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Excerpts from the March 5th CWA Newsletter

CWA, AT&T Mobility Reach Tentative Agreement

Tremendous unity and mobilization by CWAers at AT&T Mobility nationwide resulted in a new tentative contract. Above, CWAers from Local 7250 in Minneapolis leaflet outside a retail store.

CWA reached a tentative agreement with AT&T Mobility for the “Orange contract” that provides real gains for workers, including improvements in the retail stores compensation plan and the establishment of a new career path for customer service representatives.

The CWA bargaining committee was determined to make inroads in these critical areas and succeeded, resulting in a tentative agreement that provides good economic gains for Mobility workers and addresses workers’ priority issues. There are more than 20,000 CWA members covered by the “Orange” contract; another 22,000 CWA members at Mobility are covered by separate agreements.

The proposed settlement provides for a compounded wage increase of 8.8 percent over the four-year contract term, along with a $500 bonus. More than 11,000 retail sales consultants now will earn a minimum monthly commission of $1,000 if sales goals are met. In addition, some 500 consumer care workers will receive job upgrades and additional pay increases, as will 50-70 wireless technicians. Other important improvements addressed monitoring and quota relief.

CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill said the bargaining team worked long and hard hours, “displaying both patience and toughness” to get a good agreement that addresses Mobility workers’ critical issues.

Contract explanation materials will be made available to members in advance of the membership ratification vote.

Mobilization by Mobility workers throughout the “Orange” territory – Districts 1, 2, 4, 7, 9 and 13 – made a tremendous difference as did support from CWA Mobility members in Districts 3 and 6 and from CWA members at “core” AT&T operations.

Bargaining covering 125,000 CWA-represented workers at AT&T got underway Feb. 24.

CWA Member Asks Solis to Fight for Employee Free Choice

Above, Hector Capote, a Cuban-American worker and vice president of CWA Local 3122, talks with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis at a Miami church. Below, CWA President Larry Cohen and Capote with participants at the Solis forum.

A CWA member from AT&T Mobility made a heartfelt plea for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act at a meeting with new Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Hector Capote was one of several workers who spoke with Solis at a meeting at a Miami, Fla., AME Church. The event marked Solis’s first official speech as labor secretary; more than 500 union members attended, along with CWA President Larry Cohen and other union leaders.

Capote, now a vice president of CWA Local 3122, told Solis how workers at his AT&T Mobility call center were able to form a union through majority signup. “We all worked together, managers and workers, for a fair process,” he said.

Capote said he didn’t have that chance when he began working at age 14 at a fast food chain as a new immigrant to America, and neither do millions of other Americans today. “I wanted to tell you how labor law needs to be changed so we can have more rights. The Employee Free Choice is so important to make sure that happens. I believe it holds our democracy to a higher level of truth and honesty,” he said.

Capote said that his father never earned more than $13 an hour, and in his later years had to rely on Capote; his brother, a police officer; and sister, a nurse — all union members — for financial help.

Solis acknowledged Capote’s efforts to support his father: “I know your father is proud of you. He’s probably watching you right now.”

Solis also met with members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, and said that the days of a Labor Department “going after unions” were over. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” she said.

In a video message to the AFL-CIO Executive Council President Obama repeated his conviction that the Employee Free Choice Act will become law. “To me, and to my administration, labor unions are a big part of the solution. We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests – because we cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement.”

CWA is Player in White House Summit on Health Care

CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill is taking part in the White House Summit on Health Care, convened by President Obama on March 5 as the next step to real health care reform.

Members of Congress, health care providers, unions, business, insurers, and all groups with a stake in real reform are attending the session.

President Obama has said that fixing health care is crucial to getting our country’s financial house in order. “We must realize that fixing what’s wrong with our health care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative,” the President said in announcing his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kanas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

CWA commended Obama’s choice of Sebelius and urged the Senate to quickly confirm her.

CWA President Larry Cohen said Sebelius brings “real experience to the mission of expanding health care for the millions who now lack coverage. She will be an important advocate for President Obama’s goal of health care reform that provides affordable, accessible and quality care for all.”

CWA is working toward a health care system that requires all employers to participate and contribute to the system – “pay or play” – and does not tax workers’ health care benefits.

Workers to Take Employee Free Choice Message to Capitol Hill

Next week, workers are turning the spotlight on the Employee Free Choice Act and why the bill is critical to rebuilding the economy and restoring America’s middle class. Members of CWA and other unions will be in Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers to restore bargaining rights for American workers, the first step to turning around our faltering economy.

“Since 1935, collective bargaining has been the law of the land, and until around 1965 it was working. But since 1975, there has been a systematic effort to crush collective bargaining,” said CWA President Larry Cohen. “Some in the business community, like the Chamber of Commerce, simply oppose the idea of working people having any seat at the table. They oppose the idea of workers and management together working our way out of this economic crisis. They want to ignore the fact that in every other industrial democracy, workers have a voice in the workplace and they didn’t have to go through a grueling election and fight against their bosses to get it,” Cohen said.

On Monday, there will be actions in front of employer trade associations and at other locations.

On Tuesday morning, union members will meet on the steps of the U.S. Senate prior to meetings with their senators and representatives. Workers will present “scrapbooks” of case studies that describe the obstacles and intimidation they faced from employers while trying to get a union voice and bargaining rights. Some of the case studies highlight positive examples where employers have respected workers’ rights.

Also on Tuesday, workers from several unions, along with a panel of economists and other experts, will testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a chief sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, is chairman of the committee.

On Wednesday, the union activists will join in workshops and training sessions on how to build even more support for Employee Free Choice, especially in their home districts. Profiles of CWA members are available at http://www.freechoiceact.org/cwa/pages/worker_profiles.

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