Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Appeals Court Upholds Democratic Rules for Airline Union Elections

In a victory for airline workers who want a fair chance to vote for union representation, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has upheld new rules that ensure that National Mediation Board elections are held to the same democratic principles that govern all U.S. elections.

Prior to the NMB's rule change in 2010, workers who didn't vote in airline or railway representation elections were counted as "no" votes. Now, like all democratic elections, only the votes actually cast are counted.

The Court of Appeals majority opinion said the rule change, long sought by AFA-CWA and other unions, remedied decades of unfairness.

"For 75 years, the National Mediation Board counted non-voters as voting against union representation, thereby requiring a majority of eligible voters to affirmatively vote for representation before a union could be certified," the opinion stated, adding that the court rejects the airline's argument that the new rule is "arbitrary and capricious."

Doing the bidding of Delta and other airlines, many Republicans in Congress are so determined to return to the old rules that they have tied their demands to funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Last summer, the FAA was shut down for two weeks while the debate raged and the critical air safety agency has faced continual threats of another shutdown ever since.

"Republican leaders and others obsessed with union-busting are blocking the FAA Reauthorization needlessly over a provision that a series of courts has now declared as fair and valid," CWA said in a statement. "House Republican leaders should admit that their true motive is to deny workers' their right to a union voice, rather than reach a sensible agreement over the FAA bill."

AT&T Mobility Conference Focuses on Movement Building, Organizing

ATT Mobility Conference

CWA President Larry Cohen speaks at the AT&T Mobility Leadership conference in District 6.

Movement building, upcoming AT&T Mobility bargaining talks in District 6, and extending CWA representation to unorganized wireless workers were key issues for 150 CWAers attending the union's AT&T Mobility Leadership conference in Detroit this month.

In opening remarks, Assistant to Vice President/Telecommunications Director Bill Bates linked labor's struggles in the past to the current assault on workers and said CWA and other unions need to build alliances with like-minded groups to continue the fight for economic and social justice.

CWA President Larry Cohen and United Auto Workers President Bob King, keynote speakers at the three-day conference, discussed the many challenges workers face in the current political environment. They urged union members to engage in movement building to restore the nation's broken democracy, and in organizing to negotiate stronger contracts.

Cohen said organizing workers at Verizon Wireless and other non-union wireless companies is vital to protecting good-paying union jobs at AT&T Mobility. Currently, CWA is working with a group of Verizon Wireless retail workers in Illinois who organized to build support for a union, District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said.

In addition to movement building and bargaining, workshops focused on reaching out to young workers about unions and on grievance handling and preparing for arbitration hearings. Participants held separate unit meetings to talk about issues facing AT&T Mobility technicians and call center and retail workers.

CWA bargaining at AT&T Mobility in District 6 begins at the end of January 2012, with the current contract expiring Feb. 24. District 6 Vice President Claude Cummings said that mobilization will be extremely important in the fight for a new, fair contract.

Cast Your Vote Now in CWA Online Poll of 2012 Presidential Candidates

An online poll is seeking input from members to help the CWA Executive Board decide on a possible presidential endorsement in 2012.

"If we endorse a candidate, he or she will have the full weight of CWA's political resources, so your vote is extremely important," CWA President Larry Cohen said. The Board will discuss an endorsement Feb. 2.

The website with the poll also features a wealth of information about the candidates and their stands on jobs, collective bargaining, retirement security and other issues essential to workers and their families.

Find the poll at www.cwavotes.org/epoll.

Brooklyn Cablevision Workers Looking Forward to CWA Election

Promising Campaign Shows the '99 Percent Message is Resonating'

Cablevision Group

With a promising organizing drive underway and an election set for January, Cablevision workers in Brooklyn show their enthusiasm for CWA at a union meeting in December.

Cablevision workers in Brooklyn, fed up with low wages and little respect from management, have their best opportunity yet for a union voice, with an election for CWA representation set for Jan. 26.

The organizing drive is "the most promising at Cablevision that CWA has ever had," CWA Local 1109 Executive Vice President Chris Calabrese said. More than 70 percent of the 280 field technicians, dispatchers and other operations employees have signed cards seeking representation.

"Cablevision has kept wages, benefits and working conditions way below the standards of union workers and it keeps asking more of them," Calabrese said. "The company really doesn't respect its workers, who have seen friends get terminated for no reason. So they've decided to fight back."

The company is running a typically vicious anti-union campaign, with one-on-one and group meetings, slanderous anti-CWA flyers and "innuendo that workers should 'watch your step,'" Calabrese said. In 2008, those kind of tactics succeeded in killing an organizing drive, but times have changed, he said.

"They held a captive audience meeting this morning, and I just got a report that the workers took over the meeting and put the company's vice president on defense," Calabrese said Dec. 21.

Sending a strong message of support for CWA and the organizing drive, New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilman Jumaane Williams attended a union meeting this week. "The workers knew that these elected leaders wouldn't be standing up there next to us if any of the lies that Cablevision is spreading about CWA were true," he said.

Another factor that may be driving the campaign is corporate greed, and the fact that Cablevision's CEO made $28 million last year. "I think the whole 99 percent, 1 percent message is resonating, and I think it resonated with those guys and they said enough is enough," Calabrese said.

It also helps that one of Cablevision's locations is just a few blocks from a Verizon worksite. "They saw our members fighting back during the strike," he said. "They saw the unity and camaraderie of the workers every time they drove by there."

Learn more at the organizing campaign's website, www.cwabrooklynvision.org.

Study: Off-Shore Call Centers Put Americans at Higher Risk of Fraud

Pending Legislation Would Save and Restore U.S. Jobs, Protect Consumers

A sobering new report illustrates the risks consumers face when businesses off-shore call center jobs to countries that lack legal safeguards against identity theft and other fraud.

The report, produced by CWA researchers, documents specific instances of fraud, the failure of other governments to protect personal information, the loss of Constitutional protection for personal data once it leaves U.S. shores and the recent trend of "sub-outsourcing" former Indian-based call center work to even cheaper foreign labor markets.

"Huge corporations are pocketing U.S. taxpayer dollars, then taking call center jobs overseas, leaving it up to foreign laws and governments to police and catch criminals who want to steal from American consumers," CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins said. "All the while, people may not even know their personal data is entrusted to someone on the other side of the ocean."

The report underscores the importance of the bi-partisan legislation introduced in Congress this month that would ban taxpayer dollars in the form of federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs overseas.

"If American companies insist on taking American jobs overseas, American taxpayers should not be subsidizing corporate greed," Collins said.

Collins noted that while India passed new data privacy laws this year, the Indian government specifically exempted outsourcing companies from having to comply. "Even worse, in the Philippines, where a significant amount of Indian work has been sub-outsourced, there are virtually no data protection laws, including data breach notification laws," he said.

The report finds that many foreign companies are unable or fail to do adequate background checks on employees. Many nations don't maintain central criminal databases and don't have standard identifiers such as the U.S. Social Security number. As a result, proper background checks are expensive, estimated at up to $1,000 per job candidate.

Collins said the pending legislation would greatly reduce the risks for American consumers. The "U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act," co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Dave McKinley (R-W.Va.), would require call center employees to disclose their location to U.S. consumers and transfer calls back to U.S-based call centers upon request. The bill would also require that a list of companies that off-shore call center work be made available to the public.

Read the full report here (PDF), or follow the links on CWA's website at www.cwa-union.org.

Senate TV Techs Bargain Good Contract Despite Federal Wage Freeze

Refusing to let the federal wage freeze get in the way of a good contract, Senate TV broadcast technicians represented by NABET-CWA got creative at the bargaining table and negotiated a deal that members approved unanimously Dec. 16.

The 40-member unit of Local 52031 includes technicians, camera operators and editors. You see their work every time you watch the Senate on C-Span 2 or see video from the Senate floor on any news program.

While the new four-year contract won't affect paychecks until the federal government lifts the freeze on raises, comp time language is significantly better. New provisions improve when and how workers get comp time and what they get for it. For instance, employees who didn't get at least a 12-hour break between shifts were getting a half-hour of comp time for every missed hour of time off. Now they will be compensated for the full hour. That means an employee who leaves work at midnight and returns at 8 a.m. would bank four hours of comp time.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce praised the "creative and strategic thinking" that made the contract possible, and said Congress should heed the example that both the union and management teams set in reaching a successful conclusion. "While members of Congress are stuck in unnecessary gridlock on economic matters, both sides in these contract talks were determined not to get bogged down in minutiae," he said.

The new contract is the second for the Senate unit since NABET-CWA organized the workers in 2006. Local 52031 also represents broadcast technicians in the House; their contract expires in 2013.

Holiday Season Sparks Creativity in Fight for Fairness at Verizon

With leafleting, marches, demonstrations and even some street theater, CWA locals and allies across the country have been continuing the fight for fair contracts at Verizon and Verizon Wireless.

Here's just a sampling:

Human Rights Day-Vermont

CWA, Jobs with Justice and other allies rally in Vermont during a Human Rights Day conference Dec. 10.

CWA Banner Over Ravens Game

A bright blue sky was the perfect backdrop Dec. 11 as this CWA banner flew over the Ravens' NFL game in Baltimore.

CWA Local 1103

With Santa, Scrooge and the Grinch in attendance, CWA 1103 members, retirees and community allies held a vigil outside the home of Verizon board member Hugh Price. Santa delivered a lump of coal as the crowd of 75 sang holiday carols with special lyrics.

Jobs with Justice -DC

Accompanied by a cello, Washington, D.C., Jobs with Justice activists engage in some street theater lamenting the "rough year" for company executives and the rest of the 1 percent.

More Former Alltel Workers Join CWA at AT&T Mobility

Seeking better pay, benefits and working conditions, 35 former Alltel workers at AT&T Mobility in Minnesota and Colorado have joined CWA through majority sign-up.

Twenty-eight of the workers work in AT&T Mobility retail sales group in Colorado, and seven are retail sales workers in Minnesota.

Alltel workers became AT&T Mobility employees through a 2009 acquisition. During 2011, more than 260 former Alltel workers at AT&T Mobility have joined CWA.

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Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from all of us in the CWA Communications Department!

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