Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

IUE-CWA Members Vote to Ratify General Electric Contract

With 70 percent "yes" votes, IUE-CWA members at General Electric have ratified the four-year contract that negotiators reached in June after four weeks of bargaining.

The new contract covers nearly 8,000 IUE-CWA members at GE. It includes wage and pension improvements and limits increases in workers’ share of health care costs.

"I am pleased that our members recognize the value in this agreement," said IUE-CWA GE and Aerospace Conference Board Chairman Bob Santamoor. "These were difficult negotiations in a difficult economic climate. Members evaluated the package as a whole and found it acceptable."

IUE-CWA bargained jointly with other GE unions, whose members have also voted to ratify.

Political Hardball Wins Long-Awaited Raises for SUNY T.A.'s

Local 1104 Shames New York Politicians with Assertive Ad Campaign

Local 1104 President George Bloom

Local 1104 President George Bloom and members rally at New York's capitol during the fight to get teaching assistants' raises approved.

It took some serious political brawling by CWA Local 1104, but when the New York Legislature ended its session, 6,000 members of the local's Graduate Student Employees Union finally had the raises they negotiated in 2009.

As members rallied and mobilized, local President George Bloom hired a full-time lobbyist, spent long days in Albany himself and ultimately unleashed a feisty newspaper and radio advertising campaign.

Ultimately, the legislature passed the long-pending bill approving the negotiated raises, as New York law requires for state workers. But in the political upheaval that's led to three governors in three years and several scandal-ridden Democratic lawmakers switching parties, the teaching assistants' contract got stuck.

That meant none of the negotiated 3 percent annual raises for GSEU members, who teach nearly half the classes at the State University of New York (SUNY) but earn only $12,000 a year.

In mid-June, as a national audience watched the New York Legislature embroiled in the same-sex marriage debate, Bloom bought radio and half-page newspaper ads to ensure that politicians wouldn't leave Albany without taking care of his members.

The governor's office, which needed to push the legislature to pass the bill, was inundated with phone calls, leading to some heated exchanges between Bloom and a Cuomo deputy.

"We had to do something drastic," Bloom said. "I'm a big believer that if you don't drum up public support, you're never going to get what you need. So that's what we did."

Making ends meet without raises wasn't the only financial hardship for GSEU members, said Kathleen Sims, executive vice president for Local 1104's Education Division. While the contract was in limbo, teaching assistants weren't getting reimbursed for required professional development training, fees for computer use and other work expenses.

"They are so relieved," Sims said. "We have members who have been waiting for reimbursement since 2007. This is a huge victory, and it wasn't easy to come by."

Although the raises are newly approved, the contract has expired, covering 2007-2009. Sims said the expectation in 2009 was that lawmakers would approve the pay bill, and negotiations for the next contract would get underway. Bloom said the local's bargaining committee will meet this month and hopes to get new talks underway soon.

Workshop Inspires, Energizes CWA, Sierra Club Members in Texas

Coalition-Building Event Focuses on Shared Goals for Jobs, Environment

CWA and the Sierra Club

As part of CWA's coalition-building efforts, Texas CWA and Sierra Club members met for two days in June to discuss joint projects that would help workers, create jobs and protect the environment.

Group from the Sierra Club and CWA

Revved up by a high-energy workshop last month, Texas CWA and Sierra Club members learned how much they have in common, and how to put their shared principles to work in the fight for good jobs and a clean, safe environment.

The two-day meeting in Austin brought together 16 CWA members, 13 Sierra Club members and the coordinator of a Texas alliance for clean energy jobs.

The 30 participants learned about each other’s organizations and goals, discovering how similar they are. With both unions and environmentalists under corporate, political and economic attack, the workshop stressed that a united movement is the only way to fight back.

"We learned how much more effective we could become if we join our forces to achieve our common objectives," said Local 6137 Vice President Jake Tafolla. "We were awed by the potential. Walking away, I feel we are all looking forward to working together to build the strongest of coalitions for the common good of our communities, our state, and our nation."

In spite of the relentless attacks from common enemies, Tafolla and other participants emerged optimistic. They gave the workshop rave reviews and said they're excited about what they can accomplish together, from legislation and political campaigns to broadband build-out and other projects.

A similar meeting, also generating great enthusiasm, was held earlier this year for Virginia CWA and Sierra Club members. The groups helped each other oppose telecom and environmental deregulatory bills in the Virginia Legislature that would have benefited corporations at the expense of workers, consumers and the environment. Now, activists are working on an action plan for fall.

In Texas, participants divided into groups to work on such issues as unfair trade deals, massive state budget cuts, the pending AT&T/T-Mobile merger, ways to create clean-energy, union jobs in Texas and the 2012 elections. Each group explained how and why the issue "is important to CWA, the Sierra Club and Texas, identified allies and targets, and identified specific ways in which both groups could work together when they get back home," said CWA Research Economist Ken Peres, who coordinated the meeting.

One group didn't wait: They asked all participants to write to their member of Congress regarding the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, and collected the letters to mail.

Dave Cortez, Texas coordinator for the Apollo Alliance, said he's "thrilled" to have been part of the workshop and has heard the same thing from other veteran activists. "They've told me that it was unlike any other training they'd experienced," he said. "What I learned in the meeting is already helping me to build bridges between environmental and labor activists in other organizations."

CWA and the Sierra Club are working together to identify more states in which to hold joint workshops.

Wisconsin Volunteers Knock on 100,000+ Doors as Election Day Nears

CWA Activists Help Get Out the Vote for July 12, July 19 Primaries

Wisconsin Phone Bank

CWA Local 4630's Lindy McGraw and Mark Frey work a phone bank in advance of July's recall elections, part of the fight to restore collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public workers.

With just days to go until Wisconsin's first round of recall elections, CWA members and thousands of other volunteers are using every available moment to make phone calls and knock on doors.

The broad-based We Are Wisconsin coalition celebrated a milestone over the holiday weekend, surpassing its goal of visiting 100,000 voters' homes before the July 12 primaries. Volunteers also have made about 150,000 phone calls.

"Our CWA Legislative-Political Action Team members have been working non-stop to make sure as many people as possible understand what is at stake in these recall elections," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "Working class Wisconsin will send a strong message this summer."

The coalition, whose volunteers include not only union activists but fed-up Republicans and nonpartisans never before involved in politics, is fighting to unseat six Republican state senators who voted to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers. They are also fighting to save the jobs of three Democratic senators, up for recall July 19, who left the state in February to prevent a quorum and a speedy vote on the union-busting bill.

The Republican recalls were expected to be over and done with on July 12, until a widely publicized dirty-tricks campaign turned them into primaries. Rather than one Republican incumbent and one Democratic challenger on the ballot, the Wisconsin GOP entered party members as fake Democrats in the races. The top two vote-getters in each race will compete in a general election Aug. 16.

The same thing will happen with two of the Democrats' races on July 19. One race, however, is not a primary. Democratic incumbent Dave Hansen has only one opponent, Republican David Vanderleest, and whoever wins will get the Senate seat.

Check the We are Wisconsin website for updates on the elections and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Safety & Health Training Set for September in Atlanta, Phoenix

Building on the success of a joint occupational safety and health conference in May, CWA and the Steelworkers are offering two more regional opportunities this year for union activists to get safety and health training.

Conferences will be held in September in Atlanta and Phoenix. Both events include two days of sessions on such topics as union health and safety committees, industrial hygiene, and labor and the environment. Those sessions will be followed by a four-day program for activists who want OSHA trainer certification.

The Georgia conference begins Sept. 11 at the Atlanta Hyatt Hotel. The Arizona conference begins Sept. 25 at the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel. Click the links (PDFs) for registration, hotel costs and other details.

To redouble efforts to protect members against workplace and environmental hazards, CWA and the Steelworkers began partnering 2 ½ years ago on occupational safety and health training and education. Click here for CWA's safety and health webpage.

CWA Announces 15 Winners for 2011 Joe Beirne Scholarhips

CWA has announced the 2011 Joe Beirne Foundation scholarship winners — 15 new or returning students who will receive $3,000 per year for two years for any post-high school education.

Winners are spread among CWA districts based on a per capita formula. They are chosen by random drawing, but all applicants must submit a short essay describing what the union has meant to them and their career goals. CWA members and their families are eligible; about 1,500 people applied this year.

The winners are: Victor Poretti, Local 1036; William Harron, Local 1031; Dwayne Apple, Local 1170; George Dolan, Local 1120; Tiffany Gladden, Local 2108; Roberto Castro, Local 3121; Nicholas George, Local 3611; Michelle Espinoza, Local 4108; Michael O'Malley, TNG-CWA Local 34001; Gary Karlin, Local 6407; Colleen Bonner, Local 6186; Randy Beck, IUE-CWA Local 87140; Jose Alvarado, Local 9509; Andrew Ross, TNG-CWA Local 39521; and John James, Local 13301.

The Beirne awards honor CWA's founding president. Click here to learn more about the scholarships and how to apply next year.

Bahr Scholarships Make College Possible for Two More CWAers

Two members of the CWA family are among five people awarded 2011-12 Bahr Scholarships covering full tuition and fees for the distance-learning program at Empire State College in New York.

Local 1031 member Susan Gluchanicz and Cheryl Donahue, the wife of a Local 1114 member, are among 40 students who have been able to pursue bachelor's degrees since the Bahr program began in 2001.

The scholarships are named for CWA President Emeritus Morton Bahr and honor his lifelong commitment to education. They are offered to union members and their families, including domestic partners.

Start thinking now about applying for next year's round of scholarships. Click here to learn more about the application process and the courses available at the college's Center for Distance Learning.

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