Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

CWA Board Calls for Eliminating EVP Position

Printing Sector Locals discuss reorganization

Following through on our continuing efforts to redirect the union's resources to where they are most needed in these critical times, the Executive Board is recommending that the position of executive vice president be eliminated, effective at CWA's 73rd Convention in July.

Cutting the EVP position would put CWA in line with the operating structure of most international unions, with two international officers, and most staff and resources directed by the 13 district, sector and division vice presidents. To do so, convention delegates must approve an amendment to the CWA Constitution.

The Board's action follows elimination of two vice presidents approved by convention delegates last year: the merger of CWA Districts 2 and 13 and combination of the C & T and Telecommunications sectors effective at the 2011 convention.

Other changes are possible as CWA works with Printing Sector locals to reorganize since Bill Boarman retired last month to accept President Obama's appointment as head of the Government Printing Office.

Last weekend in Baltimore, local Printing Sector leaders met with CWA President Larry Cohen, Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Rechenbach and District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton to discuss options for reorganizing without filling Boarman's job. Cohen praised the local leaders for their willingness to accept new responsibilities and financial realities, saying, "They stepped up for this discussion as committed unionists in a devastating time."

The changes being made in CWA's leadership structure and organization continue the work started in 2005 with "Ready for the Future." Now in its sixth year, the plan is helping CWA capture much-needed savings while keeping the focus of the union's resources and decision-making closer to members.

Excitement Builds for Green Jobs Conference; Still Time to Register

Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference, Feb. 8-10

There's still one day left to register online for next week's jam-packed "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" conference in Washington, D.C., where participants from unions, environmental groups, business and government will work together on ways to build a true green economy.

The conference, sponsored by the BlueGreen Alliance, begins Tuesday, Feb. 8, and runs through Thursday at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

The agenda features dozens of dynamic workshops and speakers, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mich.), EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and, appearing together on a panel, journalist Bill Press, Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and CWA President Larry Cohen.

Last year's conference drew 3,000 participants. To learn more and register by Friday, Feb. 4, go to www.greenjobsconference.org or click on the image above. For up-to-the-minute details and posts from people planning to attend, search Facebook for "green jobs conference" or Twitter for "gjgjconference."

New Pacific Media Workers Guild Merges California, Hawaii Locals

Members of the California Media Workers and Hawaii Newspaper Guild have voted overwhelmingly to merge their locals and become the Pacific Media Workers Guild, a move that TNG-CWA leaders say will strengthen the union in both states.

The new local includes the California Federation of Interpreters and represents some of the largest newspapers in the region, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The local will be based in San Francisco with the current officers in place until new elections can be held.

"This is good news for our local and for the Guild," said Michael Cabanatuan, president of the California Media Workers, Local 39521. "The merger not only assures the Guild's future in Hawaii, but it melds the Hawaii and California locals into a stronger and more powerful force to protect our members and to help shape the future of journalism in the West."

Hawaii's Guild has been hit with major cuts in recent years, leading to the consolidation of what were once two major newspapers into the single Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "This is not just about surviving. This is a partnership with newspaper workers in California who are going through many of the same financial and workplace challenges that we face," said Hawaii Newspaper Guild President Derrick DePledge.

Guild units in Chicago and Gary, Ind., have also merged and another deal is nearly complete for St. Louis, Mo., and Peoria, Ill. "By building regional power and efficiencies, these locals will be better poised to handle the challenges ahead in an ever-changing media world," TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said.

OSHA Abandons Rule for Recording Workplace Ergonomic Injuries

Local Safety and Health Director Dana McCarthy, with two Kaleida officials.

CWA-represented nurses are among those deeply concerned about OSHA's withdrawal of a reporting requirement for job-related ergonomic injuries. Pictured on a no-lift device is Local 1168 Safety and Health Director Dana McCarthy, with two Kaleida officials.

Giving in to pressure from businesses, OSHA has halted plans to restore a rule requiring employers to keep a record of job-related ergonomic injuries by simply checking a box on a form they already fill out.

The decision is deeply disappointing to CWA health and safety staff and activists, who fought to revive the rule and say employers have as much to gain as workers by identifying and fixing ergonomic problems.

In Buffalo, N.Y., for instance, CWA Local 1168/Nurses United persuaded Kaleida hospitals to invest in mechanical lifts (pictured at left), adjustable-height beds and other equipment to help nurses avoid injuries caused by lifting patients. Doing so has dramatically reduced the nurses' number of lost work days, saving the hospital system millions of dollars over the last five years.

"In working with our employer, we realized that the majority of Workers' Compensation claims were strain and sprains to the soft tissue," said Dana McCarthy, the local's safety and health director. "There is a great deal of hard scientific evidence that workers should not lift more than 30 pounds or they eventually will be injured. To ignore these facts and not study MSDs (or musculoskeletal disorders) in the workplace is to ignore real solutions to the problem."

From 1970 until 2003, OSHA forms for employers to record workplace injuries and illnesses had a separate column for MSDs, such as the injuries the nurses routinely suffered. The column was removed during the Bush administration.

After Obama took office, OSHA moved to restore it. But the business community howled, claiming it would be too burdensome for small businesses even though it doesn't apply to employers with fewer than 10 workers.

OSHA says withdrawing the rule from its review process is a temporary measure to give the agency more time to hear from small businesses. CWA and other unions say they will be commenting, too, and intend to ensure the rule is restored.

Website Lets You Calculate, Compare Social Security Retirement Income

A new online calculator makes it easy to determine how much of your income at retirement will come from Social Security, and shows how your numbers compare with similar households.

Economists hope the tool will help combat widespread misinformation that is scaring Americans into believing that Social Security is rapidly going broke. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the Social Security trust fund is projected to run an $868 billion surplus over the next decade and can pay full benefits until 2037 without making cuts or raising the retirement age.

The Social Security calculator was created by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and is available here. Enter your planned retirement date, current income, estimated debt, savings, stock and pension and the calculator crunches the numbers.

Economists say politicians from both parties, with help from the media, are misleading the public about Social Security. CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker noted that Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, 45, claimed in a radio interview that he won't get any Social Security if the system isn't fixed.

"This is not true," Baker said. "According to the most recent projections from the Social Security trustees, Mr. Bennet should expect to see a benefit of $37,429 a year (in 2010 dollars), if he retires at age 67 in 2031." Even if no changes are made and the predicted shortfall occurs in 2037, Social Security would still be able to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefits, amounting to $28,071 a year for Bennet.

CEPR has calculated the expected Social Security earnings of all current U.S. senators in the hope, Baker said, that they will stop spreading bad information. Click here (Adobe Acrobat, 137 kB) to see the chart.

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