Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

DOJ Seeks to Block AT&T Deal with T-Mobile, Jeopardizing New Jobs

AT&T Planning to Return 5,000 Jobs to U.S. If Merger is Completed

Just as AT&T announced this week that it would return 5,000 wireless jobs to the United States following its pending merger with T-Mobile USA, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was seeking to block the deal.

CWA and AT&T sharply criticized the DOJ's decision, but said the battle is only beginning. Both CWA and the company have argued that the merger would create nearly 100,000 jobs as AT&T accelerates the build-out of high-speed broadband to 97 percent of the nation.

"The DOJ's action would put good jobs and workers' rights at the bottom of the government's priorities," CWA President Larry Cohen said, noting the news one day earlier that AT&T would bring home a net 5,000 jobs once the merger is complete. "That is the kind of corporate responsibility that more employers in the U.S. should demonstrate if we are ever to have an economic recovery.

"Instead of acting to block this merger, our government should be looking to support companies that create, keep and return good jobs to the United States," Cohen said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, "These jobs will provide quality wages and benefits and good working conditions for U.S. workers — exactly what's needed to help turn around our struggling economy."

New Jersey Public Workers File Federal Lawsuit Over Pension Cuts

Pension Cuts - Call the Police

After months of protests fighting attacks on members' pension benefits, CWA and other public worker unions in New Jersey are suing the state in federal court to stop the cuts.

CWA and other unions representing New Jersey public workers are taking the state to federal court to fight costly changes to employees' pension plans.

In passing the legislation, lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie broke decades of promises to public workers and violated the New Jersey and U.S. constitutions in multiple ways, union leaders said.

"New Jersey made a promise to its public workers: work hard, serve the people of New Jersey, and take a salary that is less than what you might earn in the private sector, and you can look forward to a secure and stable retirement," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA New Jersey state director. "It is not lavish: the average state pension, including managers, is $23,000 a year; and just $14,000 for local government workers. But hundreds of thousands of public service professionals planned their lives around that deal."

For most of the last 15 years, the state has failed to make its obligatory contributions to the employee pension plan, while workers have never missed a payment. But under the new law, retirees' automatic cost-of-living increases will be eliminated and current workers will have to pay even more into the system.

"Retirees and long-term public workers, who in many cases have devoted their entire working lives to the state of New Jersey, can't go back and choose a different path," Rosenstein said. "They earned every penny of their pensions, and if Trenton politicians won't keep their promise, we have no choice but to go to court to force them to uphold their end of the bargain."

Frontier Flight Attendants Ratify First Contract; Progress at Ryan, Omni

Frontier Airlines flight attendants represented by the AFA-CWA have ratified a first contract with strong job security language, a grievance procedure and other protections.

The nearly 1,000 flight attendants joined AFA-CWA last year. The agreement, amendable in 2016, contains a provision for an earlier re-opener. "Frontier flight attendants were very clear that any agreement must provide job security and protect our interests moving forward," AFA Frontier President Erika Schweitzer said. "This contract provides stability in what is a volatile industry."

In related news, flight attendants at two other airlines are working with AFA-CWA to advance and protect their careers.

At Ryan International, 200 AFA-CWA flight attendants have filed for mediation in an effort to move their contract negotiations forward. Bargaining at Ryan was brought to a standstill by management's demand that safety professionals be on duty for 20 hours and adhere to other onerous work rules.

At Omni Air International, more than 400 flight attendants have filed for a union representation election. Based in Tulsa, the airline operates international and domestic passenger charters and provides troop and cargo support for members of the U.S. armed forces.

NLRB Affirms Right to Organize, Overturns Earlier Anti-Worker Rulings

In important victories for workers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has reversed two earlier board decisions and issued a new rule ordering employers to post notices informing workers that they have a legal right to form a union.

The new rule, published this week and effective Nov. 14, brings a modest improvement to workplaces where employers regularly mislead workers about their union rights.

The notice is similar to one the U.S. Labor Department requires for federal contractors and states that "employees have the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions, to form, join and assist a union, to bargain collectively with their employer, and to refrain from any of these activities," as ordered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935. The notice provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct and tells employees how to contact the NLRB with questions or complaints.

Until now, the NLRA was the only federal workplace law that employers weren't required to post. Notices on federal minimum wage, equal opportunity, and health and safety laws have long been required.

In other key rulings, the NLRB reversed two Bush-era board decisions favoring union opponents. The board struck down a 2007 decision that allowed anti-union workers to file for a decertification election immediately after a majority of their coworkers won recognition through majority sign-up. The board also reversed a 2002 ruling that allowed a union decertification vote immediately after a company changed ownership.

In a final ruling involving organizing at health care facilities, the NLRB said the Steelworkers could organize certified nursing assistants as part of a single bargaining unit, without including workers performing unrelated jobs. That overturns a 1991 board decision that made it more difficult for health care workers to organize.

The decisions are the last by the board under the leadership of NLRB Chairwoman Wilma Liebman, whose term expired Aug. 28. The new chair is Mark Pearce, who was appointed by President Obama during a Congressional recess last year.

The normally five-member board is down to three: Pearce and Craig Becker, both Democrats, and Brian Hayes, a Republican. However, Becker's appointment expires Dec. 31. If new nominations and Senate approval aren't forthcoming by then, the board will have just two members and won't be allowed to render decisions, per a 2010 Supreme Court ruling.

CWA Women's Conference Inspires Members to 'Learn, Think, Change'

Womens Conference - Large Group

About 200 CWA women, and men, attended the National Women's Conference in Chicago last week. Photos by Dawn Sickles, CWA Local 1101.

Below: Audience members look at an illustration of an early all-male, all-white CWA Executive Board. During her keynote address, CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill (at podium), compared it with a photo of today's more diverse board.

Womens Conference

Rousing speakers, authors, panel discussions and group activities at the CWA National Women's Conference in Chicago last week inspired 200 eager participants as they developed action plans for the coming year.

Energized by what they heard and learned, participants set goals that focused on each side of the CWA Triangle — organizing, bargaining/representation and political/legislative work.

The conference, with the theme, "Learn, Think, Change," was planned by the CWA National Women's Committee. Members are Kathleen Hernandez, District 1; Kathy Jo Hillman, District 2-13; Kim Ball, District 3; Jennifer Morgan, District 4; Virginia Anderson-Dunbar, District 6; Shari Wojtowicz, District 7; and Gayle Crawley, District 9, the committee's chair.

One big change for union women was illustrated photographically by CWA Secretary-Treasurer Annie Hill, who showed the audience a picture of what was once CWA's all-male, all-white executive board, and a current photograph of the union's far more diverse board.

"I talked about the fact that we had made a difference, but we still have a long way to go," Hill said. "We've made progress, as the photographs show, but we're still not finished."

By focusing on building coalitions and working with allies, Hill said the conference "had one of the best agendas I've seen," reflecting CWA's overall program while tying it to issues of special concern to women. For instance, one presentation looked at CWA's work building coalitions in various states to push for paid sick leave laws.

With 2011 marking the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the conference included a film about the tragedy that killed 146 garment workers, mostly young immigrant women, in New York City. A second film shown, "Made in Dagenham," is known as Britain's Norma Rae. "It was so engrossing that even the hotel staff asked where they could purchase copies to share with family members," said Nancy Biagini, CWA representative for legislative/human rights.

Participants ended the conference by lining up to sign a pledge of solidarity showing their strong support for Verizon workers fighting for a fair contract.

Town Hall Crowds: Social Security, Medicare Cuts Unacceptable

'August Accountability' Actions Forcing Lawmakers to Listen

Town Hall Hands Off Medicare

CWA members and retirees in New York state tell Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, "Hands Off Medicare" in one of hundreds of August protests by CWA and allies nationwide.

Faced with tough questions from CWA members and other angry voters at town hall meetings and protests over the last month, some Republican lawmakers have been defiant. But there's evidence that others are listening, especially on the critical issues of protecting Medicare and Social Security.

"Don't cut my Social Security and Medicare. I've heard that quite a bit," South Dakota Sen. John Thune acknowledged after meetings with his constituents. In fact, he said those concerns were even more prevalent than anger over the inability of Congress to get anything done.

At a town hall Monday in Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley faced a roomful of signs and boisterous applause each time a voter got up and urged him to strengthen Social Security, not cut it or privatize it — a scheme Grassley himself pushed for as Senate Finance Committee chairman in 2005.

A woman who said she and her husband run a business in Carroll County, asked, "Why can't we raise the wage cap in order to ensure that Social Security can continue on as it is without talking about cutting it?" As reported by ThinkProgress.org, she said that both she and her husband as the business owners and another family member working for it would pay more if the cap were raised, "And you know what? No complaints. We want to have Social Security!"

One man talked about losing his IRA and 401k funds when the stock market imploded in 2008, the year he retired. "By October, that entire pension was gone because the stock market went south on me," he said. "And if that had been my Social Security, sir, I wouldn't have that or not as much of it. I would be expected to live on whatever the stock market leaves me."

CWA members and retirees have been involved in more than 200 events nationwide over the last month as members of Congress have been on recess in their home districts. The push continues over the next few days, before lawmakers head back to Washington.

CWAers Keep Up Pressure on Verizon as Bargaining Resumes

Verizon Workers Support

Above and right: In one of hundreds of "adopt a store" actions nationwide, Local 4202 members at AT&T Mobility have been leafleting daily outside a Champaign, Ill., Verizon Wireless store.

As bargaining with Verizon reconvened in Rye, N.Y., this week for 35,000 CWA members and 10,000 more at IBEW, negotiators went back to the table with a clear message: workers will not allow the company to destroy their collective bargaining rights or decades of hard-won progress made in past negotiations.

Save the Middle Class

The "reset" of the company's bargaining position was made possible by the tremendous mobilization of CWA members and their supporters up and down the East Coast, and by activists at Verizon Wireless stores nationwide. CWAers will continue to pass out leaflets in front of Verizon Wireless to maintain pressure on the company for a fair contract.

Click here or visit www.unityatverizon.com for bargaining updates, news about ongoing mobilization activities and information about tonight's Verizon update phone call at 7 p.m. EDT.

Techs Join CWA in Ohio and Wyoming; Media Workers Join in New York

Technicians at ADT and AT&T Mobility organized with CWA over the last week in campaigns in Ohio and Wyoming.

In Cleveland and West Chester, Ohio, 13 technicians voted unanimously for representation with CWA Locals 4484 amd 4400. In Wyoming, seven network AT&T Mobility technicians of the Wyoming Network Group (formerly Alltel), joined CWA Local 7601 through majority sign up.

In New York, nine workers at the Forward Association, a publisher of Jewish newspapers and digital media, voted unanimously for representation by the Newspaper Guild of New York, TNG-CWA Local 31003.

Parades? Picnics? Actions? Tell Us How Your Local Spends Labor Day

Is your local parading, picnicking or making other plans to celebrate Labor Day? The CWA Newsletter wants to know.

Send us an email no later than next Wednesday, Sept. 7, and tell us what your local did on Labor Day or over the weekend in honor of America's workers. Please include up to three of the best photographs of your event, along with caption information.

Email news@cwa-union.org. Please include your full name, local number and a contact telephone number.

CEOs' Paychecks Bigger than Federal Tax Bills for 25 U.S. Companies

Twenty-five of America's richest CEOs took home more pay last year than their companies paid in federal income taxes, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies.

That list includes Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg, who was paid $18.1 million while 13,000 workers were laid off. How much did Verizon pay Uncle Sam on the company's $11.9 billion in pre-tax earnings? Zilch. In fact, Verizon got a $705 million tax refund.

The 25 companies include General Electric, Boeing, eBay, banks and insurance companies, and like Verizon, many of them paid no federal income taxes at all. Those that did, still paid their CEOs more.

Most of the companies also spent more on lobbying and on political candidates than they paid the IRS. Click here to read the full report or go to www.ips-dc.org.

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