Communications Workers of America | E-Activist Newsletter

Unions' Intense Lobbying Stops Republicans from Crippling NLRB

CWA and other unions Wednesday defeated an effort by Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee to prevent the National Labor Relations Board from carrying out its mission to protect workers against employers' unfair labor practices.

The fight will continue on the Senate floor where Republicans want to strip the agency of its legal power and responsibilities to protect union workers from employers' retaliation.

The fight stems from an amendment introduced by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) to bar the NLRB from pursuing a case against Boeing, which is charged with retaliating against union employees by moving work from Washington state to a new, non-union production line in South Carolina.

The amendment was defeated in a 14-14 tie. While it focused on Boeing, it would have prevented the NLRB from pursuing any cases involving companies that move work from a union to a non-union plant to retaliate for lawful union activity.

Hundreds of union members' calls to the offices of two wavering Democrats persuaded Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska to join with 13 other Democrats in voting against the measure. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted with Republicans.

"The actions the NLRB has taken under both Republican and Democratic majorities against employers that have engaged in blatant violation of human rights protected in law would no longer be possible if this amendment were to pass," CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson said in a letter to Nelson and other members of Congress.

He warned that the amendment "would set back decades of labor law and was an attack on all working people, their rights and their jobs."

The campaign to stop the Senate from weakening the NLRB is essential because the House already has passed legislation to prevent the agency from acting to defend workers in cases such as Boeing's.

But efforts by CWA and other unions did make a difference. Despite the fact that House Republican leaders have effectively declared war on the NLRB, the lobbying campaign persuaded seven GOP representatives to join House Democrats in voting against the bill.

Cohen to ver.di: Together We Will Make a Difference

Larry Cohen at ver.di

CWA President Larry Cohen thanks 10,000 delegates to the ver.di convention in Germany for their "incredible support" for the T-Mobile workers' organizing efforts in the United States.

Speaking to 10,000 delegates at the ver.di convention in Liepzig, Germany, CWA President Larry Cohen thanked ver.di members for their support and determination to help T-Mobile USA workers gain a union voice.

"ver.di's work has been incredible," Cohen said, citing actions at the Deutsche Telekom annual meetings, visits from T-Mobile USA workers with their counterparts in Dusseldorf and other locations, actions by ver.di union members supporting TU, the global union for T-Mobile workers, and much more.

"These bonds sustain us and continue to be a source of support. Through these bonds we seek to build a global partnership to ensure the dignity of working people — in Germany, the United States and elsewhere," he said.

He thanked ver.di President Frank Bsirke and leaders Lothar Schröder, Ado Wilhelm and Kornelia Dubbel for making TU a model for the world.

Read the full speech here. While in Germany, Cohen also met with other labor leaders and government officials.

Verizon Technician Electrocuted Working on Elevated Lines in Brooklyn

Local 1109 Mourns Loving Friend, Father With 'Infectious Smile'

Doug Lalima_1109

CWA Local 1109 member Doug Lalima with his family. The Verizon technician was electrocuted while working on elevated lines in Brooklyn on Sept. 14.

Doug Lalima, a beloved CWA Local 1109 member and father of four, died last week after coming in contact with power lines while working on elevated Verizon cables.

Lalima, 37, was inside his truck's raised bucket when witnesses heard a "pop" and saw fire. The Sept. 14 accident is under investigation by CWA, Verizon and OSHA.

Lalima had been a Verizon lineman for 15 years. In a tribute online, Local 1109 said, "Doug was an extremely hard worker and a great friend to those who were lucky enough to know him. Doug had an infectious smile and his co-workers loved working with him. They said it best when they told us 'When you were teamed up with Doug you knew it was going to be a great day. It didn't feel like work when you were with him. The day would go by so fast.'"

Lalima leaves his wife, Vienna, and four daughters, Victoria, 12, Olivia, 10, Sophia, 6, and Julia, 3. "Doug cherished every day with his family and couldn't wait to get home to them. He always had a smile on his face when talking about them," the local said in its tribute.

Friends and coworkers have established a fund for Lalima's children, and have set up a Facebook page for donations.

Electrical hazards have been a major concern of CWA's Occupational Safety and Health Department, which has held workshops for and met with employers to work together to reduce risks. Over eight months in 2006-07, four Verizon technicians, two from CWA and two IBEW, were electrocuted. An AT&T technician represented by CWA in Detroit was electrocuted in 2010.

CWA's Next Verizon Update Call Set for Thursday, Sept. 29

Sign up now to take part in next Thursday's Verizon update call, when national and district CWA leaders will provide the latest information and take your questions.

The call will be at 7 p.m., Eastern time, Sept. 29. To get connected to the call, register by going to www.cwa-union.org/verizoncall or text VZCALL to 69866. (Standard text messenging rates apply.)

If you'd like to submit a question, use the online sign-up form, even if you've previously registered for the calls.

In 'Breathtaking Hypocrisy,' Mica Boasts About FAA Grant for His District

Senate Vote Keeps FAA Open For Now; Fight Continues for Long-Term Funds

FAA Protest-Sacramento

Fighting for good jobs and workers' rights, CWA members from Sacramento to Florida (below) are pressuring Republicans in Congress to stop playing politics with FAA funding.

FAA Protest Local 3108 Florida

After forcing a costly, job-killing FAA shutdown in July over his anti-union demands, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) is now bragging about a fat FAA grant that will improve an airport in his congressional district.

"Projects like this are essential to spur economic development in our local community," Mica said of the $6.2 million awarded to upgrade runways and taxiways at St. Augustine's airport. "Transportation improvements, like this project, will create jobs and will provide improved access to and from Northeast Florida."

Mica's blatant hypocrisy is outrageous, say CWA and AFA-CWA members who have leafleted, lobbied and protested exhaustively over the past two months for a clean, long-term FAA funding bill.

"Representative Mica willingly shuts down the FAA and halts projects just like these across the country due to his extreme ideology and now he's acknowledging how important these projects are for his local community and its economic development? That's quite a breathtaking mix of hypocrisy and selective sharing of information," CWA said in a statement.

The FAA was headed for a second shutdown this month until the Senate late Friday approved funds to keep the agency open through January. Between now and then, CWA will continue to push lawmakers to approve permanent funding instead of another stopgap measure.

The 4 ½ month extension — the 22nd temporary funding bill for the agency since 2007 — was possible only after public pressure forced Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to back off his threat to block FAA and federal highway funds.

In July, House Republicans held FAA funds hostage to their demand that the National Mediation Board overturn a new rule ensuring fair union representation elections for airline workers. Previously, workers who didn't vote were counted as "no" votes. Now, only votes cast are counted, as in any other U.S. election.

For two weeks, until temporary funding was approved without the GOP's strings attached, 4,000 FAA employees and more than 70,000 airport construction workers were furloughed, safety and construction projects were halted and more than $400 million in airline taxes went uncollected.

In the latest skirmish, the House passed temporary funds with a week to spare — a victory for CWA, AFA-CWA and allies who brought enormous public pressure to bear on Mica and other House Republicans.

"The House passage of a four-month, clean extension for funding the FAA is a step in the right direction," AFA-CWA said in a statement, but stressed, that the union "remains resolute in our advocacy for long-term funding of the FAA."

"Flight attendants across the country have been on the forefront of this important issue for weeks and those efforts helped push back the tide of union busting provisions that had no place in this bill," AFA-CWA said. "The FAA must be allowed to continue its mission of providing the safest, most efficient aviation system in the world."

Ad: Ohio Public Workers Have Sacrificed Hundreds of Millions for State

Vote No on 2

A TV ad shows how Ohio's public workers have sacrificed for the state financially and urges voters to repeal the law that strips the workers' collective bargaining rights.

A TV ad in the campaign to overturn Ohio's new anti-collective bargaining law describes the economic sacrifices public employees have made repeatedly to try to help the state and local communities balance their budgets.

Produced by the We Are Ohio coalition of unions and allies, the 30-second ad urges voters to repeal the anti-worker law by voting "No" on Issue 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot. The ad illustrates that the public workers under attack have sacrificed $350 million in pay and benefits by agreeing to wage freezes, furlough days and health care cuts. "In Ohio, we don't turn our backs on those who watch ours," the ad concludes.

CWA has been one of the leaders in the fight to repeal the law, and Ohio members helped gather many of the 1.3 million petition signatures that put the referendum on November's ballot

Click here or go to www.weareohio.com to view the ad.

Maine Workers Fight Back By Video as T-Mobile Cuts Promised Jobs

SarahWatson-T-Mobile

T-Mobile workers and CWA Local 1400 members are getting media coverage while drawing attention to the company's job cuts at its Oakland, Maine, call center.

Jobs at a T-Mobile call center in Oakland, Maine, have been disappearing at a rapid rate over the past six months, and current and former employees are speaking up about it in a video released on YouTube.

About 300 jobs have been cut this year, a 40 percent reduction in the 750 workers the center employed at the end of 2010, CWA Local 1400 Executive Vice President Keri Evinson said.

Call Center Protest-Oakland Maine

Call Center Controversy-Maine

Like T-Mobile workers across the United States, employees at the Oakland call center have tried to organize. Despite international pressure on T-Mobile to respect its workers' rights, the company continues to wage an aggressive and illegal anti-union campaign.

Now, workers say the company has also broken promises it made to Maine and the city of Oakland. "When T-Mobile came into this area it was considered a big break for this area because for a long time now it's been in downturn," Sarah Watson says on the video. "They were given a lot of tax incentives and tax breaks because they said they were going to hire a lot of employees."

"They promised a huge amount of good paying jobs with benefits," Adam Stanley says, as coworkers talk about fears that they might have to leave Maine to find work, and worry whether they'll need Food Stamps or public assistance.

A pastor in the video says his church has seen more people in need of aid recently, and businesses are concerned, too, according to a story by a Portland, Maine, TV news station.

"Local business owners say they've already noticed a difference with the loss of those employees," the station reports on its website. "If the call center does go under, they say it could be detrimental to the area, not just Oakland."

Noting the 300 jobs already lost, the report says, "400 more jobs could be hanging in the balance without the AT&T merger."

Read more about CWA's campaigns at T-Mobile at www.weworkbettertogether.org.

CWA: Obama's Tax Fairness Plan a Positive Step for Economy

Millionaires Would No Longer Pay Lower Rates Than Middle Class

CWA is praising President Obama's plan to ensure that America's millionaires pay at least the same tax rate as middle-class workers.

"The administration's plan is a positive step toward overall tax fairness and ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as working and middle-class Americans," CWA President Larry Cohen said.

Cohen noted that top tax rates for the wealthiest Americans have been cut dramatically over the past 60 years, from above 90 percent to just 35 percent today, with many paying far less.

"Right now, under our skewed tax system, many hedge fund managers pay at a far lower tax rate than their secretaries, for example," Cohen said. "The president's plan is an important step toward economy recovery, by ensuring that those who can afford to pay and support our government's vital service do pay."

Analyzing figures from the Tax Policy Center, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman writes on his New York Times blog that 40 percent of taxpayers with incomes between $30,000 and $40,000 pay more than 12.9 percent of their income in income and payroll taxes.

"Meanwhile, 25 percent of people with incomes over $1 million pay less than 12.6 percent of their income in these taxes," Krugman said. "This suggests that there are a lot of very-high-income guys paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries."

The tax comparison between bosses and secretaries was made popular by billionaire Warren Buffett, who for years has called for higher taxes for him and other rich Americans. In a New York Times op-ed, he tells Congress to stop "coddling" the wealthy and "get serious about shared sacrifice."

"I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain," Buffett wrote. "People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation."

CWA/USW Health & Safety Training Wins OSHA Grant Extension

OSHA Handbilling Atlanta

Safety and health activists from CWA and the Steelworkers took time from a joint training program last week in Atlanta to handbill outside a Verizon Wireless story.

Federal funding that supports key elements of joint safety and health regional training being conducted by CWA and the Steelworkers has been extended for another year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The OSHA grant helps finance training on the safe handling of hazardous materials and the proper procedures to use during an emergency response to workplace accidents. The unions offer the training to safety and health activists at three regional conference, as well as sessions for locals throughout the country.

Grant funds from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences also help pay for training. CWA and the USW's final regional training session this year is being conducted Sept. 25-30 in Phoenix. Last week, a conference was held for safety and health activists in Atlanta.

"These grants make it possible for us to get the latest information to safety and health activists, who take the training home to their locals, building safer workplaces and a stronger and more effective union," said CWA Occupational Safety and Health Director Dave LeGrande.

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

Check out Thursday's column by the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, who praises unions as he writes about the success of Obama's effort to save and revitalize GM and Chrysler. "Today, the companies are thriving," Dionne writes. "More than that: The auto industry exemplifies how unions can do their best to protect the interests of their members while also ensuring the prosperity of the companies that employ them."

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