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Praise And Concern Over Democrats “Better Deal”

Communication Workers of America: Working People Need Protections for U.S. Call Center Jobs and a “Better Deal”

Today the Democrats released the details of their “Better Deal” that will focus on three goals:

Raise the wages and incomes of American workers and create millions of good-paying jobs: Our plan for A Better Deal starts by creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in our crumbling infrastructure and prioritizing small business and entrepreneurs, instead of giving tax breaks to special interests. We will aggressively crack down on unfair foreign trade and fight back against corporations that outsource American jobs.  We will fight to ensure a living wage for all Americans and keep our promise to millions of workers who earned a pension, Social Security and Medicare, so seniors can retire with dignity.

Lower the costs of living for families: We will offer A Better Deal that will lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs and the cost of a college or technical education that leads to a good job. We will fight for families struggling with high monthly bills like childcare, credit card fees, and cable bills. We will crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power that has led to higher prices for consumers, workers, and small business – and make sure Wall Street never endangers Main Street again.

Build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century: Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education and make sure the rules of the economy support companies that focus on long-term growth, rather than short-term profits. We will make it a national priority to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of America and offer an apprenticeship to millions of new workers. We will encourage innovation, invest in advanced research and ensure start-ups and small business can compete and prosper.

(Video of Better Jobs announcement at bottom of post)

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO praised today’s announcement.

“We applaud Sen. Chuck Schumer’s leadership and the Senate Democrats for committing to better trade deals and creating the good jobs that working people deserve. Particularly notable in this agenda are the demands for increased public input and transparency in trade negotiations—including the call for town hall meetings across the country—as well as the continued commitment to long-needed action on currency and trade enforcement. This blueprint provides a good start but also must ensure that working people across North America are free to join together to negotiate a fair return on our work. We look forward to working with the Senate to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement’s corporate-driven rules and enact other innovative trade reforms beneficial to working families.”

After the details of the Democratic Party’s “better deal” were released the Communications Workers of America issued a statement highlighting the need to protect call center jobs from offshoring.  

The Democratic Party’s plan for a better deal on trade and jobs outlines real policies to help working families fight back against corporations that want to shift more jobs overseas and cut wages and benefits for working Americans.

For the first time, lawmakers are recognizing the impact of the tens of thousands of U.S. customer service jobs that have disappeared over past years, as corporations ship good call center jobs to Mexico, India, the Philippines and other countries.

CWA has been pressing Congress to stop this flood of jobs overseas. Corporations are boosting their profits and enriching their investors at the expense of working Americans, and communities are devastated when these good service jobs disappear. And as more jobs are sent offshore, more pressure is brought to bear on U.S. workers to accept lower wages and benefits as the price for keeping any job at all.

The Democratic “Better Deal” plan includes crucial legislation introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that would help restrict call center offshoring and reverse the loss of thousands of good customer service jobs in the U.S.  It also would provide important consumer safeguards.

Overall, the “Better Deal” plan will give working people a long overdue voice in what happens to their jobs and their communities. It ends the tax incentives and other rewards that corporations now get for sending  jobs overseas; encourages companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. with financial incentives; fully restores “Buy America” requirements for all taxpayer-funded projects, and makes improving U.S. wages and good jobs a key objective of our trade policy.

The Better Deal plan would require companies that handle sensitive U.S. consumer data abroad, including call centers, to disclose to customers what country they are physically located in and the level of data protection in that country.

U.S. trade deals should benefit working families, consumers and communities, not just investors and big corporations. The Better Deal plan provides real solutions to do just that.

Labor Praises Supreme Court Ruling On ‘Friedrichs’ And Offer A Warning For The Future

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Today, the assault on working families came to an abrupt halt as we received news that the Supreme Court could not come to a decision in the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. The court ended in a 4-4 tie. This means that the California Supreme Court decision to uphold agency fees will stand.

After the decision labor groups across the country rejoiced and applauded the decision that could have made it illegal to charge non union member an agency fee, essential pushing Right To Work nationwide without legislative approval.

“Today, working people have persevered in the face of another attack on our rights,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “All over the country working people are showing that we won’t allow wealthy special interests or their politicians to stand in our way to join collectively and make workplaces better all across America. In the face of these attacks we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has the right to speak up together for a better life.”

“At the Supreme Court today, working people won a huge victory,” wrote Rudy Lopez, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. “Fighting back against powerful anti-worker interests that spent millions of dollars and many years to manufacture a Supreme Court challenge of collective bargaining, workers stuck together and prevailed, defending the right of unions to collect dues to all who benefit from its membership.”

“But while today’s victory is a milestone for working people and their right to collectively bargain, the fight for worker justice is far from over,” added Lopez. “The Freidrichs case was a carefully planned campaign to break unions and decentralize worker power and the wealthy interests behind it are not going to simply give up because they lost today.”

“Today’s Friedrichs decision by the Supreme Court was a big win for anyone who believes in the promise of America,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Unions are about giving workers and their families a voice on the job and a fair shot to get ahead, and today’s decision enables those aspirations. And as the Center for Individual Rights’ legal maneuver this afternoon suggests, this decision, affirming four decades of precedent, was a blow to the right-wing special interests who are trying to rig the economy and our democracy in their own favor.”

“It’s no surprise that the Center for Individual Rights is continuing its assault on working people and the unions that represent them. By refusing to accept the court’s ruling and petitioning for a rehearing, they expose their agenda for what it is—a brazen political assault on working people. This Koch-backed think tank plotted to fast-track this case to the Supreme Court, and we know the wealthy few behind these efforts will continue doing everything they can to undermine the voice of working people in America,” added Weingarten.

Public sector workers will continue to benefit from the collective voice of union representation under a decision by the Supreme Court today that affirms nearly 40 years of constitutional law, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“The Supreme Court has kept in place a 1977 ruling that ensures public sector employee unions will be able to continue fighting for better pay, benefits, and working conditions for all represented workers, whether or not they choose to join the union,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“When the union negotiates a contract for workers, everyone who’s covered by that contract takes home higher pay and benefits, has greater job security, enjoys improved health and safety standards, and gets help in settling workplace disputes. It is only fair that all employees share in the cost of securing those benefits,” added Cox.

“A decision by the Supreme Court to overturn its 1977 ruling would have made it grossly unfair to place the burden of paying for the level of representation that all employees need and deserve on only some public employees as opposed to asking each to pay a fair share,” concluded Cox.

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case safeguards, at least for now, the right of public workers to engage in meaningful collective bargaining,” wrote the Communication Workers of America.

CWA highlighted the connection between Friedrichs and the union busting, anti-worker firms that have been pushing Right to Work in states all across the country.

“The case had been financed by anti-worker and corporate education supporters who have been working for years to stifle the voices of teachers and other public workers and weaken their collective bargaining rights. It clearly shows how extreme the right-wing assault on workers and their right to bargain, whether public or private sector, has become,” stated CWA.

For many years now CWA has been on the front lines fighting to end the obstructionism in Washington, specifically the US Senate. They used the considerable influence and membership to help secure five members to the National Labor Relations Board as well as worked to change the “filibuster rule” that Senate Republicans used to block every major Presidential nominee in the past few years.

Now they are calling out the Senate and the same right-wing, anti-worker organizations that are holding up hearings to replace Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court.

“These same right-wing interests want to block any consideration of President Obama’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s time for senators to do their job and take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, not continue the “politics as usual” that ignores the voice of the American people,” CWA said.

There is no doubt this decision will have an impact on the upcoming elections as Republicans in the Senate are continuing to refuse to even meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision on the Friedrichs case is no doubt an important win for organized labor,” said International Union of Painters and Allied Trades General President Kenneth Rigmaiden.  “However, it should also serve as a significant wake up call for working families who are not convinced that their vote in the political process matters in this upcoming election.”

“Anti-union special interests succeeded in bringing their tactics to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop workers from deciding their collective fate on the job by a vote.  We won this one, but the fight is far from over.  It is time to get to work on putting pro-union candidates in local, state and federal offices.  The leaders we successfully fight for on the campaign trail will be our line of defense in Washington to keep our unions strong,” added Rigmaiden.

As Republicans continue to obstruct filling the vacant seat in the Supreme Court, this election is proving to be the most important in history. This election could be the difference between a progressive Justice like Merrick Garland or another right-wing ideolog like Justice Scalia. As more and more attacks to our collective bargaining rights make it to the Supreme Court confirming a nominee that will uphold our rights is of the utmost importance.

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Finds T-Mobile US Guilty of Maintaining Illegal Corporate Policies Against Workers Across the Country 

Judge Orders Policies Rescinded; T-Mobile US Must Advise Employees that the Company Has Violated Federal Labor Law

Washington, D.C. — A judge at the National Labor Relations Board has found T-Mobile US guilty of engaging in nationwide labor law violations against workers. The unprecedented ruling comes following a rare move by the NLRB consolidating multiple complaints against T-Mobile US for illegal actions and policies in Albuquerque, N.M.; Wichita, Kans.; Charleston, S.C., and New York City.  

At issue were illegal corporate nationwide policies that block workers from organizing or even talking to each other about problems at work. Workers throughout the T-Mobile US system were subjected to and effectively silenced by these illegal policies; the judge’s order to rescind them covers 40,000 workers. 

Coming on the heels of repeated complaints issued by the NLRB against T-Mobile US and its labor practices, the ruling shines a light on how management’s efforts to suppress workers’ organizing activity has been supported by wide-ranging, unlawful corporate policies issued from the highest levels of the company.  Even while this trial was underway, additional complaints against the company have issued from the NLRB.  Another NLRB trial will begin in June in Charleston, South Carolina, to hear yet more cases of T-Mobile US’s unlawful suppression of workers’ rights, and other charges and complaints continue to pile up. 

The decision by Judge Christine Dibble focused on T-Mobile US’s illegal employment policies and restrictions that prohibited workers from discussing wages with each other or criticizing working conditions or seeking out assistance to blow the whistle on unlawful behavior.   

Over and over again, the decision finds that the corporate policies “would chill employees in the exercise of their…rights” or would be construed “as restricting [an employee’s] rights to engage in protected concerted activities, including unionizing efforts.”  Judge Dibble found that T-Mobile US’s Wage and Hour Complaint Procedure, for example, “tends to inhibit employees from banding together.”  She writes that the corporate procedure’s requirement that an employee notify management of a wage issue first, “in combination with the threat of discipline for failing to adhere to the rule, would ‘reasonably tend to inhibit employees from bringing wage-related complaints to, and seeking redress from, entities other than the Respondent, and restrains the employees’ …rights to engage in concerted activities for collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  

According to the ruling, T-Mobile US’s email policy and various confidentiality policies violate the law by restricting employees’ ability to disclose or discuss basic workplace issues, such as their wages.  Similarly, Judge Dibble has ruled that the company’s policy restricting employees’ communications with the media is illegal, as it prohibits employees from speaking out on inquiries about wages or other conditions of employment.  In all, Judge Dibble found that 11 of the 13 corporate policies or provisions at issue in the case are illegal.

CWA President Larry Cohen said, “This decision exposes the deliberate campaign by T-Mobile US management to break the law systematically and on a nationwide scale, blocking workers from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively. This behavior can only be changed by a nationwide remedy to restore workers’ rights.   Deutsche Telekom, the principal owner of T-Mobile US, has claimed that its U.S. subsidiary follows the law. Now we have the official word: T-Mobile US is a lawbreaker. Bonn, the headquarters of DT, no longer can hide behind the false statements made by T-Mobile US executives. These behaviors would be almost unimaginable in Germany or any other democracy in the world.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a union member, small business owner and a champion of working families, said, “T-Mobile employees have come to Capitol Hill to share their stories of fear and intimidation and efforts to block workers from organizing. These workers have had to put up with an outright hostile environment in violation of their basic constitutional rights. Today’s decision is a huge win for every hardworking American who is fighting for their right to organize and demand better wages and more job security.”

The ruling was preceded by years of federal complaints against T-Mobile US for unlawful labor practices around the country.  Those complaints, which have covered all manner of violations, from firing union supporters to illegally restricting employees’ ability to communicate with one another, were often brought to the cusp of trial and then settled by T-Mobile US, which has paid tens of thousands of dollars to avoid a judge’s guilty finding.   Today’s merit finding marks a turning point in efforts to effectively enforce US labor law at T-Mobile US.  

Judge Dibble’s decision addresses written policies that T-Mobile US disseminated to employees and managers nationwide – policies that invariably reinforced a management culture, reflected in complaint after complaint, of shutting down workers who attempted to speak out for fairness on the job.

“We are happy and relieved,” said Carolina Figueroa, T-Mobile US call center worker from Albuquerque. “We are finally being heard. My coworkers and I at T-Mobile US will have the right to speak out against unfair treatment and should not be muzzled or retaliated against – and with today’s decision, the company has to declare this to all of its employees nationwide.”

Adrian Dominguez works at the Metro PCS-T-Mobile US retail store in New York City. “Now that we have a union we aren’t scared to talk about our working conditions at work. I am hopeful that my colleagues across the country will realize that the law protects their rights to discuss the benefits of joining together into a union, now that the judge has found T-Mobile US guilty of preventing workers from talking about their working conditions.”

Josh Coleman was a top-achieving customer service representative in Wichita when he was fired by T-Mobile US for mobilizing his co-workers for union representation.  “Through repeated team meetings and written policy, T-Mobile US unlawfully silenced employees and created a culture of fear to stifle communication. I hope that now thousands of my T-Mobile US co-workers will know they can come out of the shadows and build the union that so many of us want.”  

T-Mobile US workers and their colleagues at T-Mobile in Germany together have built TU, an organization that represents them. Thousands of German workers, members of the 2 million member union ver.di, have formed city-to-city partnerships with T-Mobile US workers, and together are pushing Deutsche Telekom to ensure that U.S. workers can bargain collectively, just as telecom workers in Germany do.

Manchester Newspaper Guild Files 7 Unfair Labor Practice Charges And Pickets Against NH Union Leader

MNG 1

MANCHESTER, NH — The Manchester Newspaper Guild on Friday filed seven Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against The Union Leader Corp., which employs about 75 Guild members in its news, advertising, circulation, IT and accounting departments.

The charges, and one the company filed against the local, mark an unprecedented low in the 72-year history of labor relations between The Newspaper Guild local and The New Hampshire Union Leader.

Meanwhile, the members of TNG-CWA Local 31167 continue to pressure the company, the latest effort being an informational picket Saturday, March 1 from noon to 1:30 outside the Union Leader-sponsored state spelling bee at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord. The union and company have been bargaining since September, with the company insisting on language that would gut job security and hamper the union’s ability to defend the contract, while seeking a huge pay cut and a more than doubling of health insurance deductibles. Employees have been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31.

MNG2The Guild’s charges to the labor board assert that the company has committed Unfair Labor Practices by violating the National Labor Relations Act, including engaging in surface bargaining with no real intention of arriving at a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Between September and Dec. 31, the company refused to alter the major contract retrogressions in its proposal while threatening it would withdraw those proposals Dec. 31, leaving a 20% wage reduction and even higher insurance costs on the table.

Without ever bargaining over that remaining proposal after Jan. 1, on Jan. 22 the company instead presented the union with a “Final Offer” that included an 18% wage reduction retroactive to Jan. 5, and reintroduced language that would eliminate workers’ seniority and job security language.

The union also charges that The Union Leader Corp. has refused to provide information relevant to subjects under negotiation and necessary to the union’s conduct of negotiations, has insisted upon an unreasonable confidentiality agreement before allowing union officials and their accountant to view the company’s financial records, and has refused to bargain the terms and conditions of such a confidentiality agreement.

According to the local’s charges, the union also says The Union Leader Corp. has committed an Unfair Labor Practice by insisting that a new collective bargaining agreement provide the company with complete discretion over reductions in force without any standards or guidelines.

The union also charges that the company’s retroactive wage and insurance deductible proposals — only just withdrawn on Wednesday — were illegal and impeded bargaining over wages since they were presented, and that the company’s proposals to severely curtail union activity are an unlawful restriction on employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The company’s complaint against the Guild alleges the union has bargained in bad faith.

Recognizing the struggles faced by both the Union Leader Corp. and the news industry in recent years, Manchester Newspaper Guild members have made huge concessions in recent years, including pay cuts totaling 14.63 percent, a longer work week without additional compensation for the extra hours, elimination of personal days, reductions in sick time, increases in insurance deductibles and layoffs and buyouts of members.
Non-union and management employees — about half the total workforce — saw a smaller pay cut in 2012 and a smaller increase in health insurance deductibles in January. They currently do not face a pay cut.

The local has created a website questioning the fairness of the company’s proposal and strategy, with a petition to Publisher Joseph McQuaid that supporters can sign, at www.wtf-ul.org.

CWA: Regulators Should Scrutinize Comcast-Time Warner Merger

CWA says: Regulators Should Scrutinize Comcast-Time Warner
Merger in Terms of Cost, Competition and Public Interest 

Time Warner and Comcast

Washington D.C. — The bid by Comcast Communications to acquire Time Warner Cable in a $45.2 billion deal must be carefully reviewed by federal regulators.

A merger of this size, which would combine two of the four biggest cable operations, raises concerns about quality jobs, competition, consumer cost, market structure and more.

The two companies have a high bar to meet to demonstrate that the merger would be in the public interest.

Because the deal would result in significant concentration in the industry, the Communications Workers of America believes that regulators must review several critical issues, including:

  • The effect on market power for content providers and consumers, in what would be a significant horizontal merger.
  • The impact on innovation and market structure in the industry.
  • The effect on jobs.
  • The effect on consumer cost and options; the cable television industry already is known for high costs.

CWA also urges regulators to make expansion of broadband service and speed a critical goal for network policy makers.

CWA represents about 5,000 workers nationwide at Comcast, including technicians and employees at NBC Universal, and at Time Warner. We will be engaging them on these issues and discussing this further with regulators and management.

Fed Up and Pumped Up: Manchester Newspaper Guild Rallies For Fairness

Manchester Newspaper Guild President Norm Welsh leads about 60 members and supporters

Manchester Newspaper Guild President Norm Welsh leads about 60 members and supporters

Manchester Newspaper Guild members and allies turned out in force Sunday morning to show Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid that his callous contract “final offer” is beneath contempt.

About 60 picketers, 40 of them Guild members, marched and leafleted outside the newspaper’s annual sports banquet at the Radisson Center of New Hampshire in downtown Manchester.

“It was awesome,” local President Norm Welsh said. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had a better turnout, even when we had twice the membership.

“We know we got the publisher’s attention because he detoured on his way to the event to come over to our group,” Welsh said. “He talked to several members and their families. My guess is he was trying to see if the group was members or ‘outsiders.’ I think he was shocked at the number of our people and who they were. Lots of folks whom I doubt he expected to ever see on a picket line.”

image-6Members were so pumped, Welsh said, that “a large group continued to picket for about 45 minutes after we thanked them and said we were done.”

He said members were grateful to be joined by so many allies, including Mark MacKenzie, president of the state AFL-CIO, state Rep. Tim Smith (D-Manchester), and supporters from the IBEW, AFT and the Postal Workers.

The Manchester Guild has called the Union Leader’s final offer “the worst contract proposal ever seen.” In addition to steep benefit cuts, getting rid of job security language and changes that would badly weaken the union, the publisher wants an 18 percent retroactive pay cut.

image-10That’s on top of huge concessions in recent years. Welsh said they’ve estimated that a top-scale reporter has lost roughly $30,000 in givebacks since 2009.

The local is in the middle of a 10-day byline strike by reporters and photographers to help draw the public’s attention to the company’s ruthless demands.

You can help by signing their petition and circulating it on social media. Go to the local’s “Where’s the Fairness?” website to find the petition and learn more.

“If we are forced to accept this new pay cut, that would mean we would have lost about 30 percent of our pay since 2009,” the local explains on the website. “It would leave us making what we made in 1995. That’s when gas cost $1.11 a gallon. A new car then would run you $13,600. A stamp only cost 32 cents. Imagine. Could you live in today’s world on what you made in 1995? Neither can we.”

CWA Applauds Government By The People Act

CWA-blue-lineWashington, D.C. — The Communications Workers of America (CWA) applauds the introduction of H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act. The legislation was unveiled today by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Minority Leader Leader Pelosi (D-Calif.). The bill is an important step in reducing the influence of moneyed special interests in politics and would put our elections back into the hands of everyday Americans.

Image from Twitter @OfByUS

Congressman Ellison
Image from Twitter @OfByUS

“We the people want to be heard,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “Corporations, Super PACs and Dark Money give a big voice to the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the rest of us. This uncontrolled spending threatens the democratic voice that is the foundation of our country. Increasingly, ordinary Americans are expressing a growing conviction that their votes don’t count, that our political process is controlled by the biggest bankroll, and that money, not the public interest, sets policies and priorities in government.”

The Government By the People Act would change how we finance our elections by encouraging candidates to rely on a large number of small donations from their constituents back home, as opposed to funds from extremely wealthy donors, special interests, lobbyists, Wall Street and big business. It would empower ordinary voters and hold members of Congress accountable to the people who put them in office, not the biggest bankroll.

Here is how it would work:

• Contributions of $1 to $150 would be matched on a six-to-one basis by a newly-created “Freedom from Influence Fund.” Large contributions would not qualify for any match. The fund would be financed by closing corporate tax loopholes.

• The first $25 contributed by small donors would qualify for a “My Voice” refundable tax credit.

• Every candidate’s contributions from the new fund would be capped, and there would be strict enforcement of campaign finance laws, including disclosure of all donations.

Learn more about the Government By the People Act at www.ofby.us

New Survey Show Voters Don’t Want To Take The ‘Fast Track’ On The TPP

Nationwide, Bipartisan Survey Finds Strong Voter Opposition to Fast Track Authority for Trade Deals Such as the Trans Pacific Partnership

Stop Fast Track

Washington, D.C. — A nationwide, bipartisan survey of voters’ attitudes about “fast track” authority and the Trans Pacific Partnership found strong opposition to Congress’s approving “fast track” authorization, with a strong majority of Americans indicating their belief that trade agreements make the country worse off.

The survey was conducted Jan. 14-18, 2014 by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic pollster, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm.  It was jointly sponsored by the Sierra Club, the U.S. Business and Industry Council and the Communications Workers of America.

Voter opposition to fast track authorization is broad, with 62 percent saying they oppose fast track authority for the TPP trade deal, versus 28 percent who say they favor it. After hearing an equal number of arguments that have been made by organizations supporting and opposing fast track, voter opposition grew to 65 percent, including 45 percent indicating that they are strongly opposed.

In households where a voter either owns or works for a small business, the verdict is clear: 64 percent say they expect TPP to hurt more than help small business.

On wages and jobs, the environment and food safety, voters clearly believe that TPP will make things worse.  By a 35 point margin, voters believe that TPP would make things worse in terms of American wages (56-21). By a 30 point margin, voters believe that TPP would make things worse environmentally, not better (48-18). Among voters under age 35, 54 percent say that TPP would have an adverse environmental impact.  A full 63 percent believe that TPP would make U.S food safety worse.

“We’re up against big corporations and deep-pocketed polluters, but environmental groups, labor unions, and other allies have the support of American voters. We need to work together to let people know how this behemoth of a trade deal would affect our jobs, our wages, our access to clean water and air, and our safety as consumers. And we need Members of Congress to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

“Republican Members of Congress and their political advisors ignore at their peril the massive opposition of Republican and Independent voters to Congressional passage of fast track trade authority. They are also gravely concerned about the negative impact the proposed TPP will have on jobs in this anemic recovery. These voters know firsthand what the Republican leadership studiously ignores: Since the U.S. runs persistently high trade deficits under current outmoded trade policies – a cumulative deficit of $10 Trillion in goods since NAFTA – trade displaces many more jobs than it creates and small businesses and their employees suffer disproportionately,” said Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers. But fast tracking this TPP will reduce the quality of life for Americans,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Among other survey findings:

Opposition to fast track authority remains strong across incomes, with 60 percent of voters in households with incomes under $50,000 and 65 percent of those with incomes over $100,000 expressing opposition to fast track authority.

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose giving fast track authority to the president (87 percent oppose), as do Independents (66 percent). Only Democratic voters give a slight edge to favoring fast track, with 52 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

More than half of non-college white voters, or 53 percent, are less likely to re-elect a Member of Congress who supports fast track.

Full poll results here

We Can’t Abdicate Trade Policy to Secret Negotiations and Non-Elected Officials

Washington, D.C. — In testimony at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on “Advancing Congress’s Trade Agenda: the Role of Trade Negotiating Authority,” Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America called for a strong and enforceable role for Congress in setting trade policy and priorities.

Last week, legislation calling for “fast track” authorization of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements was introduced.

“Trade agreements are no longer just about tariffs and quotas. They are about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the jobs we hold. We cannot abdicate this process to non-elected representatives. We cannot let foreign policy objectives trump domestic concerns and in the process unravel our own democracy instead of strengthening others,” Cohen said.

“Nor should we abdicate the decision to determine with whom the U.S. should negotiate. Vietnam is a 90 million person nation that is a party to the TPP negotiations.  The minimum wage in Vietnam is 28 cents an hour, and the average hourly wage is 75 cents. Vietnam’s is a record of non-existent workers’ rights and an extensive roster of human rights violations, including the documented use of child labor,” he said.

Cohen was the only witness testifying in opposition to “fast track” authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. He addressed the issues that a broad coalition of unions, environmental organizations, consumer groups, fair trade advocates and others have joined to work for trade policies that benefit everyone.

“We recognize the reality that we are living in a global economy. Trade policy, done correctly, is a win for the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.

“It is critical that we work to stop the global race to the bottom that has been the result of old-style trade agreements. As a nation, we strive to improve our standard of living and provide a better life for our children and grandchildren. We should not compromise on these values and reduce the quality of life for Americans through our trade policies.” Cohen said.

Congress should establish these priorities for fast track legislation, Cohen said.

1. Document that any new trade deal is not likely to add to the nearly $1 trillion in annual trade deficit in goods. This deficit has increased by five times since we adopted NAFTA.

2. Document the net effect on employment, don’t look only at increases in exports. Each trade deal comes with the promise of job growth, yet the overall impact has been job loss, due to a wave of imports and offshoring.

3. Document the effect on pay and workers’ standard of living. Since NAFTA was negotiated, U.S. wages have stagnated and workers’ weekly take home pay is $100 less than 40 years ago.

4. Ensure that consumer protection regulations by federal, state and local governments are not diminished.

5. Ensure that all trading partners comply with ILO principles and convention. The U.S. has ratified just two of those eight principles that cover workers’ rights, child labor and freedom of association.

6. Ensure that environmental standards are not degraded and are enforceable.

7. Ensure that these social goals are enforceable at least at the same level as all other sections, like patents, investment protection and intellectual property rights.

8. Ensure that Congress plays a meaningful role in setting priorities and limits the authority the U.S. Trade Representative to negotiate on basic governance and human rights.

 

Read the full testimony here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-testimony

Read the executive summary here: http://www.cwa-union.org/fasttrack-cohen-summary

Will The National Labor College Uphold Their Agreements To Workers And Students?

National Labor College

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that a great institution of labor may soon be going extinct.  It was announced by the Board of Trustees that the National Labor College would be permanently closing in the near future.

The NLC was the only institution of higher learning that focused on labor studies and worked to provide union members the chance to acquire an advanced degree.  Through the years as a college education became more and more important to all workers the college offered union members the opportunity to attend college at a very reasonable price.  The AFL-CIO would subsidize some of the tuition costs for AFL-CIO members to keep the rates low enough that any member could afford to attend.  This was a major benefit for members looking to further their education and become stronger a voice in the labor movement.

Nobody is denying the fact that recently the school has encountered significant financial problems.  As technology rapidly evolves, the school has continued to bolster their online education division.  Many of the schools 700+ courses were offered online.  This is a great way to provide education to those members who could not move to Maryland to attend college.  However the NLC has always retained an actual campus where students could attend, just like any other college.   This created an issue for the NLC as attendance at the school dropped and students opted for online courses.

This is where the financial issues arose.  The Board made the decision to become a virtual school and offered to sell their entire campus to save the millions of dollars needed to retain it.  Sadly the sale of the campus fell through, and the board has opted to close the entire school due to a lack of funding.

I reached out to a Mark King (AFT-FPE) a recent graduate and 2012 Class President to ask him how he felt about the announcement to close the NLC.

“I am heartsick to learn of the closing of The National Labor College, the premier educational institution geared to the educational needs of all workers, but especially focused on union members.

I have learned as much from my fellow students there as I did from my classes. I have learned from more experienced classmates how they dealt with grievences and other issues, shortening my learning curve as a labor official.  Thanks to NLC I have friends in the labor movement from around the US – the school served to introduce and connect people from all unions that operate under the auspices of the AFL-CIO as well as those which did not, a huge pro union, pro worker, pro democracy meltingpot that has touched the lives of a great many labor activists. The connections made there will continue to ripple into the future.

I had the honor of being elected President of Student Government. I was elected to give the 2012 commencement speech. NLC has been a big part of my life, and a big part of my hope for the future of the Labor Movement. Working people, working together, beat the forces of nearly unlimited corporate money and insure that Democracy has a chance each election cycle. NLC educated and networked many of these everyday heroes, the loss of this institution dedicated to the Labor Movement is a loss to all Americans.

Sign this petition to let Mr. Trumka know how the loss of NLC affects you. Rumor has it that he could not vote to shut the school down, but abstained…

I’m a graduate of NLC, as well as a current member of the NLC/George Mason ODKM Cohort 3, where I am working toward a Masters Degree that will help me to work within the Labor Movement to the betterment of all working people. I’m paying the education I received there forward by being President of my Local, AFT-FPE #4831 and Secretary For AFT-NH. I’ve chosen my Major so as to do more. I’m dedicating my life to the cause of working folks. NLC helped me find my path. I’m heartfeltly sorry to see the institution is shutting down.”

The closing of the school has raised some new issues; what about the union workers at the school who have a collective bargaining agreement with the school, and what about the students who are looking to finish their degrees?

Recently the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild (CWA-TNG) – the union that represents workers at the National Labor College – released a statement for the NLC to uphold their agreements to the students and the college workers.

“Our union, comprised of professionals and faculty members, calls on the National Labor College and the AFL-CIO to ensure that the student body has a seamless path to finish out their degrees, and that the college meets its contractual obligations to its union-represented staff. How the closure proceeds will reflect greatly on the labor movement, its values and how it honors its obligations to union members, both as students and employees.

The National Labor College was founded and supported by the AFL-CIO to help working families and union members pursue higher education as the cost of college has become increasingly out-of-reach for many American families. A recent report by the College Board found that for 2013-2014, the median tuition and fees price tag was over $11,000 — not including room and board. Since the college’s founding, the AFL-CIO has always subsidized tuition for union members to make the cost of attendance affordable. The AFL-CIO and the National Labor College should continue to work together to ensure moral and contractual obligations to students and staff are met.” (emphasis added)

What will the AFL-CIO – the major benefactor in the college – and the college’s President Paula Peinovich, do to honor the contracts they entered into with these workers and their students?   Will they abandon the workers like every other private corporation has done in recent bankruptcy cases, or will they find a way to fill out their collective bargaining agreement?

I do not have the answers to these questions; there are only a handful of people who can.  As an advocate for unions, and a strong believer in the collective bargaining process, I would hope that the school would do what is right for the workers first then worry about all the other issues.  Protecting workers and holding employers accountable to the collective bargaining agreement is what we in the labor movement are fighting for every day.  It would be a detrimental blow to all of us if the AFL-CIO were to abandon workers in this way.
The ball is in your court now, Mr. Trumka.

_________________________

There is an online petition circulation to show support for the National Labor College and it currently has just shy of 1000 supporters.  Click here if you would like to add your name, as I have, to encourage the Mr. Trumka and the entire Board to reconsider their decision to close the school.  I have included the text of the petition below.

To:
President Trumka, American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) 

The National Labor College (NLC) is one of a kind, the only college in the United States with an exclusive mission to serve the educational needs of the labor movement. It is an activist institution made up of students, faculty and alumni who together form a learning community based on a common understanding of the world of work and the ecology of the labor movement. The College respects that its student body is made up of experienced, highly skilled working adults who have multiple commitments to family, job, union and community. In its academic programs, NLC honors higher learning that takes place both inside and outside the collegiate community.
Today, the NLC Board has determined to close the school.
Several costly financial decisions were made such as the decision to renovate the campus in 2006 and then build a 73,000 square foot building on the campus in 2007 (apparently the result of an overly optimistic ‘build it and they will come’ perception at the time). The physical college campus in Maryland is currently for sale and a buyer will eventually be found so that portion of the financial problem will be solved.
The long-term growth opportunity of the college rests in the administration’s promising development of the institution’s online format that now makes courses accessible to millions of workers throughout the world. Some courses could still be offered ‘in person’ via the use of our Central Labor Council offices, local labor union offices and worker’s centers.
I could not imagine a scenario wherein the school would not be financially viable after the sale of the NLC’s Maryland campus is completed and financial resources become available for administering and maintenance of the institution’s online instruction.
Please keep the National Labor College open.
Stop the Closure of the Labor Movement’s Only -The National Labor College 

Sincerely,
[Your name]

 

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