Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Cohen: 'This is the Dawn of a New Movement, This is an Awakening'

More than 5,000 Tune in to National Call on State Battles; Second Call Next Week

Indiana protests

Indiana CWA members protest union-busting legislation with thousands of other workers this week at the Indianapolis statehouse, one of hundreds of worker protests nationwide. Pictured from left: Jane Phillips, Local 4900;  Debbie Sturgeon, Local 4700; and Dave Dunn, Local 4703
Credit: Associated Press/Tom Strattman

CWA's first-ever national "Town Hall" phone call drew more than 5,000 participants Wednesday night, as local stewards and officers discussed the high-stakes battles that their governors and legislatures are waging against unions and all working families.

"This is not about public workers. This is not about Wisconsin. This is about all of us, public and private sector. This is one fight," CWA President Larry Cohen said, imploring listeners to talk to their coworkers, families, friends and neighbors, find or create events where people can speak out, and participate next Wednesday when CWA hosts a second nationwide call.

"The right wing says this is labor's last gasp," Cohen said of the protests sweeping the nation. "This is not our last gasp. This is the dawn of a new movement, this is an awakening."

CWA District vice presidents introduced local activists from Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida, who offered a snapshot of their states’ war on workers and how they're fighting back.

"I am humbled by the show of support from working men and women from across this state and the entire country," said Wisconsin's Mark Frey, a Local 4630 steward. "I have never been so moved as I have been in the last week in Madison. I stood shoulder to shoulder with over 60,000 people last Saturday in solidarity."

Local 4322 Board Member Marty Miller, a Beavercreek, Ohio, public works employee, described the pride he takes in a job well done and the pain Gov. John Kasich's union-busting will cause all Ohioans. "Without collective bargaining, there will be an immeasurable ripple effect of negative consequences on the middle class, as well as our communities," he said. "We are all connected in more ways than people realize."

Rebecca Gavin of CWA Local 6355 in Kansas City, Mo., discussed so-called "right-to-work" legislation and a paycheck deception bill that would let the state charge hefty fees for deducting union dues from workers' checks. "It's just another way to attack workers who want a voice in our political process," she said.

A similar bill in Florida would prohibit public employers from deducting dues at all. Meanwhile, corporations are looking forward to the governor fulfilling his promise to end the 5.5 percent tax they pay on profits. "Last year, that tax brought in 8 percent of the state's revenue, so imagine the impact that's going to have on public services and public employee jobs," said John Shaich, Local 3108.

In Tennessee, where the state's 51,000 teachers are the only public employees with collective bargaining rights, lawmakers want to take those rights away. And that's not all. "People need to understand that this attack isn't just about unions. It's about the economic security of all working families," Local 3865 President Tom Anderson said, noting that the legislature even wants to pass a bill banning cities from passing living wage ordinances.

Marty Mosen of CWA Local 1036 in New Jersey, where tens of thousands of workers and their allies are rallying in Trenton today, said he's "never seen this kind of all-out attack on our retirement security and collective bargaining." Although Gov. Chris Christie has made a national name for himself blaming public workers for New Jersey's problems, Mosen said even some Democrats are failing the workers who have long supported them.

"We are making it crystal clear that these legislators were elected with our support in the past and we will not support anyone who does not support collective bargaining," he said.

Don't Miss Next Week's Town Hall Phone Call

CWA will be hosting a second nationwide phone call at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday, March 2.

Click here to sign up and receive information including the toll-free phone number and access code.

You can also use the link to listen to this week's phone call and provide feedback to CWA leaders, which will help set the agenda for the conversation March 2. The audio link is also on CWA's homepage at www.cwa-union.org.

Protests Sweep Nation; Poll Shows Americans Support Public Unions

DC Rally

CWA members in Washington, D.C. (top), and Puerto Rico (bottom), were among huge crowds that rallied in cities nationwide in support of workers in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states where their collective bargaining and other rights are threatened.

Puerto Rico Rally

What began in Wisconsin and Ohio is spreading like wildfire across the United States, with huge pro-worker rallies in cities nationwide and a new poll showing Americans strongly support collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The USA Today/Gallup poll, released Tuesday, showed that 61 percent of respondents would oppose a bill in their state like the one being pushed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to kill public sector collective bargaining.

From New York to Alaska, Washington state, California, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Massachusetts and other states as well as Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of Americans are demonstrating in support of the Midwest's embattled workers. Thousands of others are standing up against their own state lawmakers' attempts to kill workers' rights.

In Washington, D.C., CWA members were among more than 1,000 activists who rallied Wednesday in front of the Capitol Hill offices for Walker's lobbyists. Walker set off the firestorm of protests two weeks ago when he announced his intent to end public employee bargaining and threatened to use the National Guard if workers demonstrated or went on strike.

In Minnesota, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and other public officials boldly rallied with a crowd supporting Wisconsin’s workers. Dayton said he would stop any so-called "right-to-work" legislation and other anti-union measures. "There's no justification for drastic action in Minnesota," he said. "We will not let Minnesota become Wisconsin."

As the protests grew this week, even some Republican governors distanced themselves from Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and others trying to repeal collective bargaining for public workers. A spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said the state would conduct public sector contract talks "in good faith." Tea Party-backed Gov. Rick Scott in Florida said, "My belief is as long as people know what they're doing, collective bargaining is fine."

Click here for a full and frequently updated list of workers' rights rallies and other events around the country. The four stories that follow update events this week in New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Breaking: New Jersey Workers Headed for Trenton

Tens of thousands of New Jersey union members and supporters are headed to the state capitol in Trenton right now, to send a message of solidarity to Wisconsin public workers and some advice to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: stop the attacks on public workers.

"We are all Wisconsin public workers this week," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA state director. Politicians "are trying to blame middle class workers for the financial mess that Wall Street caused. It's more politics as usual and we're ready to fight back."

Public workers in New Jersey are facing exactly the same kind of attacks as those in Wisconsin. In Fact, Christie has expressed his "admiration" for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign to eliminate workers' bargaining rights.

For the 40,000 CWA state workers whose contract expires at the end of June, Christie has made his agenda clear.

Christie is calling for cuts in workers' pensions but wants to increase worker contributions. This isn’t meant to fix the pension shortfall, because Christie said the state has no intention of making any contributions to the fund. The state had no problem, however, in giving people who earn more than $1 million a $40,000 tax break.

New Jersey workers have been making contributions to their pension plan year in and year out, never missing a payment. The state government, on the other hand, hasn't made a full pension payment in 15 years and missed payments completely in 13 of the last 17 years.

State workers also are facing higher health care costs, and in fact, would lose the right to bargain over health care and pensions if Christie and some state lawmakers get their way.

Christie also used New Jersey's budget situation to slash workers' rights, eliminating fairness in hiring and promotions and the ability to negotiate furloughs and appeal discipline. He's already threatened to go to the legislature to get what he wants in terms of public worker compensation if he can't do it at the bargaining table.

ALERT: Keep this in mind when you're at any demonstration: Right wing tea partiers and groups like FreedomWorks often show up at union events. They've been at state capitols in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other events, trying to stir up trouble.

They have one mission: to provoke union activists. So don't fall for it. Don't argue with them. Smile at their cellphone cameras and walk away. We're winning the public opinion battle and we need to stick to our plan, not fall for theirs.

Ohio: 'This is Not the End of a Fight, but the Beginning of a Movement'

Ohio Rally

IUE-CWA members rallied in Dayton and CWAers joined other solidarity rallies throughout the state.

Ohio Rally

CWA and other union members who were demonstrating in Ohio even before the Wisconsin protests began, intensified their efforts Tuesday for the fourth hearing on the anti-union Senate Bill 5.

Thousands of demonstrators were left out in the cold as state officials locked the capitol's doors, allowing far fewer people inside than were let in during last week's hearings.

Pushed by Gov. John Kasich, the Senate bill would end public sector bargaining and other rights protecting workers.

"Regardless of what happens on SB5 this is not the end of a fight, but the beginning of a movement," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "We have many options that will allow us to fight not only for public employee collective bargaining rights but for our entire agenda around good jobs and strong communities. We are prepared to build a growing movement over years not just weeks."

Rosen is spearheading a new coalition, bringing together unions, civic groups, civil rights activists and other allies to fight for Ohio's working families. Find the "Stand Up for Ohio" coalition on Facebook, where it's gained 115,000 friends in less than two weeks.

Wisconsin: Walker Rejects Workers' Offer to Take Cuts to Save Unions

Local 4630

Members of CWA Local 4630 in Madison outside the Wisconsin statehouse, where the nation's firestorm of workers' protests began nearly two weeks ago.

Below: CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen addresses thousands of protesters Thursday in the Wisconsin capitol building.

Seth Rosen

Proving that Gov. Scott Walker is using budget concerns as a cover for union-busting, leaders of state employee unions said they would accept the governor's demands for pension and health care cuts as long as he stops trying to kill collective bargaining rights.

Walker flatly refused, showing no respect for the offer or the tens of thousands of people continuing to demonstrate outside the state capitol and in cities throughout Wisconsin.

He's now threatening to start sending layoff notices to state employees next week if Senate Democrats don’t return to Madison so his bill can become law. The 14 Democrats fled Wisconsin last week in order to prevent a quorum and a vote.

Despite the best efforts of sleep-deprived Democrats in the state Assembly, Republicans there passed the bill Thursday after a continuous three-day session. GOP leaders left the roll call open for only a matter of seconds, and just 13 of 38 Democrats were able to vote in time.

Walker continues to claim that the state is in a budget crisis, even though Wisconsin was set to have a budget surplus before he handed out $140 million in tax breaks to corporations and the rich during his first two months in office.

"We'd love to come back today," Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said, quoted in Wednesday’s Wisconsin State Journal. "We could be up there this afternoon and pass this if he would agree to removing the (collective bargaining) language that has absolutely nothing to do with balancing the budget."

Walker has been touring the state trying to sell his union-busting plan and was supposed to speak this week at a Milwaukee food bank. He didn't show up "but our members did and brought 200 pounds of donated food at a 'can the bill' rally," CWA Local 4630 Steward Mark Frey said.

Indiana: Legislature Backs Off 'Right to Work'

Local 4900

CWA members helped pack Indiana's statehouse this week.

Thousands of union workers are standing strong at the state house in Indianapolis, pushing back against a Republican governor and legislature that wants to weaken workers' collective bargaining rights.

Crowds of more than 4,000 filled the halls of the statehouse, standing up for Indiana families and workers' rights.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is trying to drive a wedge between public and private sector workers. The good news: It's not working.

Daniels called public workers "the privileged elites" at a Republican dinner in Cincinnati, the Chicago Tribune reported. That's right from Christie's playbook, who has said there are two classes of citizens, "the people who get benefits, and the taxpayers who pay for them." But on the ground in Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states, thousands of workers are sticking together and standing together for their families and communities.

In Indiana, as in Wisconsin, they have the support of Democratic members of the state legislature. Indiana Democratic lawmakers left the state when it became clear that Republicans were unwilling to discuss or compromise over the right to work (for less) bill and other proposals.

Democratic lawmakers, many of them in Illinois, said "they're trying to figure out a way to save the state from this radical agenda." And they'll return when the Republican majority drops the bills that are a real assault on the middle class. Democrats have raised concerns about several of the bills, including education reform and budget proposals.

Republican lawmakers finally withdrew the measure to weaken collective bargaining, at least for this session.

Separately, Jeff Cox, an Indiana deputy attorney general, was fired for comments he made about using "live ammunition" against Wisconsin union demonstrators. In a twitter conversation with a reporter, Cox called the Wisconsin demonstrators "political enemies and thugs."

West Va. Workers Leaflet Frontier Board, Fight for Coworkers Nationwide

Expressing the solidarity of CWA-represented workers at Frontier Communications around the country, Local 2001 members in West Virginia distributed an open letter to Frontier board members as they gathered for their quarterly meeting in Charleston this week.

Contracts at Frontier expired in December in North Carolina and last month in Rochester, N.Y., and workers are concerned about the slow pace of new contract talks. "It all comes down to simply maintaining quality jobs and benefits," said CWA Local 1170 President John Pusloskie, who leads the union’s bargaining team in Rochester.

During the next five months, six more contracts will expire, including two in West Virginia. "We felt it was important to let the board know that workers around the country from both the new and the old Frontier have serious concerns about their jobs," CWA Representative Elaine Harris said.

The open letter to Frontier board members thanked them for meeting in West Virginia, where Frontier bought out Verizon last year.

"We applaud your show of commitment to this state," the letter stated. "However, while you meet, bargaining is taking place in Rochester, N.Y. with CWA representing about 450 'Legacy' Frontier workers. These workers helped build this company and helped bring it to the point in which you could create the new, larger Frontier Communications. They deserve to have a secure future with the new Frontier."

House GOP Uses Budget Vote to Cripple NLRB, Workers' Rights

Adding to the spate of attacks on America's workers and their unions, House Republicans have slashed funds in the current year's budget for the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces private sector workers' organizing and bargaining rights.

The NLRB would lose nearly 20 percent of its funding through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, if the money isn't restored by the U.S. Senate. The House version has $61 billion in cuts, including the NLRB funds.

NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman said the already backlogged agency would have to furlough its staff for 55 days, crippling the board's ability to investigate violations of workers' rights, hold elections and try cases. "It would force us to severely curtail all of our operations," she said.

The House GOP originally tried to strip all funding from the NLRB, but the amendment failed when 60 Republicans joined Democrats to vote it down.

Campaign to Restore Jobs at Berkeley's KPFA Wins First Round

KPFA

A CWA and community campaign has raised more than $60,000 in pledges to urge the Pacifica radio network to restore union jobs and popular programming at KPFA in Berkeley, Calif. So far, Pacifica has refused the donations.

In a big victory for a campaign fighting to restore CWA jobs, local control of programming and a popular morning show at a Pacifica radio network station in Berkeley, Calif., management has rehired one of the workers it let go last November.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert will receive back pay and other benefits, although he will be employed beginning Monday as a news reporter rather than as co-host of KPFA's Morning Show.

"After three months of stonewalling, they have given our union a 'make whole' offer for my grievance," CWA Local 9415 member Edwards-Tiekert said in a letter to supporters. "Pacifica has basically conceded it can't win the pending arbitration over my dismissal. This is a victory for our union in enforcing its contract."

Since Pacifica laid off Edwards-Tierket and other Morning Show staff, an off-air union and community campaign, Save KPFA, has generated more than $60,000 in pledges to urge Pacifica to do right by its employees and listeners.

Pacifica claimed budget problems at the listener-supported station forced the layoffs, even though the show brought in three times in pledges what it cost to produce. In media reports, labor leaders and other observers say they believe Pacifica has used its budget as an excuse to purge whistleblowers, reward political supporters and undermine the union.

Until the settlement this week, Pacifica management had insisted that its layoffs would be upheld by an arbitrator. Co-host Aimee Allison's arbitration hearing is still going forward.

Now supporters are redoubling their efforts. "Brian's return to the station is an important victory, but we are not going to rest until Aimee Allison, David Bacon and all the other Morning Show staff, paid and unpaid, are back as well," KPFA board member Pamela Drake said. "Pacifica was not following the union contract, which protects workers from being singled out on the basis of their political positions."

Learn more and support the campaign by going to www.saveKPFA.org.

House Cuts Public Broadcasting Funds; Fight Moves to Senate

CWA and its media sectors are condemning the House of Representatives for voting to strip all funding from the current year's budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps support PBS, NPR and local stations nationwide.

NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said the measure is extremely short-sighted and could lead to thousands of lost jobs, along with the high-quality radio and TV programming that more than 170 million Americans tune in to every day.

"This is another example of using the budget process to make an ideological attack, and that's wrong," Joyce said. "Losing our public broadcasting operations would be devastating, because a unique source of news, education and entertainment would no longer be available."

TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said, "The importance of public broadcasting should not be underestimated to the communities that are served. Media industries have shed as many as 40,000 workers over the last four years, substantially reducing local coverage. This would add insult to injury."

House Republicans sought to kill the small, but essential, subsidy for public broadcasting by including it in a $61 million package of cuts in the current year's budget. The budget bill is now in the Senate's hands and must be acted on by March 5 to prevent a government shutdown.

CWA, NABET-CWA and the Guild together represent about 2,000 workers at PBS, NPR and local public broadcasting stations around the country. Help them fight to save jobs and programming by calling your U.S. senators today. Click here to join the campaign.

Walker Smug, Hostile to Workers in Prank Call from Fake Billionaire

Believing he was talking to an out-of-state billionaire who helped bankroll his campaign, union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spent 20 minutes on the phone Tuesday promising Tea Party financier "David Koch" that he wouldn't back down, no matter what.

Walker actually was talking to blogger Ian Murphy, who simply called Walker's office, told an assistant he was David Koch and explained that he couldn't leave his number because a "maid" had thrown his cell phone in the washing machine. So he was given a slot on Walker's afternoon schedule to call back.

Walker gave "Koch" a play-by-play of his schemes to end collective bargaining rights for public employees and to force Democratic senators, who left the state in solidarity with protesting workers, to return. That way, the Republican-led Senate would have the quorum it needs to pass his bill. Walker made it clear that he has no intention of taking any Democrat’s opinion into account. "I’ll talk to them," he said. "But I won’t negotiate."

At one point, "Koch" told Walker that, "We were thinking about planting some troublemakers" in the protest crowds, and Walker said he'd thought about that, too. He said he decided against it out of fears it would backfire, not because of any moral or ethical concerns.

Walker told Koch about a dinner with his cabinet the night after the Super Bowl. "Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We'd already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb," he boasted.

"And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers."

Click here for the Wisconsin State Journal's webpage to listen to the call or read the full transcript.

Unity Means Bargaining Power for Mailers at Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Unity means bargaining power at Pittsburgh Post Gazette. From left are members of CWA Local 14842’s bargaining team: Al Levine and Gene Malerbo, back row, and Vice President Harry McElroy and President Steve Stasenko, Jr.

Members of Mailers Local 22/CWA Local 14842 at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette were able to fend off draconian cuts thanks to joint bargaining with nine other unions at the newspaper, including TNG-CWA Local 38061 and ITU Local 7/CWA Local 14827.

Taking nine months to bargain, their three-year contract holds the line against large pay cuts, threatened layoffs and major cuts to retirees' health care. The unions, representing over 750 workers at the Gazette, formed a "Unity Council" years ago that local leaders say made the difference at the bargaining table, along with strong support from CWA's Print Sector and the Guild.

The other unions include the Teamsters, Platemakers, Paperhandlers, Pressmen, SEIU, Machinists, and Operating Engineers.

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