As lawmakers considered a budget with devastating effects on New Jersey public workers, 10,000 union activists rallied outside the capitol Thursday. Signs denounced politicians of both parties who are hurting working families, and decried the entitled behavior of Gov. Chris Christie, who has used state helicopters for personal business.
About 10,000 CWAers and union activists from New Jersey filled the streets Thursday outside the state capitol in Trenton to protest a deal between Gov. Chris Christie and some legislators that would take away the right of public workers to bargain over health care and pensions.
Inside the Capitol, union members packed a meeting of the Senate budget committee, testifying against the deal and criticizing politicians for selling out working families. CWA District 1 Legislative/Political Director Bob Master testified for CWA.
About 25 union leaders were arrested, including CWA local presidents Adam Liebtag, Local 1036; Ken McNamara, Local 1037; Paul Alexander, Local 1038; and New Jersey state AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan.
Outside the hearing, CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton blasted the governor and leading legislators for turning on working families. "Stripping hundreds of thousands of workers of their basic right to collective bargaining is a fundamental betrayal of the middle class," he said. "Trenton's anti-union bill has awoken the passions of hundreds of thousands of union members across New Jersey and across the country. They are right to be angry and they are right to speak out."
On CWA's stewards' call last night, Carolyn Wade, president of CWA Local 1040 and a CWA Executive Board at-large member, said the contract covering 40,000 state workers is up in less than two weeks and there has been no real bargaining.
"These legislators are hearing from CWA members and public workers across the state and they'll hear us again in November if they vote to take away our collective bargaining rights."
The deal eliminates collective bargaining over health care, requires workers to pay 30 percent of their health care costs and make additional pension contributions. It will be considered by the New Jersey Senate and the Assembly budget committee next week. More demonstrations are planned as legislators meet.
MSNBC's Ed Schultz Joins Local Activists to Discuss Battles and Strategies
With major bargaining fights underway and the ongoing battles to protect workers' rights at the state level, summer is going to be hotter than ever for the labor movement, CWA President Larry Cohen told thousands of activists on Thursday night's "virtual town hall" conference call.
Three CWA activists gave summaries of their state battles, and progressive talk show host Ed Schultz joined the call to applaud them and all of CWA's work, saying, "It's an honor to hear such fervent voices out there for the middle class in America."
Ticking off a partial list of tough negotiations — for public workers in New Jersey, for members at Verizon and General Electric, for flight attendants and NBC technicians, and more — Cohen said summer 2011 needs to be "a hot summer for our movement" at the bargaining table, in politics and in member education.
"For the parts of our union where we haven't been under direct attack, we need to rally behind those who have been under attack," Cohen said. "We can't wait until they come for us. We win when we build a movement."
Among specific goals Cohen laid out for summer are house parties for members, as well as friends and neighbors, to discuss such things as Medicare cuts and budget issues.
Cohen was followed on the call by three local leaders:
- Local 4300 Vice President Ron Gay described how the "Good Jobs and Strong Communities" message has resonated in Ohio, as more than 10,000 volunteers statewide circulate petitions to overturn the new law that strips collective bargaining rights from public workers. With huge rallies, social networking and media outreach, a broad and growing coalition "is connecting the dots between the fight for workers' rights, a sensible state budget, job creation, strong education policy and fair housing practices," he said.
- Local 1122 Executive Vice President John Mudie discussed the major victory that CWA members and other unions helped make possible last month, when pro-worker candidate Kathy Hochul won an open U.S. House seat in an upstate New York district that is heavily Republican. "Our plan was to get as many CWA boots on the ground as possible," Mudie said, describing phone banks, labor walks and other activities. Between CWA and its union brothers and sisters, "three days before Election Day there were well over 200 activists knocking on doors for Kathy, from Buffalo to Rochester. In terms of money, Kathy's campaign was outspent by Republicans more than 2 to 1. But we had the message and the people to hammer it home, and that's what mattered."
- Local 1040 President Carolyn Wade provided a live report from New Jersey, where 10,000 workers had rallied all day at the capitol. Unlike most other state battles, Wade said public workers in New Jersey are having to battle turncoat state Democrats as well as Republicans. The workers are facing devastating pension and health care cuts, and Wade put lawmakers of both parties on notice. "If we lose this, the real fight will come in November," she said. "All 120 seats are up in the Legislature, and those who voted against us, we will vote against them."
Schultz, who has weekday talk shows on radio and at 10 p.m. (Eastern) on MSNBC, said one of his goals is to "convince non-union workers that unions are the last line of defense for the working class."
"When I see people in the top 2 percent, I ask, 'How much do you need?' They don't have an answer. But now we're in a phase of, 'How much are they going to take?' They're incorrigible in how they're acting toward workers."
"We are committed to follow this story," Schultz said. "We are committed to speak with tremendous clarity about fairness and equality, and how they want to limit opportunity for working families and shut down the voice of people in the workplace."
If you missed any or all of the half-hour call, you can listen to it online at www.cwaaction.org.
Thank you to CWA Local 2205 for this message, posted after Thursday night's nationwide call for CWA activists. Let's all find creative ways like this to get more members involved:
"If you didn't get a chance to listen to the National Call put on by CWA, you should listen the next time! It is truly amazing to know we can and are making a difference out there. It all depends on YOU! We are always seeking volunteers, and they are what makes a difference."
July 12 Recall Elections, Federal Lawsuit Keep Activists Fired Up
Gearing up for recall elections and a federal lawsuit, thousands of Wisconsin union members and allies rallied at the capitol in Madison this week to continue to fight Gov. Scott Walker's anti-collective bargaining law. Pictured at the tent city that protesters set up last week, calling it "Walkerville," are Local 4630 members Cynthia Chamblis, Lindy McGraw, Mark Frey and Denise Williams.
Wisconsin workers aren't down or out, despite the blow their state's Supreme Court dealt this week as it gave Gov. Scott Walker a green light to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees.
CWA members and thousands of other union members and allies in Madison and around the state are campaigning more fiercely than ever to recall six of the Republican state senators who rushed to pass Walker's budget bill with its anti-union language.
A lower court ruled that legislators violated Wisconsin's open meetings law, invalidating the budget bill. Tuesday, the state Supreme Court's anti-worker majority overruled the decision 4-3.
"While we are disappointed, we are ready to fight on," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "We are building a broad movement that will eventually correct this injustice and restore collective bargaining rights to public workers in Wisconsin."
Toward that end, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and a coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the law, which goes into effect June 29. By August, it will be taking sizable bites out of public workers' paychecks for pension and health care costs that the legislature imposed without negotiations.
Meanwhile, union members, allied groups and concerned citizens — including angry Republicans — are rallying, making phone calls and knocking on doors to get out the vote for recall elections July 12.
"We remained undaunted, even by the Republicans' attempt to insert fake candidates into the primaries," CWA Local 4621 Vice President Betsy LaFontaine said, referring to a dirty-tricks campaign that is recruiting Republicans to run as phony Democrats on July 12 and force a run-off later. National right-wing groups with millions to spend would have weeks longer to flood the airwaves with anti-union ads.
But their money may be no match for the fierce determination and grassroots power of a state full of angry workers, made even angrier by the Supreme Court ruling Tuesday that effectively put legislators above the law.
"The recall effort is feeding off of this affront to democracy," CWA Staff Representative Frank Mathews said. "Our members and working families throughout Wisconsin are even more driven and motivated than they were just a few days ago, and that is going to translate into victory for us in the recall elections."
CWA's Next Generation committee has posted a preview of their CWA Convention 2011 report on Facebook. Click the link or go to
The page also links you to some surprising results from a survey of younger, or Next Generation, workers, and includes a wealth of other information.
Don't forget to click the "Like" button on the page and become a Facebook friend of CWA's Next Generation.
As IBM turns 100, workers fighting for their union rights at the company in the United States and around the world sent their employer a message in a "Happy Birthday" video.
The video, and a day of action June 14, call on IBM to respect its workers' rights and recognize their unions, including Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701. Alliance members in the United States wore black and blue Tuesday and handed out leaflets calling attention to job cuts and deteriorating working conditions.
"In the U.S., job cuts are constant," Alliance President Tom Midgley said. "IBM hides that fact, as well as the number of jobs cut, from other employees, communities, elected officials and the media. IBM is off-shoring work at a record pace and sending loyal IBMers to the unemployment line."
As a result, IBM's celebration of its centennial leaves more than 15,000 workers terminated in recent years and thousands more fearing future job loss with little to cheer about, Midgley said.
CWA and other IBM unions recently formed the IBM Global Union Alliance. They have asked CEO Sam Palmisano to meet with them about rights and job conditions, but have gotten no response.
"While IBM is in the top league in many international business rankings, it ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to working conditions. This must change as IBM enters its second century of operations," the global alliance said in a news release.
Click here to watch the IBM workers' video.
IUE-CWA Local 81455 members at Trane in Trenton, N.J., have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that caps workers' share of health care costs. The four-year agreement covers nearly 900 workers who make residential central air conditioning units.
The contract was the result of tough negotiations, lasting 17 bargaining sessions, and involving six months of preparations. IUE-CWA President Jim Clark praised the local bargaining committee for successfully pushing back against company attempts to raise workers' health care costs. Instead, out-of-pocket medical costs are capped for the life of the contract.
Union negotiators also got Trane to remove restrictions on workers' vacations, which had been tied to times when the company shut down. Other gains include an increase in tuition reimbursement and life insurance for new retirees.
CWA and other union members in Puerto Rico were among the crowd that greeted President Obama when he arrived at San Juan's airport on Tuesday.
A contingent of union members in Puerto Rico, including CWA activists, were among the crowd inside an airport hangar where President Obama spoke Tuesday after arriving in San Juan.
CWA Local 3010 President Rafael Castro-Torres said Republican government officials in Puerto Rico prevented labor leaders from having any closer interaction with Obama during his four-hour visit.
Still, he said union leaders were pleased that the president addressed issues critical to working families, including the economy, jobs, health care and education.
"I know that today a lot of folks are asking some of the same questions here on the island as they're asking in Indiana or California or in Texas," Obama said. "How do I make sure my kids get the kind of education that they need? How can I put away a little money for retirement? How can I fill up my gas tank? How can I pay the bills?"
Obama said initiatives to increase broadband access, invest in education, grow tourism and build clean-energy industries will help. "We're giving Puerto Ricans the tools they need to build their own economic futures," he said.
A nationwide group of small businesses, executives and investors is imploring Congress to end corporate tax holidays and loopholes and retire the farce that trickle-down economic policies create jobs.
"There is simply no excuse for repeating a policy that's a proven failure," Business for Shared Prosperity says in a letter to Congress this week, specifically urging lawmakers to reject corporate pleas for "tax holidays" on profits held offshore.
"Too many corporations have turned their tax departments into profit centers," disguising U.S. profits as foreign profits to avoid taxes, the letter states. Now businesses want a "holiday" to bring the profits back tax-free, a scheme the Joint Committee on Taxation says would cost the U.S. Treasury $80 billion.
"In 2004, a corporate repatriation tax holiday was passed with the promise of stimulating domestic investment and creating jobs in the United States," the letter continues. "Instead, studies showed that the beneficiaries of the tax holiday used their repatriated earnings to give a huge windfall to corporate owners and shareholders — including many CEOs — in the form of stock buybacks and dividends."
Members of the coalition have been speaking out beyond the letter. John Costin, who runs a veneer business and is a leader in the Maine Small Business Coalition, said, "Tax cuts don't create jobs. Many of those who benefited from the last tax holiday laid off thousands of American workers while enriching their shareholders. We can't afford to make that mistake again."
Click here for the full letter.
This week, don't miss former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's column, "Why the Republican War on Workers' Rights Undermines the American Economy." Reich writes, "The American economy can't get out of neutral until American workers have more money in their pockets to buy what they produce. And unions are the best way to give them the bargaining power to get better pay." Click the link or find it and much more on Reich's blog at www.robertreich.org.
And syndicated editorial cartoonist Stuart Carlson takes on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his "puppets" on the state Supreme Court who let Walker's anti-collective bargaining law take effect. Find his cartoon here.