Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Cohen Testimony: AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Good for Consumers, Workers

U.S. Can 'Re-Establish Global Leadership in High-Speed Communications'

Larry Cohen Testifying

CWA President Larry Cohen, right, testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday in support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. The other witnesses, from far left, are AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson, T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, Cellular South CEO Victor H. "Hu" Meena, and Gigi Sohn, president, Public Knowledge.

Emphasizing the accelerated growth of high-speed broadband and other benefits for consumers and workers, CWA President Larry Cohen testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill in support of the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.

The merger "will create tremendous economic opportunity by accelerating the deployment of high-speed broadband across the country, it will increase jobs and economic development in rural America, and it will positively impact consumers and competition," Cohen told the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

All of which will help the United States "re-establish global leadership in high-speed communications," he said, noting AT&T's pledge to "deploy next-generation wireless service to over 97 percent of our nation's population within six years" if the merger is approved.

"This is noteworthy because today only 20 percent of U.S. broadband subscribers connect to the Internet at such speeds," Cohen said.

Expansion will create thousands of new jobs at AT&T, America's only unionized wireless company. As a result, T-Mobile workers who have been fighting for years to unionize will finally have the opportunity to bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and job security.

"Both the economic and workers' rights issues make AT&T a far better merger partner than their competitor, Sprint," Cohen said.

"AT&T has the financial resources to develop fully T-Mobile's assets," he said. "Sprint, with its BB minus non-investment grade bond rating, does not. AT&T and T-Mobile utilize similar and compatible technologies. Sprint does not.

Further, "Sprint is the only U.S. wireless company that outsources network management, and according to press reports, many of those jobs have been sent to India," Cohen said. "Sprint also outsourced up to 70 percent of its customer contact work to places like the Philippines, India, and Mexico. And lastly, Sprint has a long history of hostility to employees who want to join a union."

Making similar arguments in his testimony, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stressed that the merger would enhance, not harm, the competitive wireless market.

"Wireless industry output is exploding and is on track to increase many times over by 2015," Stephenson said. "Output will continue to rise, prices will continue to fall, new companies will continue to enter, all of these competitors will continue to wage fierce marketing campaigns to attract and retain customers, and the U.S. wireless marketplace will remain the most competitive in the world."

Diverse 'Stand Up' Coalition Keeps Momentum Strong in Ohio

Ohio Rally 5-1-11

Keeping the momentum going in Ohio, thousands of activists rallied at the statehouse and stressed the critical link between good jobs and strong communities.

Below: In Columbus, Derrick Blackwell signs up with the "Stand Up for Ohio" coalition. He and his friends, Lecia Perry, center, and Jane Phillips, are CWA Local 4900 members who traveled from Indiana for the May 5 rally.

Ohio Rally 5-1-11

A diverse crowd of fed-up Ohioans rallied at the statehouse May 5 to further their campaign to overturn the new law eliminating collective bargaining rights for public workers, and to fight other legislative and budget attacks that are targeting everyone but the rich.

CWA and other union members were among 3,000 demonstrators, but community groups concerned about education, housing, taxes and the environment took center stage.

"The rally for Good Jobs and Strong Communities was where the dots got connected between the fight for workers' rights, the state budget, jobs, the environment, education and housing," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "This is how we build a real majority in states like Ohio, by building a broad movement."

Earlier this year, Rosen helped launch the Stand Up for Ohio: Good Jobs and Strong Communities coalition. Last week's rally was just the latest in a series of coalition events around the state.

As speakers from different progressive groups took turns at the podium, they inserted large puzzle pieces representing "jobs," the "environment" and other issues into a big map of Ohio. "It was a visual way to help people see how the different pieces tie together," CWA District 4 Staff Representative Bill Bain said.

The rally was also a chance to advance the petition campaign for a referendum on Senate Bill 5, the new law stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers. Scores of CWA members and hundreds of other coalition activists are gathering signatures to put the issue before voters in November. The campaign needs 231,000 valid signatures, meaning volunteers need to collect at least 400,000 by the end of June.

Click here for the coalition's Facebook page to learn more and show your support for the campaign.

Labor Coalition Stops Anti-Union Bills in Florida Legislature

Despite Republican super-majorities in the Florida Legislature, a tireless coalition of workers helped keep two union-busting bills from being passed before lawmakers adjourned in the wee hours Saturday.

Steve Sarnoff-Florida

At the Florida statehouse, CWA Local 3179 President Steve Sarnoff testifies before the Senate Budget Committee about anti-union bills that ultimately failed in the 2011 Legislature.

"We have won round one officially," CWA Local 3179 President Steve Sarnoff said, referring to bills to stop automatic payroll deduction of public workers' union dues and to decertify bargaining units that fall below 50 percent active membership.

"The strength of our unity coalition, our mobilization to educate our members and our elected representatives, and the relationships we've built with worker-friendly Republicans paid off," Sarnoff said. "But we know we'll be fighting this battle again come January."

The victory stands out in a session that saw many bad bills passed, including drastic cuts in unemployment benefits, pension cuts and voter suppression measures. But the collective voice of police, firefighters, teachers, other public workers and private unions in the coalition was too much for lawmakers to ignore.

As a result, Senate leaders couldn't muster enough votes to bring the anti-union bills to the floor even though the GOP controls 70 percent of the seats.

Sarnoff, whose local represents municipal workers in Clearwater and four other cities, said the coalition will continue with weekly conference calls and other joint action.

"We're not going to let the coalition fall apart, that's for damn sure," he said. "We need to continue to build our power and redouble our efforts to educate our members and their families and all working people in Florida about what’s at stake."

1,000 CWAers Reach Tentative Agreement at Cincinnati Bell

Cincinnati Bell Rally

Members of Locals 4400 and 4401 rally in support of their bargaining team at Cincinnati Bell. A tentative contract reached May 7 improves wages and job security.

A tentative agreement for 1,000 CWA members at Cincinnati Bell, reached just hours before the current contract expired, improves job security and wages, and holds the line on health care. Members of Locals 4400 and 4401 will vote by mail on ratification, with ballots to be counted next month.

The proposed 39-month contract covers installers, outside technicians and customer service representatives. It boosts wages by 6.75 percent over the term of the contract and includes job security language stating that the company's 300-person call center in Cincinnati will remain open for the life of the contract. Other improvements include an increase in the company’s contribution to its workers' 401(k) plan.

During negotiations, union members supported the bargaining team with rallies and other mobilization activities. "CWA members at Cincinnati Bell remained united, and despite tough times, won an agreement that preserves jobs, increases wages, and maintains health care and pensions," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said.

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes, Condemns 'Right to Work' Bill

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch vetoed a so-called "right-to-work" bill Wednesday, saying there's no valid economic argument or other justification for the anti-union legislation.

"States should not interfere with the rights of businesses and their employees to freely negotiate contracts," Lynch said in statement condemning the bill. "That is unless there is a compelling public interest, and there is no compelling public interest in passing this legislation."

Republican leaders immediately pledged to override the veto. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in the Senate but would need 14 additional votes in the House to become law.

In his statement, Lynch stressed that New Hampshire already has a lower unemployment rate and stronger economy than most states with right-to-work laws.

"New Hampshire has an economic strategy that is working...In states with a right-to-work law, workers on average have a lower standard of living, bringing home less in their paychecks and going without health insurance more frequently," he said.

Then he obliterated the business argument for such laws: "In my time as a CEO, in my years spent in the private sector turning around companies, and in my seven years as governor, I have never seen the so-called right-to-work law serve as a valuable economic development tool.

"In the last seven years of recruiting businesses to move to New Hampshire, not one business leader has ever even asked me if New Hampshire had a right-to-work law, let alone suggested it was a factor in the company's location decision. No New Hampshire business leaders have ever told me that the lack of a so-called right-to-work law prevented them from expanding or hiring new workers here in New Hampshire. And no New Hampshire workers have ever told me they couldn't get a job because New Hampshire doesn't have a so-called right-to-work law."

'Unions Now More than Ever' Contest Seeks Videos, Songs, Graphics

A contest sponsored by Union Communication Services is offering $2,500 in prizes for videos, graphics, cartoons and songs speaking to the theme, "Unions Now, More Than Ever."

Submissions can be made in three categories: VIDEO (2-minute maximum, posted on YouTube), GRAPHIC/CARTOON (jpg format, 300 DPI), or SONG (3-minute maximum in MP3 format). Entries must include the tagline "Unions Now, More Than Ever." Email entries by Aug. 1 to contest@unionist.com. You can also send any contest questions to that address.

If none of those categories appeal, consider entering a photo in an OSHA contest to help raise awareness about workplace safety and health. Prizes in the "Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone" contest will be awarded for photos that provide vivid or artistic portrayals of safety and health on the job. Deadline for entries is Aug. 12. Click here for more information and contest rules.

Fortune Editors Shocked By Growing Gulf Between the Rich and the Rest

America's top corporations are getting so rich so fast, and sharing so little of it, that even editors at Fortune Magazine and its famed Fortune 500 list are watching with dropped jaws.

"We've rarely seen such a stark gulf between the fortunes of the 500 and those of ordinary Americans," the editors said in announcing that corporate profits soared by 81 percent in 2010.

"All told, the Fortune 500 generated nearly $10.8 trillion in total revenues last year, up 10.5 percent," they said. "But guess who didn't benefit much from this giant wave of cash? Millions of U.S. workers stuck mired in a stagnant job market."

Which company is richest of all? Exxon, which reported more than $30 billion in profit in 2010.

That's not even Exxon's record. That was $40 billion back in 2008, the last time gas prices soared. With gas more than $4 a gallon now, they're well on their way to breaking that record this year: Their first-quarter profit was $10.7 billion.

And yet, last week House Republicans unanimously voted down a Democratic proposal to end subsidies for Exxon and its oil company friends.

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