Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

June 9, 2011

CWA’s Verizon Bargainers Focus on Health Care as Talks Near

District 1, 2 and 13 Members Can Offer Input Through Online Surveys

Verizon bargaining team members from Districts 1, 2 and 13 met last week at CWA headquarters to prepare for negotiations.

CWA members of the Verizon bargaining committee from New York-New England (District 1) and the mid-Atlantic (Districts 2 and 13) met Friday for a daylong discussion on health care, gearing up for tough bargaining that will get underway at the end of June.

CWA Vice Presidents Ed Mooney, District 13, and Ron Collins District 2, and regional bargaining chairs Dennis Trainor and Gail Evans joined the discussion at CWA headquarters with bargaining committee members. CWA Research Director Louise Novotny and health care experts also made presentations.

The bargaining committee is also seeking input from members, through online surveys. District 1 Verizon members can complete the survey by clicking here and District 2 and 13 members can click here.

The Verizon East contract, covering about 40,000 workers, expires at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 7.

Don’t Miss the Next CWA Virtual Town Hall, Thursday June 16

Workers’ Champion Ed Schultz Will Join Call

CWA’s next “virtual union meeting,” a national town hall by phone and Internet for stewards and all interested members, is scheduled for Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

We’ll talk about our next steps and hear about recent successes, such as the big win CWA members helped make possible in upstate New York, sending a pro-worker candidate to Congress in a special election. We’ll also get an update from New Jersey on the bargaining battle there and from Ohio, where CWA members are building coalitions and circulating petitions to overturn a new law stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers.

Also speaking will be MSNBC and radio host Ed Schultz. An impassioned supporter of workers and unions, Schultz was the first national media figure to report from Wisconsin when the capitol protests began in February.

Please spread the word in your locals and plan to join thousands of your CWA brothers and sisters June 16, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Visit www.cwaaction.org to register for the call. Prior to the event, you’ll receive an email with call-in instructions.

CWA Condemns N.J. Politicians’ Attack on Middle-Class Families

CWA state workers in New Jersey are the latest targets of legislative attacks on workers, as state Senate President Steve Sweeney attempts to strip away their right to bargain over health care.

On Thursday CWA President Larry Cohen issued this statement:

“From Wisconsin to Ohio and now New Jersey, there are those who are dead-set on blaming the middle class for the economic downturn and attacking public workers. We knew that Governor Chris Christie – who has for months refused to follow the law and engage in real negotiations with state workers -- was already on the anti-working families bandwagon.

“We are shocked and saddened that some Democrats like Sen. Steve Sweeney are choosing to stand by his side. The Democratic Party has always stood up for the rights and standard of living of working people. That is the job that New Jerseyans sent their Democratic senators to Trenton to do.

“Sen. Sweeney has abandoned those core values and opted to join a senseless Republican attack on the middle class. Not only would Sen. Sweeney’s plan cost hardworking New Jersey families thousands of dollars a year in new health care costs, it would deny state workers their legal and moral collective bargaining rights.

“By joining a nationwide wave of anti-worker legislation, Sen. Sweeney has made this a national issue. Labor and progressive leaders across the country will stand together to fight back against the Sweeney-Christie plan.  New Jersey is now a national battleground in the fight to defend the middle-class.”

Registration Underway for CWA National Women’s Conference

The CWA National Women’s Conference, featuring a unique mix of presentations to learn from the past and plan for the future, is scheduled Aug. 21-23 at Chicago’s Drake Hotel.

CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill said the conference will “be packed with energetic speakers, interactive presentations and workshops that both teach and motivate participation in the current struggles women face.”

Hill said women have a historic role in union organizing and once again can be the “spark for change.”

“One hundred years ago, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a disaster that claimed the lives of young women and immigrants, led to an explosion of changes in safety regulations and union organizing,” she said. “Today, women are disproportionately affected by an anti-worker, anti-union assault in the United States.  We can help change this course of action.”

Cost to register is $150. To take advantage of the hotel’s $169/night group rate, reserve a room by July 30. Click here to register and learn more.

NABET: Don’t Let Broadcasters Hide Their Public Inspection Files

Union Launches Letter-Writing Campaign to Save Decades-Old FCC Rule

As NABET-CWA fights for fair contracts and job security, the union is also fighting to save the FCC rule requiring broadcast stations to maintain public inspection files that include essential information about programming, ownership and jobs. Above, Local 54042 members at Gannett-owned WKYC in Cleveland protest in May, part of a long battle against the company's anti-union campaign.

Are your local TV stations laying off workers and filling newscasts with canned stories from a central location, perhaps many states away? If so, are they violating the terms of their public licenses?

Right now, you can view each station’s public inspection file and find out. But the mega-corporations that run “local” broadcasting today say that’s too much of a burden on them. So they’re pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to declare the files off limits.

NABET-CWA has launched a letter-writing campaign and is asking all CWA members to help send a message to the FCC that transparency is essential.

“The only way that we, the citizens who own the airwaves, can keep broadcasters honest and protect local programming and jobs is through our right to inspect public records,” NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said.

In fact, Joyce said, the FCC needs to make the records more accessible. Right now, they’re only available during a station’s regular weekday hours. “In the 21st century, public files like these should be online and available for viewing at any time from anywhere.” he said.

The public inspection files contain information about stations' programming, ownership structure and compliance with FCC rules and regulations. For instance, a recent report shows that NBC’s Telemundo station in Boston is failing to provide any local news. Yet when Comcast and NBC lobbied the FCC to approve their merger, they promised to provide more news at the Boston station and others.

“That’s not what’s happening anywhere,” Joyce said. “The trend in the industry is toward what we’re calling ‘zombie’ news. That’s when stations fake a local broadcast with content that’s not local or original. And that means workers, including NABET-CWA members, lose their jobs.”

To help save jobs and protect your right to know, join NABET-CWA’s campaign by clicking here. You can sign and send a letter prepared by NABET, or write your own.

Colorado CWAers’ Visits with Lawmakers Prove Vital in 2011 Session

Colorado CWAers march near capitol on Lobby Day. Their personal visits with lawmakers helped pass two bills sought by Local 7777 and helped stop a bill that aimed to take away union rights.

As flame-throwing governors and lawmakers in other states sucked up all the media oxygen, Colorado’s GOP-led House thought it could pull a fast one on workers as its 2011 session wound down last month. But CWA helped make sure that didn’t happen.

The legislative session had largely been free of the workers’ rights battles being waged in other states, but with just three days to go, House Republicans introduced a bill to end collective bargaining for public employees.

Even though the state’s Democratic-led Senate was unlikely to follow suit, CWA and other unions weren’t taking anything for granted.

For those three days, the statehouse halls were filled with activists having “heated discussions” with representatives and their staffs. “All of us were collectively hammering them nonstop,” CWA Local 7777 Legislative-Political Director Sheila Lieder said.

But it may well have been two earlier trips to the capitol by 20 CWA members from Pueblo that saved the day. Visiting their local representative, Republican Keith Swerdfeger, they talked to him about other bills important to CWA.

And they were successful. The Pueblo members and other CWAers around the state won unanimous support in both the House and Senate for two, very practical bills. One helps guard against identity theft, allowing telecom technicians and others with work orders to show only company-issued IDs at businesses, most government buildings and other worksites. Local 7777 President Lisa Bolton said her members had grown concerned about being forced to hand over their drivers’ licenses for the duration of their work in a particular building.

The second bill was a financial boost for CWA-represented taxi drivers. Previously, they only could pick up fares within a 20-mile radius of downtown. When they dropped off passengers further away, they had to return with an empty cab. Now they can pick up return fares.

Swerdfeger, a contractor who uses union labor, remembered the Pueblo members’ visits when CWA’s Lieder approached him during the session’s final three days. “Do I need to get them back up here a third time?” she asked him. He saved them the trip, making it clear to House leadership that he would vote “no.” That meant the House, split 33-32 in favor the GOP, would be a vote short.

“It goes to show how important our personal contact with legislators is, and what we can accomplish when we never give up,” Bolton said.

NLRB Rules for Laid-Off Workers as Albany Guild’s Victories Mount

Score another victory for New York’s Albany Newspaper Guild: A unanimous National Labor Relations Board says the Times Union newspaper illegally laid off 11 workers in 2009 and broke the law again by declaring impasse in negotiations with the union.

The ruling last week upholds an earlier decision by a federal administrative law judge, and tacks on a penalty. In addition to rehiring the workers, paying lost wages and benefits and returning to negotiations, the NLRB ordered the Times Union to pay compounded daily interest on the money it owes its employees.

The Guild calculates the bill for lost wages is now more than $500,000 – and growing – even without the interest. Albany Guild President Tim O’Brien called on management at the Hearst-owned newspaper to “stop its losing legal war on its employees and return to the bargaining table to settle all of our differences.”

“Too much money already has been wasted on lawyers at a time when the newspaper can ill afford it,” O’Brien said. “We stand ready and willing to negotiate a settlement with significant concessions that still preserves our right to negotiate over layoffs and outsourcing.”

The NLRB decision also requires the Times Union to post a notice, by email or an internet posting, that it broke the law.

O’Brien noted an interesting side note in the Times-Union’s legal strategy: Arguing the employer’s case to the NLRB, lawyers said the newspaper’s own reporting on the layoffs was hearsay and shouldn’t be considered reliable.

The NLRB ruling follows a recent federal court decision siding with the Guild over the company’s refusal to arbitrate its decision to end payroll deduction of union dues. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for Aug. 30 in Albany.

Delta Caught Charging $200 Baggage Fee to Homecoming U.S. Troops

Delta Airlines, under federal investigation for interfering with its flight attendants’ AFA-CWA election last year, has extended its disrespect for workers to American troops: The airline was caught this week charging servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan an extra $200 each to bring a fourth bag home.

Under a government contract with Delta, troops are supposed to be allowed four bags for free. Instead, Delta forced them to pay out of pocket, with one unit having to come up with $2,800 in baggage fees. It took several days of bad press before Delta announced it would refund the money.

For union members, a bright spot in the story is the way the website Think Progress reported it, starting with the headline “Anti-Union Delta Charges $2800 In Baggage Fees To Returning Afghanistan Troops.”

“Delta is not only willing to charge troops to bring their equipment back from a war zone, but is notoriously anti-union,” Think Progress reported, explaining how the National Mediation Board is investigating whether Delta illegally interfered to deny its flight attendants a union.

“In the past, Delta has engaged in all sorts of shenanigans when it came to union campaigns, including putting the names of dead workers on their employee lists, to up the bar for the number of votes required to approve a union,” the article continued. “Delta has also been accused of taking away seats from paying customers so that its employees can come to Washington, D.C. to lobby. So for Delta, it seems doing right by employees, customers, and even troops returning overseas is a bridge too far."

Click here for the original report from Think Progress.

Locals ‘Adopt’ Grateful Joplin Families But More Help Still Needed

CWA Tot Survives in Bathtub: ‘The Monster Came and Broke Everything’

CWA Local 6502 President Mary Ann Hopkins with Joplin tornado victims her members are helping, Sabrina Hayes and son, Hunter, 2. Locals are being encouraged to “Adopt a Family” to help CWA members who lost everything in the disaster.

Burrowed in a bathtub as the tornado shattered her apartment, Sabrina Hayes gripped her little boy and fiercely held onto a mattress that was the only thing separating them from the flying, crashing debris.

When it was finally over, neighbors dug them out and carried them to safety. Everything Hayes and 2 ½-year-old Hunter owned had been destroyed.

“Hunter, he talks really well, and how he describes it is, ‘We got in the bathtub and then it got dark. Then the train came and then the monster came and broke everything,’” says Hayes, a member of CWA Local 6313.

The “train” was the May 22 Joplin, Mo., tornado. Beneath Hunter’s bunk-bed mattress in the bathtub, his mother says it felt like a train was running right over them.

It still frightens her, the dangerously close call for her and Hunter. But their new “adopted family,” CWA Local 6502 across the border in Arkansas, is easing their recovery.

“I truly feel blessed as if I have all of you holding my hands and supporting us, giving me the strength to make it through all of this,” Hayes, 27, says in a thank-you letter.

The family’s now-condemned apartment where Sabrina Hayes and her son survived the storm in a bathtub with a mattress over the bodies.

Local 6502 was the first CWA local to sign up for Local 6313’s “Adopt a Family” project. The goal is to provide more than just immediate donations for uninsured members who lost their homes and belongings in the disaster.

“We’re hoping that locals will adopt families until at least the end of the year, enough time to get them back on their feet, get their kids back in school, get a new home set up,” Local 6313 President Kevin Kollmeyer said.

Like Hayes, most of the local’s 550 members work at an AT&T Mobility call center that was outside the tornado’s path. One member, Gina Bloxham, was killed in her home. Nearby, Local 6312 member Sharyl Nelson was killed as the tornado destroyed an AT&T Mobility store. Four other CWA members inside were battered but survived.

Kollmeyer has tallied more than 40 members of his local who lost everything. About 20 of them, mostly renters, had no insurance. At least a half-dozen locals have contacted him about adopting a family, but more help is needed.

Local 6502 President Mary Ann Hopkins said her 200 members have been eager to help. Immediately they began collecting cash donations that she and local Community Service Chair Ken Lancaster delivered to Hayes on Sunday, along with some toys for Hunter. Now local members are gathering household goods and will be back with a truck in a couple of weeks to help the family move to a mobile home.

“As devastating as this situation has been it has truly enlightened me and opened my eyes to the amazingly kind, generous, and caring hearts of so many people,” Hayes says in her letter to Local 6502.

How to Help

To learn how to ‘Adopt a Family,’ call Local 6313 President Kevin Kollmeyer at (417) 623-2541 or email him at cwalocal6313@att.net. To make donations that the local will distribute to members in need, mail to: CWA Local 6313 Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 4053, Joplin, Mo., 64803.

CWA Fund a Lifeline for Members Searching for Bone Marrow Donors

A CWA fund is available for members and their families who are facing a bone marrow transplant and what can be an expensive, and uninsured, search for a donor match.

CWA created the fund in partnership with the “Be the Match Foundation” in 1998. Since then, donations from members and locals have totaled more than $52,000.

The Foundation, started by the family of a young leukemia patient, has helped register 9 million donors since 1987 and coordinated more than 43,000 transplants worldwide. The registry includes countless CWA members who have signed up on their own or at booths at past CWA conventions.

Members or retirees in need, or anyone who knows of a need within the CWA family, should contact CWA Senior Director Yvette Herrera at (202) 434-1133 or by email at yherrera@cwa-union.org.

Still Time to Nominate Young Women Leaders for First ‘Edna Award’

Don’t miss the chance to nominate an outstanding young woman in the social justice movement for the new $10,000 “Edna Award,” being given by the Berger-Marks Foundation.

Women up to 35 years old can be nominated or nominate themselves for the award, which will recognize a young leader who has already made a difference early in her social justice career.

The award expands Berger-Marks' commitment to young women, said Linda Foley, foundation president and former TNG-CWA president.

“Women are organizing unions; women are leading campaigns for universal health care; and women are demonstrating to young people what social justice means,” Foley said. “Our vision for this award is to highlight one young woman's remarkable work for social change.”

The award is named for Edna Berger, the foundation’s namesake and an early organizer at The Newspaper Guild-CWA. The foundation seeks to bring the benefits of unionization to women through training, research and other resources.

Applications, with a short essay, resume and two letters of recommendation, must be submitted online by July 15. Click here or go to www.bergermarks.org for an application and more information. The award will be presented this fall.

Click Here: A Workers’ Roundup of the Web’s Best

  • Real or Not? Some of the bills proposed by state lawmakers this year seem too crazy to be real. Find out whether you can separate fact from fiction in the AFL-CIO’s new quiz. Click the link or go to www.realornotquiz.com.
  • Editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich has a great take on Delta Airline’s baggage fees for the troops. Click here.

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