Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Verizon Update Call Tonight; Listen by Phone or Online at 7 p.m.

Verigreedy Billboard

Mobile billboards spread the word about Verizon and Verizon Wireless greed to Black Friday shoppers in seven mid-Atlantic cities.

Join us tonight as CWA national officers update members on the status of Verizon bargaining. You'll also hear reports on mobilization activity and public outreach, such as mobile ads that CWA placed on trucks in seven cities for Black Friday and the busy holiday shopping weekend.

If you're not signed up to listen by phone, you can participate online by going to www.cwa-union.org/verizoncall.

'Sweet Victory' in New York as EZ Pass Workers Ratify First Contract

Union Members Celebrate Win After Long Battle for Dignity, Fairness

Barbara Elliot

Local 1102 member Barbara Elliot, with CWA President Larry Cohen, speaks at the 2010 One Nation rally about the fight for a fair contract at EZ Pass.

EZ Pass call center workers in Staten Island, N.Y., have capped a three-year battle for dignity and justice by voting to ratify their first union contract at a company that fought them every step of the way.

The contract victory comes nearly two years after workers organized with CWA Local 1102 in August 2009. More than 70 percent of the workers petitioned for the election, igniting a vicious campaign by the Xerox-owned company. Management fired union activists, refused to accept the election results, then refused to bargain.

"This is a sweet victory for us considering what we went through for simply exercising our lawful right to form a union," EZ Pass activist Barbara Elliot said. "Supervisors were free to intimidate and frighten us and made it near impossible for any pro-union worker to talk with our coworkers. Yet we stood firm, and today management must follow the terms of our new contract."

Putting the battle on the national record, Elliot was a featured speaker at the historic One Nation rally in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

The contract's benefits include badly needed just-cause language to end the company's "at-will" discipline, a grievance procedure with binding arbitration, RIF protections, seniority rights and a prescription plan that offers generic medicines at no cost.

Importantly, the contract prevents management from leaving workers on temporary status for prolonged periods. Before, some workers were labeled "temporary" for up to two years, excluding them from receiving benefits. Now, all temporary workers will become regular employees 181 days after contract ratification, or after their original hire date. Management also agreed to an agency shop provision.

The workers' chances for a fair contract seemed slim after the representation election, as management fired 14 union supporters, refused to bargain for more than 13 months, and appealed the election to the National Labor Relations Board. Bargaining finally got underway in October 2010, a month after the NLRB voted 2-1 to reject the company's appeal.

"I can't get over how excited workers are," said District 1 Staff Representative Pat Telesco, who helped bargain the contract. "People who had been too afraid to even smile or talk to union supporters were pumping their fists and hugging us."

Local 1102 President Ed Luster, Vice President Ed Doyle and Chief Steward John Castella, along with District 1 Organizing Coordinator Tim Dubnau and Counsel Amy Young, provided essential support during the campaign.

Luster said help and encouragement also came from many area CWA locals. "This victory is so rewarding after all of the turmoil the workers went through to get a union," he said.

New Hampshire House Fails to Override Veto of 'Right-to-Work' Bill

CWA Helps Lead Victorious Campaign Against Anti-Worker Legislation

New Hampshire Rally

CWA and other union members rallied and lobbied for months against right-to-work legislation, leading to victory Nov. 30 when the House failed to overturn the governor's veto of the bill.

Despite months of dirty tricks by New Hampshire's speaker of the House, a so-called "right-to-work" bill finally died Nov. 30 when Republican legislators couldn't muster enough votes to override the governor's veto.

Union members and allies in the House gallery and overflow areas burst into cheers and tears of joy. "People started to sing, they started to cry, the gallery was hooting and hollering, and we're hugging people we don't even know," said CWA Local 1400 District Vice President Felicia Augevich, who led the local's fight against the bill and coordinated with unions statewide.

The heavily GOP House voted 240-139 in favor of the override, but that was 12 votes short of the two-thirds majority required by law. All 104 Democrats were joined by 35 Republicans in voting against the legislation.

Augevich said a team of labor activists ran what they call a "whip operation," ensuring that pro-worker Republicans are in place when a key vote is called. "We make sure that they're in the chamber," she said. "We stand by all of those doors, and we literally follow them if they're going out for a break. We make sure they're back in their seats in time."

Democratic Gov. John Lynch vetoed the right-to-work bill in May, saying it would be harmful not only to workers but to what has been a favorable business climate in New Hampshire. House Speaker William O'Brien has been maneuvering to defeat the veto every since.

O'Brien scheduled and delayed votes multiple times and tried to call surprise sessions to catch his political opponents off-guard and unable to attend. His bad reputation for strong-arm tactics got even worse, Augevich said, as he stripped everything from parking spots to committee assignments from Republicans who wouldn't see things his way.

From the time of the bill's introduction in April to the vote this week, Augevich said public and private sector union members and allies exhaustively met with legislators and worked to educate them and New Hampshire residents about the damage the legislation would do to working families and their state.

Their efforts ultimately defeated a campaign that was built with millions of dollars from outside interests, such as the infamous Koch brothers.

"Rather than bowing to months of public and private pressure from Speaker O'Brien, Republican members of the House sided with all House Democrats against a law pushed by the Tea Party and out-of-state groups such as Americans for Prosperity," New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie said. "The working men and women urge Speaker O'Brien to take the will of the people into account and focus on jobs, not political attacks, in the next legislative session."

World's Eyes on Atento Mexico as Video Highlights Workers' Struggle

Company's Extreme Anti-Union Tactics Familiar to Puerto Rico CWAers

Atento Mexico Rally

Click the video link to hear firsthand from workers fighting for justice at Atento Mexico.

A powerful new video is helping intensify global support for embattled telecom workers at Atento Mexico, where managers in the past month have twice derailed opportunities for fair union elections.

On Oct. 31 and Nov. 9, 10,000 Atento workers in Mexico City attempted to replace their company "protection" union — a union in name only that protects employers' interests — with the independent telecom union STRM.

In those elections and a first attempt in July 2010, Atento prevented a fair vote through interference, bullying, threats and other tactics. The Oct. 31 election was set with just a week's notice and the latest election was held with less than 48 hours' notice.

As a UNI Global Union video describes, the company stopped many workers from leaving worksites the day of the vote. Workers who made it to the National Labor Board to attempt to vote were blocked by Atento managers and security guards. After workers fought their way to the front, the Labor Board closed its gates.

The tactics fly in the face of a neutrality agreement that Atento's parent company, Spain's Telefonica, signed, pledging to UNI that it would not interfere with workers attempting to organize unions as the company expanded in Latin America.

The same agreement was in place when CWA Local 3010 attempted to organize 800 Atento workers in Puerto Rico in 2006. CWA's Jorge Rodriguez called it the "most aggressive anti-union campaign" he's seen in his years as an organizer.

Atento fired 19 members of the union organizing committee, harassed and threatened employees, held captive audience meetings, falsely accused union organizers of violence, and warned that the company shut down in Peru after workers voted for a union, among other relentless tactics. For instance, when employees turned on their computers at work, they were met with a "Vote No to Union" screen.

Rodriquez remains stunned by Telefonica's brazen claims that it did nothing to violate its neutrality agreement with UNI. "That's the question I've been asking myself for five years — what is their definition of 'neutrality,'" he said, adding that CWA has never given up on eventually organizing Atento Puerto Rico.

In Mexico, CWA President Larry Cohen was among 150 global labor leaders who marched with 1,500 Atento workers just days before the Oct. 31 election.

Cohen stressed how similar the situation is to CWA's fight for T-Mobile workers in the United States, with both companies owned by European corporations. In Europe, Telefonica and Germany's Deutsche Telekom are subject to strict laws protecting the rights of workers; in the United States and Mexico, weak laws allow the companies to exploit workers.

The video makes clear that Atento Mexico workers aren't giving up. As a worker shown speaking to the rally crowd said, "We won't rest until we win the election and we have an independent, democratic union."

Click here to view and share the video.

NLRB Votes to Streamline Union Elections; House Votes to Do Opposite

Amid great hue and cry from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and foes of workers' rights in Congress, the National Labor Relations Board voted Nov. 30 to do its job — protecting workers' rights by moving forward with a modest proposal to streamline the union election process.

In a 2-1 decision, the NLRB adopted a minor overhaul of labor regulations that will shorten the time that workers must wait between filing for an election and actually voting. Currently, many employers cause long delays by filing multiple and unfounded appeals, giving them more time to run anti-union campaigns.

The board's action means a final rule will be drafted, but another vote is required before it becomes policy.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House, legislators voted 234-188 to pass a Republican-sponsored bill that would give employers even more time to intimidate workers before an election. Their legislation would not permit an election until at least 35 days after workers file. If the bill were to make it through the Senate, the White House has threatened to veto it.

CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson said one piece of good news was that eight Republicans stood up to their party leadership and voted against the bill. CWA Legislative-Political Action Team activists helped generate more than 6,500 phone calls to Congressional offices, in addition to 500 handwritten letters from members and 300 letters from local presidents.

The Republicans who stood with workers were Michael Grimm and Peter King, New York; Tim Johnson, Illinois; Steven LaTourette, Ohio; Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Chris Smith, New Jersey; and Don Young, Alaska.

The House bill is yet another right-wing attack on the NLRB, which was the subject of an AFL-CIO forum this week.

"This is the right wing on steroids." Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said. "They went to work immediately after the 2010 elections — not on jobs — but on taking rights away from American workers."

Kimberly Freeman Brown, director of American Rights at Work, said that since January, congressional Republicans have made nearly 50 separate assaults on the NLRB, from hearings and subpoenas to bills that would gut the agency's power and funding.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the effort to cripple the NLRB is yet another way that politicians and corporations are trying to silence the voice of working people.

"This is a political attack campaign on what they see as their No. 1 enemy — labor, the only group with the power to stand up to them," Harkin said.

Click here to watch video of the forum on the AFL-CIO website.

Help CWA Mark Worlds AIDS Day, Further Fight Against Disease

AIDS Ribbon

December 1 is World AIDS Day, an especially important day for CWA and the union's charity of choice, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

CWA locals have raised more than $7.5 million for the Foundation since 1990, when the late Elizabeth Glaser spoke at CWA's national convention about the devastating spread of pediatric AIDS.

Glaser, the wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion during childbirth in 1981. She unknowingly passed the virus on to both her children.

CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill is asking members to visit the Foundation's website this week to learn more about the cause and how you can help.

"Thanks to the generosity of CWA members, we've made some incredible progress, virtually eliminating pediatric AIDS in the United States," Hill said. "But the fight continues in much of the world."

A link to the Foundation's website is on CWA's homepage at www.cwa-union.org, or go to www.amothersfight.org.

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