Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Listen to Verizon Virtual Union Meeting Tonight at 7 pm EDT

Verizon workers and supporters from throughout CWA can hear updates on the strike at tonight's "virtual union meeting." Leaders from CWA and IBEW, along with activists, will provide field reports and updates. Tune in at 7 p.m. to www.cwa-union.org/verizoncall.

CWA Files ULP Charges as Verizon Fails to Bargain in Good Faith

With the strike at Verizon now in its 13th day, 45,000 members of CWA and IBEW remain determined to stay out as long as it takes to get the company to bargain in good faith with their union bargaining teams.

CWA filed unfair labor practice charges against the company last week, asking the National Labor Relations Board to immediately order Verizon to drop its refusal to bargain and negotiate in good faith as the law requires. The company has refused to budge from the same list of unreasonable concessionary proposals it put on the table when contract talks opened in June.

Larry Cohen - Local 13000 picket

CWA President Larry Cohen joins members of CWA Local 13000 on a picket line in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Tim Shaffer/Reuters

The charges, filed with NLRB offices in New York and Baltimore, cover the bargaining for 35,000 workers at Verizon and VCSI, and about 70 at Verizon Wireless.

The company's behavior has led the governor of Maryland and 19 members of Congress from New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia to question Verizon's bargaining tactics and urge them to initiate good faith bargaining. Click here to read the letters.

CWA President Larry Cohen condemned Verizon's continued refusal to back off demands that would take huge cuts out the pockets of workers and their families when the company had plenty of money to reward top executives and shareholders. "This is totally unacceptable coming from a company that it had plenty of money to pay $10 billion to shareholders this year, and $258 million to its top five executives over the last four years."

CWA has made it clear that union members are prepared to return to work when Verizon begins to bargain seriously, yet the company has continued to stonewall, even to the point of resorting to scare tactics in an effort to frighten workers. This week, Verizon notified workers that on Aug. 31 it would cut off health benefits for union members who continue to strike, a move Verizon has not threatened to do in past strikes at this point during the bargaining.

Federal law requires employers to give striking employees the opportunity to continue to get health coverage under COBRA, and CWA has committed to assist workers in paying for their health benefits out of the union's Robert Lilja Members Relief Fund (RLMRF). Click here for more information.

Keep up with the latest at www.cwa-union.org/verizon. Sign the petition, join a picket line and stand with the Verizon workers as they stand up for middle-class families.

As Verizon Strike Continues, Workers' Struggle Gains Support Nationwide

Tens of thousands of working Americans, other unions, students, civil rights, religious, and community groups have joined union members' fight to get Verizon to bargain in good faith. More than 150,000 people so far have signed CWA's online petition, urging Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam to stop union-busting and negotiate fairly.

Local 4340 - Verizon picket

CWA Local 4340 members show support for striking members in Districts 1 and 2-13 by picketing a Verizon Wireless store in Cleveland.

Below: Members of AFSCME, the AFL-CIO central labor council, and Working America join members of CWA Local 6016 picketing a Verizon Wireless store in Oklahoma City.

Local 6016 - Verizon picket

As 45,000 striking union members close out their second week without a paycheck, their family members and friends have joined in with them on many of the more than 350 picket lines that have been formed outside Verizon corporate offices, garages, Verizon Wireless stores and other locations. CWA picket lines stretch from New York, the Mid Atlantic and Florida along the East Coast to the Mid-West and West Coast, and even in Hawaii.

Hundreds of CWA members outside the East and Mid Atlantic are continuing to show tremendous solidarity for strikers by picketing Verizon Wireless stores daily.

Three thousand delegates at the Steelworkers' convention this week in Las Vegas, cheered CWA District 9 Vice President Jim Weitkamp's call for them to join the fight. "You cannot be spectators," Weitkamp told USW delegates, stating that corporations are closely watching Verizon's attempt to carry the right-wing's attack on public workers in Wisconsin and New Jersey along to union members in the private industry.

"Educate your membership what this fight is all about, mobilize, and join us on the picket lines back East," Weitkamp said. Click here to read his speech.

The United Auto Workers is urging its members to adopt a Verizon Wireless store in their communities and join in picketing and hand-billing. In San Francisco, members of HERE, ILWU, OPEIU, joined with activists with Jobs with Justice and the BlueGreen Alliance rallied in support of striking Verizon workers.

In hundreds of events every day across the country, and in the Verizon East footprint, union members are spreading the message that Verizon's bargaining position is predicated on kicking its union workers out of the Middle Class. Outside Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg's house last weekend, 3,000 workers and supporters held a candlelight vigil and memorial service for the Middle Class.

In New York City, some 1,000 CWAers rallied outside a city board of education event honoring Verizon.

A plane trailing a banner reading "Stop Verizon Greed" flew over beaches in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia last weekend.

Average citizens, retirees, and local elected representatives are joining CWA on the picket line. In Alexandria, Va., Del. David Englin, who represents Virginia's 45th District in the General Assembly, joined Local 2222 members this week and urged the company to start bargaining seriously. "I proudly joined members of Local 2222 and stand with them in their strike against Verizon," he said. "These are men and women who work long hours at highly skilled and dangerous jobs to keep America's vital telecommunications infrastructure working, even under hazardous conditions during the worst kinds of emergencies."

Englin questioned the company's failure to share its financial success with the workers who built and maintain the company. Noting that Verizon's CEO makes 1,000 times more than the salary of the average Verizon worker, Englin told the Old Town Alexandria Patch newspaper, "Does anyone seriously believe he works one thousand times harder or is one thousand times more dedicated, professional, and conscientious than men and women working on the front lines?"

Support is coming from newspaper columnists as well, including TNG-CWA Local 31041 member Bob Kerr with the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. In a column entitled "They walk for many as they walk the picket line," Kerr said it was "a wonderfully gutsy and revealing thing the union employees of Verizon are doing" for America's middle class. "They are on strike in one of the worst economic climates we have seen in decades. Yet many feel their timing couldn't be better."

Kerr praised striking union members at CWA and IBEW for taking a stand against the behavior of corporations who outsource Americans jobs to low-wage countries in Asia and Mexico while continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of workers' livelihoods. "The Verizon workers walk for a lot of us," he said. "They walk for many who probably don't think unions play any part in their lives. But they do." Kerr asked his readers to "Honk the horn, show your appreciation" when driving by a Verizon worker on the picket line. Click here to read Kerr's article.

At www.unityatverizon.com, supporters can sign the petition, join a picket line and take other action to help defend Verizon workers' bargaining rights.

Strike Solidarity Fund Created to Assist Striking Verizon Families

Solidarity Fund Banner

A Verizon Strike Solidarity Fund has been created to assist striking families with special needs who are facing very difficult financial circumstances as the strike at Verizon continues. In announcing the creation of the fund this week, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill is urging CWA members and staff to contribute to support workers who have special needs.

"While we are fortunate enough to have a Members Relief Fund to give some assistance, there are always circumstances that are out of the ordinary where we would all like to do more. We have established a Solidarity Fund for just this purpose," said Hill. This could include extraordinary expenses for a child with a chronic medical condition, or for support with an aging parent with expensive care.

Click here to make a contribution.

Every Pro-Union Senator Reelected in Wisconsin Recall Elections

Thanks to tremendous get-out-the-vote efforts by CWAers and working families in Wisconsin, every Democratic senator was reelected in the series of recall elections prompted by Gov. Scott Walker's efforts, with Republicans, to strip workers of their bargaining rights.

In addition, two of six anti-worker Republican senators up for recall were defeated by labor and its allies. Together, these victories narrow to one seat, the majority anti-worker Republicans hold in the Wisconsin state senate.

"We reelected all of the Democrats that they tried to recall," said District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen. "While it would have been great to flip the Senate, we did very well in the largest recall elections in Wisconsin history and the fight continues."

Rosen credited the work of CWA Representative Frank Mathews, LPAT activists throughout the state. local union leaders and retirees. "They did tremendous work on all of these recalls," said Rosen. "I am very proud of CWA Wisconsin."

CWA and other unions in the state are now gearing up to unseat anti-union Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election in 2012.

CWA Members & Retirees Holding Congress Accountable

Houston - FAA

In Houston, more than 100 CWA members and retirees held Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) accountable for playing tea party shutdown politics with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Below: Julie Bratcher of CWA Local 9421 and other CWAers take part in a Medicare Town Hall meeting sponsored by Local 9421, the Sacramento Central Labor Council, the UFCW Local 8 and the IAM, and others.

Local 9421 - Medicare

In August and September, CWA members and retirees across the country are attending congressional town halls, visiting members of Congress at their district offices, and leafleting workplaces to hold Congress accountable for their votes on issues critical to workers and the middle class.

Last weekend, hundreds of members of CWA and AFA-CWA joined with other activists at a hotel next to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to urge House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) to stop playing politics, and provide full funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Mica was there to speak at a fundraiser.

Last month, Mica prompted a 12-day shutdown of the agency, and vital airport construction projects nationwide along with it, by blocking funding for the FAA unless Democrats agreed to restore un-Democratic union election rules in the airlines where non votes are counted as "no" votes. Some 70,000 workers were thrown off the job because of the shutdown.

Last Friday, CWAers also picketed outside of Mica's district office on Ponce De Leon Boulevard, in St. Augustine, Fla., to protest the congressman's role in the shutdown. "He's playing politics," said Floyd Carroll, legislative coordinator for CWA Local 3106. "It hurt our economy."

Delta Air Lines is a major player in getting an anti-union provision included into the FAA funding measure, and CWA members are mounting a petition drive to get the airline to back off. Delta and its political allies in Congress want to hold the FAA hostage again on Sept. 16 when the current short-term funding measure expires. Sign the petition here to tell Delta that union-busting won't fly.

Members and retirees are also targeting members of Congress for their votes to make deep cuts in Medicare, jeopardizing the benefits that millions of Americans rely on every day. In Sacramento, CWA members picketed the district office of Rep. Dan Lundgren, in one of four actions in Lundgren's congressional district. Lundgren voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program. On Aug. 23, in Duluth, Minn., CWA will host a contingent of senior citizens and other activists in a protest of Rep. Chip Cravaack's vote against Medicare.

Write your senator and member of Congress to protect the American dream by voting to protect Medicare. Click here.

CWA members have participated in more than 115 Accountability actions to date with 55 more actions currently planned for later this month and next. Click here to get involved or find an action in your area.

After Huge Bonuses, Frontier Execs Want Cutbacks from Workers

In a tune that's really getting old, Frontier Communications is pushing for big cuts from its CWA- and IBEW-represented workers after seeing fit to reward themselves with huge bonuses averaging 77 percent.

The unions are now negotiating new contracts covering Frontier workers in West Virginia, and they want the company to bring parity to "legacy" Frontier employees who worked at the company before Frontier bought Verizon's landline business last year. These workers earn much less than their former Verizion co-workers.

Negotiations cover some 2,300 Frontier workers in the state represented by CWA Locals 2001 and 2276. Local 2001's contract expired July 31 and the contract for Local 2276 members runs out August 20. CWA Local 3673 is also in the middle of bargaining for over 100 "spinco" workers (ex-Verizon) in Whittier, North Carolina. Their contract expired in April but they are working under an extension. Overall, CWA and IBEW represent more than 9,000 Frontier workers in 27 states and six CWA districts.

"These employees are working side by side, city by city, town to town, doing the same work," said District 2-13 Representative Elaine Harris who chairs the bargaining for Locals 2001 and 2276. "Why shouldn't they be paid the same. Wage parity is crucial," she stated.

The company is trotting out the familiar corporate line about having to remain "competitive" and seeking "market-based" compensation for its employees, but Frontier's top executives recently won huge bonuses, averaging 77 percent. Last year, compensation for CEO Maggie Wilderotter shot up from $4.8 million to $8.6 million. Pay for Frontier's CFO, Donald Shassian, jumped from $1.8 million to $2.7 million, and COO Daniel McCarthy's pay rose from $1.2 million to $2.2 million. The combined pay for two other top execs rose from $953,000 to $2.9 million.

"The priority for Frontier's top executives is to cut middle-class jobs and enrich themselves," said Harris. "If things are so good up there, then what about workers?" she asked.

Historic March Aug. 27 on the National Mall Will Honor MLK's Work and Legacy

Join CWA members, family and friends next Saturday, Aug. 27, for a once-in-lifetime rally and march to celebrate the unveiling of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial and continue King's fight for civil and workers' rights.

The march begins at 1:30 p.m. at 17th and Constitution Avenue along the National Mall. Participants will march past the Washington Monument to the new MLK Memorial, which is built in a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and the Jefferson Memorial.

CWA President Larry Cohen will be one of the event's featured speakers.

After 25 years of planning and fundraising, the memorial will be officially dedicated Aug. 28. It features two giant towers of granite representing the "Mountain of Despair" and the "Stone of Hope." An inscription wall along the perimeter of the monument has more than a dozen quotes from some of King's most memorable speeches.

Raise Taxes on the Super Rich, Billionaire Buffett Urges Congress

In an Aug. 14 New York Times Op-Ed column that made corporate execs and other members of the super rich cringe, Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the U.S., urged Congress to stop coddling the super rich and raise tax rates on Americans with incomes of $1 million or more.

Buffet, who is worth $50 billion, said he is appalled that he paid a lower percentage of federal taxes last year than anyone else working in his office who make a lot less. "Last year, my federal tax bill. . .was $6,9383,744. That sounds like a lot of money," he said, "but what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent," he said.

Buffet deplores the fact that tax rates for the nation's 400 richest have steadily fallen, declining from 29.2 percent in 1992 to just 21.5 percent in 2008. And "88 of the 400 in 2008," he noted, reported no wages at all" because all of their income was in the form of capital gains which are taxed at only 15 percent.

"My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," he said, stressing, "It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

Buffet said a higher tax rate for the super rich should be a major goal of the 12-person "super committee" in Congress that has been directed to come up with a plan cut the federal deficit when Congress reconvenes. He wants higher tax rates for those making $1 million and $10 million or more.

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