10,000 CWA Members Participate in History-Making Phone Call
CWA members from as far as Virginia were among an estimated 10,000 people who rallied in Trenton, N.J. on Feb. 25. Speakers included CWA Pres. Larry Cohen.
With 10,000 CWA members on the line, President Larry Cohen placed a historic phone call Wednesday night to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who pledged her support for workers fighting to save their collective bargaining rights.
"Budget sacrifices are one thing but demanding that workers give up their voice is another," Solis said. "The governors aren't just asking us to tighten our belts, they're demanding we give up our uniquely American rights as workers."
Solis, who comes from a union family, said she is "so inspired and proud" of CWA and the hundreds of thousands of union and non-union workers nationwide who are taking on the states' aggressive union-busting agendas.
Shamefully their targets are "the men and women who care for our neighbors, teach our kids, keep our communities safe and clean, and run into burning buildings when others will not," she said. "They do their work with little fanfare and don't expect recognition, but through unions they have a voice in the workplace and in their future, and that's what's put us in the middle class."
Thanking Solis, CWA President Larry Cohen said, "Those were historic words, a member of the cabinet standing with us as clearly as you do, and speaking for the president of the United States."
Cohen announced that more history will be made as CWA, fellow unions and their allies plan "enormous, movement-wide dramatic action" to mark the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., one month from now. King was killed April 4, 1968, while in Memphis to march with the city's striking sanitation workers. See stories below for more details on April 4 and other actions you can take now.
CWA members in some of the embattled states also spoke on Wednesday's call, along with Alex Hanna, co-president of the University of Wisconsin's Teaching Assistants Association. The son of two Egyptian immigrants, Hanna went to Egypt during the uprising last month that overthrew President Mubarak and now has been at the center of Wisconsin's protests.
"I returned to Madison to an environment that was very different, but also very troubled," Hanna said, describing the pride of organizing 1,000 people to march on what turned out to be just the first day of protests that have drawn tens of the thousands of people to the capitol for nearly three weeks.
"We're standing firm," Hanna said. "The fight that began in Wisconsin won't be finished until we rebuild a worldwide labor movement."
CWA private sector members share that passion. Local 2201 President Chris Lane described the bus trip last Friday from Virginia to Trenton, N.J., where 200 members from Locals 2201, 2222, 2275 and 2336 rallied to support CWA and other public workers. Wide awake and full of enthusiasm as they left at 4:30 a.m., they were even more energized on the return trip, asking, "What's next?"
Lane said some of his own passion comes from serving as a Marine in Africa, the Middle East and other hot spots. "I saw people living in terrible conditions and I was proud and felt blessed to be an American. I still do. But it is nevertheless disgraceful to come back from a third-world country and see CEOs trying to trample their workers' rights while making 450 times as much money as any one of them. And they, like the governors trying to silence public employees, still want more -- more money, more power and more control," he said.
Irene Abraham of CWA Local 1109 described how 93 of 100 workers at her Verizon garage, and more than 100 other members of her local, took personal time off to stand with the workers in New Jersey. "I'm proud to say I was at the rally," Abraham said. "If we allow these union-busters to take away the rights in the public sector, we will be next. This is not just an attack on unions but on the whole middle class."
Angie Schritter of Local 4900 in Indiana said she was overcome with pride taking part in the protests at her state capitol in Indianapolis. "My heart beamed last week when our crowd of 3,000 at the statehouse grew to 10,000 by the next day," she said. "My family is proud to be union and we will fight this battle for as long as it takes. To those who want to destroy us and the middle class, hear this: We outnumber you. We are united. And we will not go away."
Click here to listen to Wednesday's call. Or go to www.cwa-union.org/workers-rights where you can listen to it and CWA's first nationwide call February 23.
'We Have the Opportunity to Plan and Build Something Enormous'
The voice of the labor movement and its allies will roar louder than ever on April 4, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when "it will not be business as usual at workplaces and communities across this nation," CWA President Larry Cohen said Wednesday.
Speaking to 10,000 CWA members on a nationwide phone call, Cohen said the AFL-CIO Executive Board had adopted his proposal for "movement-wide dramatic action" to honor King and the workers fighting for their rights today.
King was shot to death while he was in Memphis to support 1,300 striking city sanitation workers. "Their fight was about recognition, respect and dignity," Cohen said. "Dr. King called it a moral struggle for an economic outcome, much like the fights in the states and at the bargaining table and in every one of our organizing drives."
Cohen urged CWA locals and members to begin brainstorming ideas and making plans for April 4, challenging them and all Americans to "create events at every workplace in America."
It could be as simple as everyone wearing red that day, having workers meet outside and march into work together or standing up at noon and shouting, "Workers rights are human rights!" Cohen said.
Other ideas include candlelight vigils in parks, meetings of church congregations, rallies at statehouses and protests in front of corporate offices. Cohen said CWA locals and activists will receive an e-mail shortly asking them to submit their ideas and plans, and another town hall-style phone call will be held in advance of the events.
King's murder while fighting for city workers spurred public organizing drives across the United States. Cohen said there is no better way to honor that and King than by doing what he would do, "create a new movement for economic justice."
"We need to combine offense and defense," Cohen said. "We need to take it to every workplace, union and non union, private and public sector. We have an opportunity to plan and build something enormous."
Planning for April 4 events is essential, but there are other ways you can support the workers' rights battle immediately, no matter where you live.
"The current epicenters of the battle may be in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Florida and other states, but that does not mean that this is any less of a fight in Washington, Denver, Oklahoma," said CWA Public Sector Vice President Brooks Sunkett, speaking on CWA's nationwide phone call Wednesday.
"I am asking each of you, before you leave this call tonight, to make up your mind to commit to doing something right there were you are, where you live, to fight this battle on your turf," Sunkett said.
Here are three ways you can get involved now.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. A tool kit to guide you through writing a letter is available on CWA's website. Click here or go to www.cwa-union.org.
- All CWA locals should find and publicize a "Poster Public Worker," a real public worker in your local community who will set the record straight about pay and benefits and debunk the myths about public workers. Click here for an example called "Letter from a Librarian."
- Start conversations with family, friends and other about what is really happening in Wisconsin, New Jersey and the other states in the news. "The best education comes from one-on-one conversations," Sunkett said.
Attacks on Rights Fuels Resolve, Protests from Coast to Coast
CWA Local 4300 VP Ron Gay speaks Tuesday at a rally outside Ohio's capitol in Columbia. The crowd of thousands included CWA members from across the state.
The Ohio Senate this week approved Gov. John Kasich's union-busting bill, but the 17-16 vote in the heavy Republican chamber was closer than expected before the rallies and protests that drew tens of thousands of workers to the capitol and to events across the state.
Like Wisconsin's controversial bill, the Ohio legislation guts collective bargaining for public workers. If the bill now passes the Ohio Assembly, CWA and other unions will consider repealing it through a statewide referendum on the November ballot, CWA President Larry Cohen said.
To even get the bill to the Senate floor, the Republican chairman of the committee in charge of it removed two members of his own party who opposed the legislation. The final vote was 7-5. Cincinnati Sen. Bill Seitz, one of the Republicans booted off the panel, called the bill a "Heads I win, tails you lose proposition" and said, "Average Americans and Ohioans understand that is not a very fair method of dispute resolution."
On Tuesday, 20,000 people rallied outside the capitol in Columbus, where speakers included CWA Local 4300 Vice President Ron Gay. "We need to concentrate not on dragging people down, but raising people up. Now is the time to stand up for good jobs and strong communities," he said, repeating the theme of a new CWA-launched coalition. Find it on Facebook by searching for "Stand Up for Ohio."
District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said that through the coalition, "unions, community groups, civil rights and faith groups across Ohio are gearing up to take this fight to a whole other level. We have a plan to fight the bill in the House and a longer-range plan to win if we are not successful there. However the fight is quickly moving far beyond this one bill."
Here's what's happening in some of the other embattled states:
Protesters outside Madison's capitol, where the governor has locked down the building while appealing a court order to keep it open.
Polls show that if an election were held today Gov. Scott Walker would lose in a landslide.
Walker has shut down the capitol to the public, but thousands of people continue to protest every day and a small crowd remains inside the building. A judge ruled earlier this week that the capitol must remain open, but the governor's office is appealing.
The state's 14 Democratic senators remain outside Wisconsin in order to prevent a quorum and a vote on Walker's bill to take away public workers' bargaining rights.
This week, Walker released a dire budget full of draconian cuts to state services and education, including large increases in college tuition. Walker continues to falsely blame public workers for the state’s budget problems, despite the fact that the state was on its way to surplus before he gave away $140 million in tax cuts to business and the rich during his first two months in office.
Public workers have already agreed to every financial demand Walker has made of them, as long as they can keep their bargaining rights. Walker continues to reject their offer.
CWA members from across New Jersey, as well as from New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia were among 10,000 people who rallied in pouring rain last Friday against Gov. Chris Christie's attacks on workers and unions. CWA President Larry Cohen was among the rally's speakers.
CWA members are in the forefront of the battle in Indiana, where mass protests have led Gov. Mitch Daniels to pull back on for now on his so-called "right-to-work" legislation. But legislation to outlaw automatic payroll deduction of union dues, along with budget and education bills are among damaging proposals still being considered. Like Wisconsin's Democratic senators, 37 Democratic lawmakers in Indiana have left the state to stop votes on the anti-worker agenda.
Members of CWA Local 6012 who work for city governments in Oklahoma are fighting to keep their bargaining rights. Local 6086 members are fighting numerous bad budget proposals, including deep cuts to the corrections budget that would jeopardize the safety of CWA-represented corrections officers.
The jobs of 10,000 state workers and 100,000 school district workers are at risk. CWA Local 6186 members are planning a major day of lobbying April 6.
A broad coalition of unions and community supporters are fighting proposals that would end collective bargaining for teachers, block public workers from making voluntary political donations and end the deduction of union dues from government paychecks. Local 3865, representing workers and faculty at seven University of Tennessee campuses, is leading the fight.
CWA members are fighting "right-to-work" and paycheck deception legislation, as well as rollback of child labor laws, changes that would no longer protect 14- to 16-year-olds from long hours and late-night shifts. A lobby day set for March 30 in Jefferson City.
Members of UPTE Local 9119 are mobilizing with students against the University of California Board of Regents, which gave fat raises to top administrators while demanding pensions and health care cuts for UPTE faculty and staff. The board also wants to raise student fees again, even though tuition already has increased 40 percent since 2009.
Locals throughout Florida will be taking part in "Awake the State" rallies on Tuesday, March 8, to protest Gov. Rick Scott's deep budget cuts and other legislation harmful to workers. Among the anti-union bills is legislation to decertify unions if membership fall below 50 percent and a bill to end automatic payroll deduction of dues.
Union-Busting Governors Ignoring Public Opinion, Appeals from Clergy
A third major poll on workers' rights confirms the results of two others in the past week: By a two-to-one margin, Americans support collective bargaining for public employees and oppose the kind of union-busting legislation that has sparked nationwide protests.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday night found that 62 percent of respondents say it is unacceptable to eliminate state employees’ bargaining rights. Only a third of those polled said that doing so is acceptable.
The numbers are virtually identical to the results of polls by USA Today/Gallup and New York Times/CBS. The union-busting governors have so far ignored the surveys.
They’re also ignoring the Catholic Church. Bishop Stephen Blair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote an open letter to the Archbishop of Milwaukee, praising him for standing with the embattled workers in Wisconsin.
"You and our brother bishops are offering a timely reminder of what the Church teaches on the rights and duties of workers, including the right to form and belong to unions...these are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy," Blair wrote.
Catholic bishops in Ohio, where the Senate passed its anti-worker bill Wednesday, issued a statement before the vote, saying they "encourage leaders in government, labor, and business to pursue changes that promote the common good without the elimination of collective bargaining. We urge continued good faith in ongoing negotiations."
More than 1,900 AT&T premise technicians across District 3 joined CWA through majority sign-up last week. More than 70 percent of workers supported the union, as certified by the American Arbitration Association.
Prem techs perform installation and repair for AT&T's U-Verse TV, Internet and voice service. They are paid poorly, forced to work excessive overtime with no notice, and have little control over their jobs, all issues that drove their CWA campaign.
All District 3 locals with prem techs in their jurisdiction participated in the effort, along with 75/25 organizers. District 3 Administrative Director Booker Lester, and Organizing Coordinators Liz Roberson and Sheila Williams led the campaign, which also succeeded in signing up new members for dues authorization.
AFA-CWA has filed a federal lawsuit against Delta Air Lines for leaving its former union-represented Northwest flight attendants out of profit-sharing payments it made to its other flight attendants.
"Delta is punishing Northwest flight attendants for their long history of collective bargaining," AFA-CWA International President Veda Shook said. "Delta management's actions are shameful and undemocratic. Our union will not rest until this mean-spirited retaliation comes to an end and all Delta flight attendants receive a fair share of the profit that their accomplishments helped to achieve."
Delta and Northwest merged in 2008. Last November, 7,500 formerly Northwest flight attendants lost their collective bargaining rights by just 328 votes in an AFA-CWA representation election at Delta. Northwest flight attendants had been unionized for more than 65 years prior to the vote.
AFA-CWA has asked the National Mediation Board to run the election again, charging that Delta harassed workers, used illegal surveillance and breached their right under NMB rules to a secret ballot.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council announced March 2 that it is joining with CWA and other global unions in their campaign to help T-Mobile USA workers "win their basic labor rights, gain a voice on the job, and bargain for a better life."
In its statement, the council commended CWA, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Global Union Federations (GUFs) representatives for developing a "new organizing model that would focus global resources on supporting workers in their campaign for workers' rights at Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile USA."
Leading that campaign, CWA and ver.di, the union for T-Mobile workers in Germany, formed the global union, TU, in 2009 to support workers who want to organize.
The AFL-CIO praised the worldwide union effort to support T-Mobile USA workers as being "the first time the global labor movement in its entirety has come together to work in concert and to demand that a global corporation uphold standards of respect for workers and decent work principles wherever it operates." Global unions formerly announced their support for CWA's campaign at T-Mobile USA at a meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.
The council condemned the actions of multinationals who it said "do not bring best practices [respect for workers' rights, unions, and collective bargaining] from their home countries when they expand into the United States and other countries. "Instead," it stated, "they adopt the worst practices of their host countries: disrespect for workers, union-busting tactics, fear and intimidation for workers who speak up, and firings and reprisals when they seek to join a union."
"This is exactly what German multinational corporation Deutsche Telekom did when it expanded its wireless and call center operations into the United States with...its wholly owned subsidiary T-Mobile USA," said the executive council, "launching an aggressive and comprehensive 'union avoidance' strategy."
AFA-CWA President Veda Shook speaks to fellow members of the AFL-CIO Executive Board after being seated March 1 as one of the federation's vice presidents.
Photo by: Bill Burke/Page One Photography
Bringing a strong voice for flight attendants to the nation's largest federation of unions, AFA-CWA International President Veda Shook was seated this week as a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Board.
Shook joins CWA President Larry Cohen as an AFL-CIO vice president and board member. She will offer the federation the valuable perspective of a union leader, flight attendant and working mother.
"It is an honor to be such an integral part of the AFL-CIO, serving as the voice for working families and promoting our right for collective bargaining," Shook said. "It is crucial that, as a council, we constantly find ways to engage workers and work together to make unions more accessible to our members and all workers who strive to have a voice at work."
Shook began her term as AFA-CWA president in January after 20 years of local and national union service advocating for the rights and safety of America's flight attendants.
CWA members, their children and other relatives are eligible for up to $3,000 in college scholarships for the coming 2011-12 school year through the union's Joe Beirne Foundation. The deadline to apply is April 30.
Applicants' names will be entered into a lottery and 15 winners will be selected. Winners also will be eligible for second-year scholarships in the same amount based on satisfactory academic achievement.
Eligible applicants are CWA members, their spouses, children and grandchildren, including the dependents of retired, laid-off or deceased members. Applicants must be high school graduates or high school students who will graduate this year. Undergraduate and graduate students returning to school may also apply.
Applications are available solely online and must be submitted to the Foundation's website. The site can also be accessed at www.cwa-union.org.