, CWA members and other campaign volunteers won't rest until the polls close Tuesday night.

"Over the past year, Ohio citizens have spoken loud and clear that our elected officials should focus on creating good jobs and building strong communities, not attacking the rights of our public employees," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said.

"This election will be the culmination of a year-long effort by a broad cross-section of Ohioans — from the tens of thousands who gathered at the state house, to the 1.3 million who signed our petition, to the tens of thousands who are now out talking to their friends and neighbors," he said. "CWA is putting everything we have into these last few days to win a victory on this important issue."

CWA Spouse Wins National Award for Workplace Safety Activism

A CWA member's wife has been awarded the Community Service Award by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health for her efforts to memorialize victims of workplace fatalities and to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Katherine Rodriguez, whose husband, Randy, is a steward and safety and health chair for Local 6222, said her drive began with her father's death in 2004. Ray Gonzalez and coworker Maurice Moore were fatally burned by 500-degree water when a pipe burst at a BP refinery.

"The next year, in 2005, 15 more workers lost their lives at the same BP facility in Texas City," she said. "That site had 22 worker fatalities in five years. I want to make sure their deaths are not forgotten and that no other family has to endure the pain and grief that we have."

Rodriguez received the award last week at a banquet during the organization's National Worker Health and Safety Training Conference in Baltimore. CWA and locals nationwide work with NCOSH on workplace safety and health issues, and training to prevent accidents and injuries.

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

Oakland Bank of America

Lots of coverage all over the web of Wednesday's Occupy Oakland actions, which began with a call for a general strike and ended with protesters shutting down the busy Port of Oakland. One of the sites where CWA members gathered was in front of a Bank of America building. Click here to watch a quick clip of Local 9415 Secretary-Treasurer Renia Hudson leading a chant.

Ever wish you had a place to go for answers when friends or family — or you — have questions about what unions do and why we do it? American Rights at Work has set up a Unions 101 web page, a handy tutorial to help everyone better understand unions and workers' rights. Click here to read online or print it out as a PDF.

2012 UCS Catalog

Want more than the short course on unions? The just-released 2012 edition of the Union Communications Services (UCS) Labor Books Catalog provides a well stocked toolbox of books, pamphlets and more. Scores of classic and new titles are available on topics ranging from negotiating and grievance handling to organizing, health and safety, labor law and labor history. The catalog includes many worker-friendly fiction and young adult and children's books as well. Click here for the online catalog or call (800) 321-2545 to order books by phone.

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