May 19, 2011
Hundreds of German Workers Rally to Support Americans at T-Mobile
At DT Shareholders’ Meeting, Protesters Demand Rights for U.S. Colleagues
Supporting American workers fighting for their rights at T-Mobile, more than 500 members of the German telecom union ver.di protested last week in Cologne at parent company Deutsche Telekom’s shareholder meeting.
More than 500 German workers descended on Deutsche Telekom’s global shareholders’ meeting in Cologne last Thursday to demand that the company respect the right of its American T-Mobile employees to unionize and bargain collectively.
The workers, members of the German telecommunications union ver.di, formed a human chain around the meeting venue and released black balloons in mourning for their U.S. coworkers’ lack of rights.
Union leaders warned Deutsche Telekom that its attitude toward American workers could jeopardize its pending sale of T-Mobile to AT&T. Noting political opposition to the sale, Lothar Schröder said DT needs the continued support of ver.di, CWA and their joint union, TU. Schröder is deputy chairman of the DT supervisory board and a ver.di national executive board member. “But that must ultimately mean an end to the opposition to union activities at T-Mobile USA,” he said.
Inside the May 12 meeting, Kornelia Dubbel pointedly asked Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann, “Will you from this point forward ensure that CWA has access to T-Mobile USA businesses so that they can introduce themselves to the employees?” Dubbel is a member of the T-Mobile supervisory board.
German workers formed a human chain around the meeting venue and released black balloons.
Dubbel suggested that the company consider the fact that T-Mobile workers favor the pending sale because they’d rather work for an employer, AT&T, that respects its workers’ union rights. “The employees and the CWA union both welcome the sale, and they put a great deal of hope in it, in terms of changes to the employees, to union rights, and to labor conditions,” she said. “Do you want to do justice to this and correct your anti-union course?”
CWA President Larry Cohen and many T-Mobile workers on social networking sites thanked the German workers for fighting for them, with the events at the shareholders’ meeting just the latest in ver.di’s show of solidarity.
The day before the meeting, Cohen testified on Capitol Hill in support of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger. In addition to expanding high-speed Internet access, creating jobs and providing new benefits for consumers, he said the merger would give T-Mobile workers the long-sought opportunity to join a union.
Workers took snapshots of each other posing with a giant “Solidarity Membership Card.”
But T-Mobile workers shouldn’t have to wait any longer, said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “T-Mobile employees should not have to wait in hope for over a year for their union rights,” she said of the pending merger. “Deutsche Telekom should do the right thing by its U.S. workforce now.”
Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union said “responsible employers” don’t behave as Deutsche Telekom has. “We expect better from one of the world’s leading telecom companies with solid industrial relations in its home country,” he said.
Find more photos, links to Facebook and Twitter to support T-Mobile workers and much more at the campaign website, www.loweringthebarforus.org
Missouri CWAers, Coalition Stop Legislature’s Anti-Union Bills
Phone Bank Volunteers Route 5,000 Calls to Capitol to Kill Paycheck Deception
A hugely successful phone bank helped Missouri CWAers send lawmakers home empty-handed last Friday, the end of a legislative session that began with the Republican majority pledging to pass a laundry list of anti-union, anti-worker bills.
Above, CWA Local 6355 President Bradley Harmon marches with members at Missouri state capitol on Lobby Day.
Below, Missouri activists prepare to head out for a day of canvassing in May, one of the activities that helped defeat their legislature's anti-union bills. Union members and allies around the table include CWA Local 6355 Secretary-Treasurer Catrina Hill and Organizing Coordinator Richard von Glahn.
“We feel like we stopped a speeding train that was headed right at us,” said Bradley Harmon, president of CWA Local 6355, which represents 7,000 state workers. “None of us thought we’d be able to end the session like this.”
In January, Harmon said, Republicans “were going after everything, not just the big issues of paycheck deception and right to work, but project labor agreements, prevailing wage laws, teacher tenure. It was an all-out attack and they got nothing, zero.”
CWA, other unions and allies staged large protests at the capitol early in the session, making it clear that attacks on workers would face fierce opposition.
In April, CWA and the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition turned up the heat again to kill the paycheck deception bill, designed to weaken unions and silence the voice of workers in politics by banning automatic payroll deduction of union dues. A phone bank, as well as the efforts of volunteers knocking on doors, sent 5,000 calls to lawmakers’ offices.
“We were patching through calls right up until 3 p.m. on the last day of the session,” Local 6355 Organizing Coordinator Richard von Glahn said. “The calls very clearly moved a lot of Republicans to vote against the bill, and ultimately created such a concern among the Republican caucus that it didn’t come up on the final day.”
Both the Senate and House had passed versions of the bill, but no final version was brought up for a vote. “We had members at the capitol doing lobbying on the last day and some of the lawmakers told them that every single phone call they were getting on the bill was telling them to oppose it,” von Glahn said.
The so-called “right to work” bill never came up for a vote at all and other anti-worker legislation either failed on the floor or simply vanished.
As good as the victory feels, Harmon said he’s not letting down his guard. “We anticipate that we will have to fight every one of these fights again next year, and that the other side is going to be coming at us even harder than they did this year,” he said.
Between now and then, he said, the challenge will be to keep the coalition strong and active. “The relationships we’re building are fantastic,” he said. “The Sierra Club was in Jeff City lobbying on our issues with us on Lobby Day, and we also had participation from the NAACP for the first time.”
CWA also worked in tandem with other unions, even on issues that didn’t directly affect CWA members. “One of the things we’ve learned is that we have to view every assault that is going after workers as an assault on us,” Harmon said. “That was a really key to our being able to mount the kind of opposition that we did.”
Union Election Begins for United-Continental Flight Attendants
Flight Attendants Natt Brandt from Continental and United's Dona Miller and Kathy Browne are urging colleagues to vote for AFA representation.
The voting process is underway in the critical union representation election for nearly 25,000 Flight Attendants at United, Continental and Continental Micronesia.
The National Mediation Board mailed ballots to eligible workers Tuesday. Voting ends June 29, when the NMB will count the ballots and announce the results.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA represents 15,000 Flight Attendants at United, where AFA has 66 years of bargaining experience. The Machinists union represents 9,000 Flight Attendants at Continental.
“Our union’s first priority is to unite all Flight Attendants," AFA International President Veda Shook said. "Our union is not just the largest Flight Attendant union, we are respected for our experience and expertise in all issues related to our work."
The election is not a vote for a contract. Each airline’s current contract with its Flight Attendants will remain in force until renegotiated into a unified agreement after the election. The best provisions of each contract – United, Continental and Continental Micronesia – will provide the floor for negotiations.
“This is an historic moment in our careers,” said Greg Davidowitch, AFA president at United Airlines. “Flight Attendants are happy that we will soon be together in a single energized workforce."
CWA members traveling during the election period are encouraged to make a point of speaking to the advantages of AFA representation when encountering United and Continental Flight Attendants.
Click here to visit United Flight Attendants' special website.
CWA Charges N.J. Governor with Refusal to Bargain
CWA has filed charges with the Public Employment Relations Commission in New Jersey over Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal to bargain over public employee health care.
New Jersey’s largest public worker union, CWA is bargaining for a new agreement covering 40,000 state workers. Their current contract expires June 30.
CWA State Director Hetty Rosenstein said, “New Jersey law is very clear. Public workers and their union sit down with the governor to negotiate the pay and benefits for thousands of state employees. That is how it has worked for 40 years, under Republican and Democratic governors alike.
“Our union put forward a groundbreaking healthcare proposal that would save New Jersey taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,” Rosenstein continued. “But for more than two months, Governor Christie has given no indication that he has even read it, let alone that he is prepared to respond to our proposal as he is legally required to do. The governor can talk tough, but no one is above the law.”
CWA charges that Christie’s refusal to bargain over health care violates the state’s obligation to negotiate in good faith. CWA has called on the Commission to compel the governor to negotiate.
The editorial boards of the Newark Star-Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer, Asbury Park Press and Times of Trenton also have called on Christie to bargain with CWA on health care.
The Star-Ledger praised CWA as “a responsible partner” in trying to help the state fix its financial problems. CWA’s state-worker members “have a history of showing respect for the taxpayer by agreeing to freeze wages and contribute to their health care premiums,” the editorial stated, urging Christie to show CWA the same respect.
Petition Drives Land Six Wisconsin Republicans on Recall Ballot
Three Democrats Who Stood With Workers Also Likely to Face Voters July 12
Six Wisconsin Republican senators who voted to do away with public workers’ collective bargaining rights are headed for recall elections July 12, thanks to weeks of legwork by CWA members and countless other workers and allies.
With July 12 set as the first date for recall elections in Wisconsin, a rally 10,000-strong at the state capitol Saturday reminded voters that the fight isn’t over.
Activists gathered more than 150,000 petition signatures between the six districts, far more than required for each recall. In Sen. Dan Kapanke’s district in La Crosse, Wis., for instance, state elections officials estimate that 30,000 people signed, nearly twice the number of valid signatures required by law.
“It went great,” said CWA Local 4603 Vice President Clinton Rodgers, who circulated petitions two to three nights a week after work. “People were excited, saying it was time to get these politicians out of office.”
Rodgers said many voters he spoke with felt hoodwinked by Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. “None of our senators was elected on the basis that they would be trying to eliminate collective bargaining,” he said. “Once the citizens recognized who their friends were in the capitol, they were ready to support them and to get rid of the dead weight.”
Three Democrats who were among the 14 Senate Democrats who fled Wisconsin for weeks to try to stop Walker’s anti-union bill are also facing recall.
Both parties are challenging the others’ petitions, issues that the state’s Government Accountability Board is expected to rule on next week. Unless any of the appeals are upheld, all of the recall targets will face voters on July 12. If candidates have primary challengers, a second election will be held about four weeks later.
To remind voters how much is still at stake, about 10,000 people took part in last Saturday’s “The Fight Is Not Over” rally at the Wisconsin capitol, the scene of mass protests that got worldwide attention in February and March.
Rodgers said despite all the hard work the last several months, there’s no time to rest. “We’ll be making phone calls, knocking on doors to get out the vote,” he said. “We need to make sure that the senators who want to take away our rights lose their jobs, and that those who fought for us keep theirs.”
CWA Tells FCC to Act Quickly to Reform Universal Service Fund
A public forum in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, gave local leaders an opportunity to press the Federal Communications Commission to move forward on high-speed broadband.
The forum was part of an FCC workshop on universal service fund reform. The FCC is looking at how to modernize the USF, established by the rewrite of the Telecommunications Act in 1996.
CWA supports reforming the USF to recognize broadband and wireless as the critical telecommunications services of the 21st century, and to revise the program’s outdated goal of ensuring that all Americans had “plain old telephone service.”
CWA Local 7470 President Mike Arnold testified at the forum in favor of changes that would subsidize and support the expansion of high-speed broadband, and called on the FCC to take action now.
Arnold and Local 7470 members work at Windstream Communications, which provides broadband services to about 89 percent of customers. “The remaining 11 percent are in rural areas beyond the reach of current technology, mainly those living just 3 ½ miles outside the local telephone exchange office,” Arnold said.
He stressed that farmers and rural businesses could operate more efficiently with access to high-speed broadband. Further, “Children in rural areas should have the same opportunities that children in urban areas have,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone deserve the same education opportunities?”
March on Wall Street Puts Spotlight on Income Gap, Harmful Budget Cuts
Angry about budget cuts and growing income inequality, New York City CWA members and leaders joined 20,000 activists from a broad coalition of organizations for a May 12 march on Wall Street.
About 20,000 people from a broad coalition of unions and community groups, including scores of red-shirted CWA members, marched on Wall Street last Thursday to decry the vast and growing income inequality that is even worse in New York City than the country as a whole.
Deep budget cuts proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg will make the situation even more dire, demonstrators said, with funding for schools and social service programs on the chopping block.
CWA Local 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes, who marched with his members and other New York CWAers, said, “Wall Street is the belly of the beast, so that’s where we headed.”
In the United States, the richest 1 percent of Americans possesses 25 percent of the country’s income. But in New York state, the top 1 percent controls 35 percent of the income and the figure jumps to 45 percent in New York City. “That’s a third-world country,” Cheliotes said.
“It’s like Brandeis warned,” he said, citing the words of the early 20th century Supreme Court justice. “We can have a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, or we can have a democracy, but we can’t have both.”
A Workers’ Roundup of the Web’s Best Articles & More
We all have the urge to share when we read a thought-provoking story or watch a good video online. The CWA Newsletter wants to share, too. Check this space each week for links to valuable articles, editorials, videos and the occasional cartoon or photograph, that illuminate the battles we’re fighting.
This week, check out
The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, a Mother Jones piece looking at the coordinated and richly funded effort to destroy unions and workers’ rights.
Also, click here to watch a 7 ½ -minute video that contrasts the vast riches of the Koch brothers with the lives of three Florida seniors struggling to keep their homes and afford groceries. The notorious billionaires have spent tens of millions of dollars funding think tanks and political campaigns to try to destroy workers’ rights, Social Security, unemployment insurance and more, while fighting any attempt to raise taxes on the rich or close tax loopholes. Learn more and tell the Kochs what you think at