Thousands of Events Bolster Fight for Workers' Rights, Economic Justice
CWA Local 2204 members rally April 4 in Abingdon, Va.
Below: CWA members gather for speeches inside Indiana's statehouse April 4.
Embracing the April 4 movement proposed by CWA just a few weeks earlier, hundreds of thousands of people across the country made their voices heard Monday in their workplaces, their communities and outside businesses and government buildings in the intensifying national fight for workers' rights and economic justice.
"April 4th was an amazing day, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii, and we can all be proud of our union," CWA President Larry Cohen said. "Elected officials and employers are on notice that we will resist their attacks on our bargaining rights and our standard of living. Unorganized workers are more aware that they can organize and that we and other unions will be there with them."
Cohen proposed to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in early March that unions and progressive allies plan events for April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder in Memphis. King was there to stand with hundreds of striking sanitation workers who were fighting for dignity, safe working conditions and bargaining rights.
CWA locals organized more than 300 community events and another 300 at worksites, where members wore red and "Stand Up for Workers' Rights" stickers, passed out literature and had lunchtime gatherings, among other activities.
Many April 4 events got good local media coverage that mentioned CWA and even quoted some members. Speaking in Maryland Heights, Mo., about CWA-represented child welfare workers, Local 6355's Richard von Glahn said, "Our members make anywhere from $22,000 to $31,000 a year. They protect children from child abuse. They're not the bad guys."
In New Jersey, CWA Local 1038 President Paul Alexander told reporters, "The struggle of 43 years ago is not entirely different from the struggle people are looking at today. What was taking place in Memphis was sanitation workers fighting for the right to negotiate a contract and to bargain. We're being stripped of our collective bargaining rights as we speak."
The list below is a sampling of events that CWA members helped plan and participate in around the country. Many videos have been posted on YouTube.com and are easily found by searching for "April 4" and "CWA." Hundreds of photos from across the country are posted on CWA's Flickr page. Click here to view them.
In Youngstown, Ohio, members of CWA Local 4300 rallied in front of Child Protective Services to remind everyone what's at stake.
In New York City, more than 5,000 CWAers and members from 35 other unions and allies rallied at City Hall.
In Washington, D.C., CWA President Larry Cohen helps lead an April 4 march toward a Koch Brothers building, where protesters decried the union-busting billionaires.
In Phoenix, Arizona, Local 7019 organized a "redeem the dream" evening rally.
In Newark, N.J., CWA locals organized a march and rally for Jobs, Peace, Justice and Equality, joined by NAACP Chair Ben Jealous, who also spoke at the Washington, D.C., rally.
In Louisville, Ky., union members from CWA, AFSCME, IUE-CWA, Firefighters and other unions held a huge "block party for public workers," drawing union members, people of faith, civil and human rights activists and other allies. Click here for a video, including a performance by the Grammy-nominated Nappy Roots.
In Colorado Springs, Colo., Local 7708 members held a candlelight vigil.
In Seattle, Wash., Local 7800 members and community supporters rallied at Martin Luther King Memorial Park.
At many public events, participants brought food for churches and food banks to distribute. Members of Local 9416 in Stockton, Calif., also brought gently used work shoes for a local church to distribute.
CWAers also used April 4 to draw attention to the fight for bargaining rights at T-Mobile. Members handbilled at 18 T-Mobile call centers across the country, including Oakland, Maine, Wichita, Kan., and Thornton, Colo.
In Richmond, Va., members of Local 2201 stood at noon, whether they worked at Verizon, AT&T, Ben Franklin, Avaya, SuperMedia, Progress Index or other employers. Members also marched into work together. Then, with a giant workers' rights float, members leafleted workers at the Richmond T-Mobile call center.
In Frisco, Texas, near Dallas, members of Local 6215 set up shifts for 11 hours of leafleting outside the T-Mobile call center.
In Salt Lake City, CWA members take part in a huge "We Are One" protest outside Utah's statehouse.
Below: A tiny demonstrator in San Francisco joins thousands of CWA members who turned out for April 4 rallies in cities throughout California.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla, Local 3104 organized a rally outside their city's T-Mobile call center.
At workplaces nationwide, CWA members planned a variety of actions. Some stood up on the job, every hour at some workplaces. Some marched into work together and tens of thousands wore red, as well as stickers, black ribbons and armbands. A sampling:
In Rocky Gap, Va., Local 2276 members wore red.
In Beaumont, Texas, Local 6139 members wore red and leafleted the worksite.
In Springfield, Mo., Local 6132 members rallied, then marched into work together.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, Local 7704 members held a "Sea of Red" day.
In Fairmont, W.Va., Local 2004 members held a plant gate rally.
In Detroit, CWA members stood up on the hour, all wearing red, and technicians marched into work together.
In Allentown, Penn., CWA members and a coalition of allies hosted an honored guest, Jesse Epps, at a news conference about the fight for working families. Epps was on the hotel balcony in Memphis with King when the fatal shots were fired. A story in The Morning Call described how Epps talked about the barrage of attacks on other state workers and expressed his fear that America is not living up to King's ideals.
"You do not have the right to permit anyone to take us back to yesterday," Epps said. "When we got our road map — the Constitution — what does it tell us? 'We the people, in order to form a more perfect...'"
"Union!" the crowd shouted back.
Tuesday's Election a Referendum on Gov. Scott Walker's Union-Busting Agenda
Wisconsin union members and allies rally outside the capitol in Madison on the eve of Tuesday's election.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's radical anti-worker agenda backfired on him Tuesday, as angry citizens turned out in droves to vote out a state Supreme Court judge allied with Walker.
If a recount confirms the 204-vote victory for JoAnne Kloppenburg, it will shift the balance of the now conservative-majority court, which ultimately could decide the legality of Walker’s bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers.
Members from CWA, other unions and progressive allies, and even some Republicans fed-up with Walker's arrogance worked rapidly and tirelessly to defeat incumbent Judge David Prosser and to elect pro-worker candidates in local elections statewide.
"Consider that just weeks ago incumbent candidate Prosser was leading Kloppenberg 55 percent to 25 percent," said Mark Frey, a Local 4630 steward, explaining how anger at Walker propelled people to get involved in the judicial race, the type of election that ordinarily gets little notice and low voter turnout. "The credit for this victory belongs to the people, the thousands who made calls, knocked on doors and encouraged their friends and family to vote."
Frey is one of seven CWA legislative-political coordinators in Wisconsin who "have been hard at work pretty much 24/7 for the last two months," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. The others are Kathy Antoniewicz, Kathy Brenden, Betsy LaFontaine, Dave Moffitt, Clinton Rodgers and Dave Tollison, along with CWA Representatives Frank Mathews and Joy Roberts.
LaFontaine, who is featured in a TV ad calling for the recall of state senators who voted for Walker's union-busting bill, said she and other LPAT members "worked hard to educate members on the consequences of their vote or not voting at all. We used face-to-face conversations, literature and social media to reach all members."
As she collects signatures on petitions for recall elections, LaFontaine is making the point she made campaigning for Tuesday's vote: That all Wisconsin workers, and all middle-class families, are being affected by Walker's agenda, not just the public workers who are facing the loss of their union rights.
Tuesday's results are encouraging for activists working on the recall effort. In addition to unseating Prosser, victories included defeating Walker's hand-picked successor for his old job as county executive in Milwaukee County. By a 61-39 margin, philanthropist Chris Abele beat Republican state Assemblyman Jeff Stone, a strong supporter of Walker's agenda to crush unions while continuing to lower corporate taxes. In Dane County, home to the capitol of Madison, Democratic state Assemblyman Joe Parisi won the executive's seat with 70 percent of the vote.
"We sent a very clear message in Wisconsin that attacking collective bargaining totally changes the political landscape," Rosen said.
Colombia Trade Agreement Needs Further Discussion and Revision
- In Colombia, just 100,000 workers out of 20 million have bargaining rights. 85% of working Colombians are misclassified as contractors and "cooperativos." These millions of workers don't have bargaining rights and also are denied health care benefits and retirement security because they don't have "employee status."
- The proposed free trade agreement calls for both the United States and Colombia to adopt the five fundamental rights outlined by the International Labor Organization, which include the right to form and join a union and the right to collective bargaining. The U.S. Congress has not adopted these conventions and is unlikely to do so now. And even if the Colombian government approved these fundamental rights, the proposed agreement has no real enforcement provisions.
- Public workers in Colombia have no bargaining rights. As in the U.S, today, where the bargaining rights of public sector workers have come under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey and other states, public workers in Colombia are being silenced. This policy is wrong, for Colombia and for the U.S.
CWA will continue its work with telephone workers, public workers, journalists and others who are fighting for employee status and a voice in their workplaces.
CWA also supports the work of a key group of House members, led by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), which outlined measures the Colombian government must take to reduce violence against trade unionists and improve human rights conditions in Colombia before the free trade agreement can be presented to Congress.
"One of the most important ways we can safeguard the ability of American families to make a living and keep their jobs is by guaranteeing they are not in competition with workers in other countries whose wages are kept low not simply because their countries are poor, but because they lack the essential democratic rights that American workers have to improve their standards of living — the right to speak out, to protest, to organize unions, to bargain collectively and directly with their employers, and to freely support political efforts to improve their economic condition. Colombia, sadly, stands out as a country where wages are kept low and workers are repressed through widespread violence against employees trying to better their lot," they wrote to the Obama administration.
The National Mediation Board has determined that United-Continental is now a single carrier, triggering the beginning of a union representation election process for the 24,000 flight attendants at the newly merged airline.
AFA-CWA, which has represented United Airlines flight attendants for over 65 years, represents 15,000 flight attendants at the merged carrier. The International Association of Machinists represents about 9,500.
"This is a watershed moment in our union and an exciting time for the thousands of Flight Attendants at the 'new' United who are ready to advance our careers with AFA representation," AFA International President Veda Shook said. "We sought this election because we want to unite the airline's Flight Attendants as quickly as possible to take maximum advantage of the leverage we have from the merger."
The NMB is expected to announce a voting schedule soon. "This sets the stage for real gains for our profession," said Greg Davidowitch, president of AFA at United. "The expertise of our union has resulted in contracts and daily representation that reflect the entire work and home life of the Flight Attendants."
Visit www.yourafa.org for the latest election information.
House-Senate Conference Committee Takes Up FAA Reauthorization Bill
Bowing to airline executives angry about new democratic rules for union elections, the U.S. House defeated a bipartisan amendment last week intended to preserve the important changes the National Mediation Board made last year.
The AFA-CWA-supported amendment, sponsored by Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) failed by a 206-220 vote. As a result, anti-union language overturning the NMB changes remains in the FAA Reauthorization Bill.
The fight to save the democratic election rules now moves to a conference committee, where differences between the House and Senate versions of the FAA legislation will be worked out.
The Senate's FAA legislation does not contain the anti-worker provision, and CWA will be working with senators in both parties to make sure the Senate version prevails. If not, the Obama administration has threatened to veto the entire FAA bill.
Specifically, the provision in the House bill would return airline and railroad union elections to past rules, in which eligible voters who don't cast ballots are counted as "No" votes. If such standards were applied to federal elections, no one in Congress today could have won election in 2010. Under the new NMB rules, the airline and railroad elections would be treated like all others: Only the votes cast are counted.
The amendment's defeat in the House followed intense lobbying by anti-union groups and a campaign by Delta Airlines. The company gave employees "free flights to Washington to lobby against liberalizing union rules for airline workers," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Seeking respect and basic benefits, including sick leave and vacation time, 156 workers at Dosha Salon and Spa in Portland voted 79-66 for CWA Local 7901 in a hard-fought, 18-month campaign.
Management brought in Harry Beck and other anti-union activists to try to thwart the campaign, which organized workers at four salon locations. A fifth is opening soon.
The hair stylists, massage therapists, nail technicians, spa hosts, schedulers and laundry workers were fed up with arbitrary policies, including unreasonable restrictions on vacation and sick time.
New hires sometimes got higher pay than more senior workers doing the same job, and employees had to sign restrictive "non-compete" agreements that limited their ability to augment their wages. The company also set unrealistic sales quotas and disciplined workers who failed to meet them.
"They are brave for standing up for what they believed despite negative campaigning by management, and a visit from anti-union extremists the company brought in to pressure them into voting no," said District 7 Organizing Coordinator Al Kogler. "Instead, the workers stayed upbeat and stuck together, wearing red T-shirts to anti-union meetings and temporary pro-union tattoos."
The employees first tried to organize when a supermajority signed a petition seeking representation, but management refused to recognize the union. After that, the workers' inside organizing committee sought the NLRB election. Local 7901 Organizer Joe Crane and President Madelyn Elder, also a CWA At-Large Executive Board member, assisted the workers.
CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill with U.S. Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), left, and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
As part of CWA's ongoing effort to build alliances, CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill met recently with two key members of Congress who are strong workers' rights advocates.
House Democratic Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, spent a few minutes at CWA headquarters.
Clyburn has long played a key role in advancing pro-worker legislation, including the Employee Free Choice Act. Both he and Cleaver have taken strong stands against the union-busting actions of Wisconsin's Scott Walker and other governors.
"The Congressional Black Caucus shares our vision for economic justice and workers' rights," said Alfonso Pollard, CWA director for human rights and politics. "We are proud to be working with them toward our mutual goals."
Order Workers Memorial Day materials at www.aflcio.org or click the above picture.
With unions under vicious attack in many states, the annual Workers' Memorial Day commemoration April 28 is especially critical this year, and CWA is urging locals to begin planning events now.
The 2011 theme is "Safe Jobs Save Lives: Our Work's Not Done." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and their GOP allies in Congress are trying to make sure of that, as they fight new safety proposals and try to roll back existing rules.
Despite the vigilance of CWA and other unions, more than 5,000 workers are killed on the job every year, tens of thousands die from occupational diseases and literally millions suffer workplace injuries.
CWA lost three members, all AT&T technicians, to preventable workplace fatalities in 2010:
- Local 3212 member William Britt Hunt was killed in Georgia in January while working alone on a job that should have been assigned two technicians. Hunt was winding telecommunications cable onto a winch when his feet got caught in the cable. He was dragged into the winch and fatally injured.
- Local 4100 member Kevin James was killed in Detroit in April when an overhead electrical wire fell on him while he was in doing aerial repairs on a telephone pole.
- Local 4320 member Bryan Green was killed in Ohio in September when his company truck slipped out of gear and pinned him while he was repairing a telecommunications pedestal.
Workers' Memorial Day flyers and materials to help you plan events are available online from the AFL-CIO. Click here or go to www.aflcio.org. CWA Health and Safety Director Dave LeGrande asks locals to let CWA know what they're planning by filling out a form, available here. Email the form, and any questions, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you paid your 2010 taxes yet? On a percentage basis, you're certainly paying more than the most profitable U.S. companies, and in some cases you're literally paying more: Consider, for instance, that General Electric made $26 billion in profits over the last five years and not only paid no federal income tax, it got a $4.1 billion refund.
Listed below are the top 10 corporate freeloaders, as compiled by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
10. Carnival Cruise Lines over the past five years made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.
9. ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks.
8. Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes.
7. Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion.
6. Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS.
5. Boeing got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.
4. Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.
3. GE, see above.
2. Bank of America got a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, though it made $4.4 billion in profits.
1. Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009 and paid no federal income taxes. It did receive a $156 million rebate from the IRS.
Find more information and graphics about corporate tax evaders at www.usuncut.org.