Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

With 2 Days to Go, Verizon Presses Contract Demands

With the clock on a fair contract for 43,000 Verizon East workers running out at midnight, Saturday Aug. 6, the company has refused to budge from retrogressive bargaining proposals that it knows would be soundly rejected by CWA and IBEW-represented workers.

Verizon Bargaining Entry Picket

Informational picketing by Local 13000 in Valley Forge, Pa., brought short a Verizon training session for replacement workers ("scabs").

Below: Verizon is "trying to take away the benefits that we've bargained over the last few decades," Local 1111 President Sean McAvoy told WETM in Elmira, N.Y.

Local 1111 Pres McAvoy

Since bargaining began, Verizon has sought to destroy contract gains bargained by workers over nearly 50 years of bargaining. Among other things on its long list of demands, management wants to freeze the pension plan for covered workers and eliminate it entirely for all others, dramatically increase health care costs for active workers and retirees, and base wage increases on subjective evaluations by supervisors.

Last week, union members at Verizon let management know that they were determined to fight back against Verizon's greed, voting 91 percent to authorize a strike, if necessary, to get the company to bargain a fair contract that reflects workers' contribution to their company's success. Verizon earnings for the first half of 2011 reached nearly $6.9 billion, more than double what it made during the first 6 months of 2010.

Throughout Districts 1 and 2-13, CWAers at Verizon have intensified mobilization activities, taking their message for a fair contract into their workplaces, to the media, and the public.

In Richmond, Va., members of Local 2201 are conducting information picketing daily at company facilities in the city, wearing red to work, and conducting organized "stand-ups" at their workplaces. Tonight, members of the local are joining hundreds of other workers across the district in a mass hand-billing of customers at Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other restaurants that are owned by Clarence Otis, a member of the Verizon board which approved giving Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg and top executives $258 million over the past four years. CWAers in District 1 will also be taking part in the hand-billing of Otis-owned restaurants.

In Valley Forge, Pa., Local 13000 members set up picket lines to disrupt management classes for training replacement workers ("scabs"). The union presence persuaded a Verizon retiree who had been doing the training to think otherwise and the training was canceled according to Local 13000 Unit 22 President Rich Sibley.

In Elmira, N.Y., Local 1111 members are taking their message into the workplace every day, wearing red t-shirts, and conducting informational picketing at Verizon facilities. They are also reaching out to the local news media to get the true story out to the public. "It's unfortunate, but it seems like it's an attack on the middle class," explained Local President Sean McAvoy. "They are trying to take away the benefits that we've bargained for over past decades." Click here to view his interview.

Keep the pressure on Verizon by sending a strong "fair contract now" message to new company CEO Lowell McAdam at www.cwa-union.org/verizon. Sign up for Unity@Verizon updates at the website or via your cell phone by texting "mobilize" to 69866. Check out workers' Facebook page at www.facebook.com/UnityatVerizon2011.

15,000 Verizon Workers Jam NY City Streets for A Fair Contract

More than 15,000 Verizon workers and allies turned downtown New York City streets into a sea of red shirts last Saturday to fight the company's effort to gut decades of bargained for gains in pensions, health care, sick leave, pay and more.

15,000 Strong Verizon Rally

"It's all about good jobs" is the message that 15,000 Verizon workers took to the New York City streets last Saturday in a massive mobilization rally for a fair contract.

Below: The downtown rally by Verizon headquarters was one of the city's largest union demonstrations, with marchers stretched along four city blocks.

Sea of Red at the Verizon Rally

Many of the thousands of workers, outraged over Verizon's bargaining proposals, traveled hundreds of miles to the rally, many bringing their families. CWAers from southern Virginia boarded buses at midnight, and others traveled from Connecticut. CWA members from Verizon West came from California to show solidarity with their brothers and sisters from CWA Districts 1 and 2-13 even though they aren't part of the current Verizon East negotiations.

Despite huge profits and multimillion dollar compensation for top execs, Verizon came to the bargaining table with a list of retrogressive demands that would roll back years of gains in workers' living standards. At the rally, CWA President Larry Cohen blistered the company for its recent decision to pay a $4.5 billion dividend to its wireless business partner Vodafone.

"We are here to say to them if you can pay Vodafone at this time, in the last 7 days of negotiations, a $4.5 billion in a dividend that you haven't paid in years, you can pay us. Workers across this country, and across this company must stand up and must fight back. This is what democracy looks like, not what's going on in Washington right now."

On stage, speaker after speaker slammed the company for demanding more work for much less compensation. "What they want to do is to throw away 60 years of bargaining," said CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton, holding up the current contract, ripping out pages one by one. "We're not going to let it happen." Shelton said. "What they really want to do is to bust your union. They want to gut the middle class and they're starting with you."

CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney urged workers to take the fight into their workplaces. "It's our job to take our message to management every day until they take their proposals off the bargaining table. We must take our message to management into every workplace and tell them that we are not going back — and that they are not taking it back."

Joining CWA leaders was IBEW International President Edwin Hill, whose union is bargaining with CWA for 10,000 members at Verizon. He vowed that workers' unity would force the company to negotiate a fair contract. "Verizon needs a history lesson, and school is in," he said, referring to victory in contract battles of the past.

A long list of local politicians gave the workers full support. Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, exhorted the crowd to "fight to keep your benefits. Verizon is a very profitable corporation, and it's YOU who have made them profitable." State Senator Diane Savino reminded Verizon who is responsible for its success and profitability. "Labor creates the wealth. Labor should share in the wealth," she said. State assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries got the crowd rocking by calling Verizon executives out, vowing that regulators would keep the company's feet to the fire. "The Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over Verizon because it deals in a public service," he said. "But it is you who create that service, not the corporate executives in that building. They must be held accountable."

Other speakers included CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, New York State AFL-CIO President Dennis Hughes, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, SEIU 32B-J Secretary-Treasurer Hector Figueroa, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Assemblyman Peter Abbate, and Councilman Vincent Gentile.

View video from the rally here, here, and here.

CWA Activist Call Focuses on August Accountability Actions, Medicare

Town Hall Meeting Reminder

The fight to save Medicare is one of several key topics being discussed in tonight's virtual town hall meeting featuring House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Tonight, thousands of CWA activists will join another "virtual union meeting" and talk about actions planned in the home districts of members of Congress in August and September.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will join the call, along with Justin Ruben, executive director of Move On; CWA President Larry Cohen and activists gearing up for community actions.

CWAers have events planned in 30 locations so far, with the Legislative Political Action Teams coordinating events, worksite leafleting and other actions. All CWA events and union events are being posted at http://www.we-r-1.org/.

Yesterday, CWAers joined Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Tx.) at a demonstration and news conference at the Houston Airport, where Lee called on Congress to return to Washington and pass the FAA Reauthorization, which has been blocked by representatives doing the bidding of Delta Air Lines. Delta wants to eliminate the democratic voting standard for union elections covering airline and transportation workers. (See related story.) "We must not allow the safety of passengers and the security of American jobs to be compromised for political gain," she said.

To join the call, dial 1-888-886-6603, extension 16979. And check out CWA's website, www.cwa-union.org, for updates on the August-September actions.

Breaking: FAA Shutdown Ends As Congress Reaches Temporary Accord

As this issue went to press, the House and Senate announced an agreement to extend FAA funding through mid-September, bringing an end to a 12-day partial shutdown of the agency, and sending tens of thousands of FAA employees and private contractors back to work. The temporary funding measure does not include the anti-labor provisions sought by Republicans to overturn a new NMB rule that makes airline union elections fair and democratic.

CWA condemned Congress for leaving town on recess for the entire month of August without first approving critical reauthorization funding to prevent the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Since July 23, more than 4,000 FAA safety inspectors and other agency employees have been without paychecks, and $2.5 billion worth of airport projects across the nation have come to a halt, prompting the layoffs of nearly 70,000 private contract workers. The cost to the FAA and taxpayers: some $200 million for each week of the shutdown.

At issue in the impasse is a provision Republicans inserted into the House of Representatives version of the FAA Reauthorization bill that would overturn the democratic election "majority vote" rules that the National Mediation Board set in place last year for airline and transportation union elections.

Delta Air Lines, which has vigorously fought efforts by flight attendants and other workers to organize, is the driving force behind the anti-union language in the House's FAA measure.

"It is unconscionable that lawmakers would leave for summer vacation while over 70,000 workers including FAA employees, construction workers, engineers, scientists, architects and others are without a job," said AFA-CWA President Veda Shook. "This complete abdication of responsibility is shortsighted and senseless.

Shook noted that the shutdown was affecting not only aviation workers, but also the critical work of improving the nation's airport infrastructure. "Every day, we fall another day behind in maintaining and advancing the world's best aviation system," she warned.

Republicans have sought to shift their responsibility for this crisis by claiming that the issue is over their efforts to cut some $14 million in subsidies to commercial airlines serving rural airports. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) who is leading an effort to free up the funds and protect airline workers' rights descried the GOP's tactics. "Why are they doing it?" he asked, during remarks on the Senate floor. "I think it's the whole anti-worker thing that started in Wisconsin. Republicans are clinging to it."

Members of AFA-CWA held mobilization actions this week at airports in Oakland, Calif., Houston, Tex., and Kalamazoo, Mich., to bring attention to the shutdown. Throughout August, other events are being planned at airports across the country.

Indiana CWAers Attend Hearing, Prepare to Fight 'Right to Work' Bill

Perched in the balcony of Indiana's Senate chamber last week, CWA Local 4900 members listened intently and prepared for their next big legislative fight as Republicans called a "study hearing" on right to work (for less) legislation. CWA's activism during the legislative session earlier this year helped shelve the anti-union bill temporarily, but opponents knew the battle wasn't over.

The hearing sets the stage for a renewed fight in January, when the Indiana Legislature resumes work. Five Local 4900 members attended, and Vice President Jane Phillips said many other unions were also represented. Phillips said it was tough to sit quietly and listen to hours of testimony from Chamber of Commerce-backed speakers, but overall she came away from hearing feeling that it had gone well for workers.

"It's hard to listen when people aren't telling the truth, when they're attacking the middle class and directly attacking unions," she said. But when Democratic senators had their chance to cross-examine the speakers, "our legislators did such a great job. They were very prepared. I was very proud of the way they handled it."

Also impressive was the testimony of University of Oregon Professor Gordon Lafer, an expert on union issues and the propaganda used to sell misleading "right to work" legislation. Lafer introduced a rigorous study showing that workers in "right to work" states lose $1,500 on average in income, in addition to benefit cuts.

"Professor Lafer had all his facts and figures and he was able to refute the claims that the Chamber and its witnesses made," Phillips said. "We'll be armed with his information as we fight this terrible bill next year."

Updated CWA Workplace Violence Booklet Now Online

Violence in the Workplace

A new, updated Violence in the Workplace booklet on CWA's website is a valuable education tool to help locals identify, prevent, or head off potentially violent situations or behaviors.

The guide, developed jointly by CWA's Education and Health & Safety Departments is available in the "Educational Materials" section of CWA's website. Click here to view or download the 24-page guide (PDF).

The Violence in the Workplace booklet has added a new section on "bullying" to help local leaders and stewards identify behavior that bullies use to intimate, degrade, offend, or humiliate others in the workplace. Also highlighted are those occupations and workplaces where violence has been known to occur at a higher rate than others — among them correctional facilities, retail stores, airline passenger cabins, and outside tech work in high-crime or isolated areas.

Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC. All Rights Reserved.
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