CWA Local 7800

November 2013

Well not sure even where to begin here… October was an interesting month. We did manage to train two stewards this month Gary Bolognese with CenturyLink and Chuck Miller from MV Transportation. I do want to thank them for stepping up and from the way things are looking as of late I think both will be very busy in the coming months.

I am optimistic that we are close to having a contract at MV . I thought we were there last month but the company decided to bring healthcare to the table after months of saying they would not be making any changes to healthcare. It obviously became a huge issue and currently is not settled. When the proposal on healthcare with the rates attached was forwarded to me I had to ask is this a serious proposal? I can’t and probably shouldn’t get into too much detail because it is still on the bargaining table (although we have countered) but the premium increases they were proposing for our members were close to 200% or three times what they are paying now. That just isn’t going to be acceptable. We are in the ballpark on wages if we can hold back the healthcare. Again I want to reiterate this matter is not settled so I would ask folks simply to read this for what it is informational.

CenturyLink contract was ratified across the district by a 60% yes 40% no vote. Locally it was closer to a 70 30 split. We also had a higher participation rate the 2nd time around and over 75% of the members voted. I took the position that the local was not going to tell people how to vote. We tried to make sure everyone was educated and then they could make their own decision. For the most part the membership respected and understood that position however some felt we should be actively pursuing a no vote while others felt we should be actively pursuing a yes vote. I do want to thank the JJ Zimmell and Todd Cannon who did all the ballot mailings and counting. It was quite the task and they did it quickly and efficiently.

I can assure you most if not all (at least I have not found anyone) the members who voted yes did not vote that way because they thought it was a good contract. I have to say I am disappointed in the outcome. I do however want to emphasize my disappointment is with the company and not the union bargaining team. I firmly believe they brought the best contract they could bring given the circumstances. It is unfortunate. I’ll discuss a bit more how this will be implemented later in report

I have taken some time to ponder how did this happen. How did we get into a position such as this? Quite frankly most of it has to do with labor law in this country. In this scenario the NLRA and other laws ares not beneficial to the workers and typically the company has better leverage under the law. It is unfortunate it came to this but if we took the members out on strike we could not guarantee everyone their job back. As a union leader to me that would be unconscionable to do. While some have said “The company can’t replace all of us!” I totally understand that but they could replace some of us and who would that be? They would have no obligation to honor seniority and could bring back whomever they felt like. A possible scenario is they could say don’t bring anyone within a couple years of pension then the company could defer the vested part until the employee reached 65 and then pay at a lower rate in essence they could keep hundreds of thousands of dollars from that group of people. Does anyone here think the company would not look at that? The values of the company towards the employees seems to stop when it comes to a dollar.

What can we do to fix this? How can we have a better chance to have gains in future contracts? Well the first thing is to get some relief of the rules of the NLRA and other laws. How can we do that? We can VOTE. We have congressional elections every 2 years; we have a Presidents race coming up in 2016. Granted our state and our city is pretty liberal when it comes to electing our representatives but certainly that is not the case across the country. I have already indicated to our district and national in my mind we should be working today on legislation or a plan that of some type to put the power back to the people and not the corporations. Can we be successful at that? If we don’t try we can’t be that is for sure.

It is apparently obvious how corporations are taking over our elections a simple case in point is the election held earlier this month and the I-522 initiative. I-522 seemed pretty harmless to me it was simply having foods that were produced using GMO’s labeled as such. Seems pretty simple and uncontroversial but that is not the case. In Washington we have nearly 4 million registered voters of which in the election only half choose to vote. It is unfortunate but I don’t think I have ever seen more than 75% of an electorate vote in an election. For the I-522 campaign over 32 million was spent and 24 million was spent opposed to it. Who were these people spending 24 million simply to prevent labeling of GMO foods? Corporations. If you do the math that and figure that out it means about $16.00 was spent for every vote on that initiative alone. It is crazy.

In Seattle we had a proposition to publicly fund City Council races. Currently it costs a candidate around $250,000 to have a viable race. For many folks that is a huge figure to have to raise and if the proposition passed it would cost about $4.00 a year for taxpayers in the city to fund that and it would have set limits on how much could have been spent limiting what corporate money could do. A good idea I thought and granted only applies to the Seattle Councilmember races but it is a place to start in regards to election reform. It is failing…

The bottom line here is elections are important and we all need to participate. We need to elect lawmakers who are willing to look at the working class and willing to support the people over the corporations. Even many of ours democratic friends rely on those corporate dollars and there would be some allegiance there I would suppose but at least it is not as bad as the republican side that have shown quite clearly in the last couple years that frankly people don’t matter much…

One issue coming up soon and you probably have already heard about is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is being done with the Obama administration and it is being done in such a way that the public so far has very little information and the information we do have is that it would not help the working people, and it would give corporations what it needed so they would not necessarily have to follow existing trade law and could basically vote amongst themselves what rules they want to follow. That can’t be good. I hope everyone takes time to contact their legislatures and demand these talks be open to the public and not fast tracked through the congress for a vote. That is the goal they are working on now and if that happens again the American working people will get the short end of the stick. It is things such as this that work their way into having an effect of workers rights and labor law. It is things such as this that generally give workers less say in the workplace. Things such as this have an impact when negotiations on worker contracts take place. Many ask why the union takes positions on political issues and this is an example because overtime these issues can lead to us having less and less protections on the job and come with a financial cost to the workers as well.

Hurray... we finally appear to have a tentative agreement with IATSE. Just doing the final language and getting it ready to have a vote. Looking forward to finishing that.

Earlier in report I indicated I would get back to CenturyLink and so now is the place. We held a couple meetings in late October to discuss health care for the retirees and the different options available. One option I encourage folks to look at if they are pre Medicare is to look at the Affordable Care Act. As retirees they have an option to go there. Currently folks could qualify for subsidies and find plans cheaper than staying with CenturyLink. It just might make more sense for some to opt out until they reach Medicare age. In this state the ACA plans are managed by the state so they are on the state site at www.wahealthplanfinder.org

In regards to the implementation of the CenturyLink contract they have published effective dates for different sections. The list is about 5 pages long and basically most things Oct 2013 and then the healthcare stuff next year.

I want to shout out to the techs in Lake City. Collectively as a group shortly after the ratification vote they have notified their managers that they want to be off on time and that the company will have to force the OT. It’s nice to see a work group collectively stand together and tell the company your rules so you live by them. For some reason the company believes folks will voluntarily do the overtime so they can get past the 49 hour rule on double time. We will have to be vigilant on all aspects of the contract and ensure the company is following the rules especially on cross jurisdiction issues and Premise Tech if they start to implement that title.

Getting back to more Local business. The work I do with CenturyLink typically regarded as union activity has slowed down over the last year. This work is important in regards to the number of hours allowed to me away from CenturyLink to do other things such as the work for other bargaining units etc… If I exceed the number of hours allowed under the CenturyLink contract then the Local would have to pick up 100% of wages and benefits and frankly I don’t want to see that happen. So I have made a decision to try and work at my company desk one to two days a week to help alleviate that and currently working with my department to make that happen. It’s all good and looking forward to being in the work place mix.

What it does mean though is on those days at office will have limited ability to take member calls but we would have Cathy in the local to help get messages and directed to the person who might be better able to assist or I can respond to text messages relatively easy (I assume).

We have found a location that might work for moving the local it is not an ideal location but is satisfactory again we have a cost structure that we really need to meet for the long term. The new location is in an office park in Georgetown and it does have good facilities, parking, is easy to get to by car, the main drawback is really public transportation while there are bus routes within a few blocks it would require one to walk those blocks. It is across the street from the Georgetown post office. I know the board has looked at the location but as I write this I have not had the opportunity to follow up with them on their thoughts of the location.

The last couple weeks have been challenging and I have not really been around much I was out ill for several days and I also had to take some bereavement time to travel to California. I appreciate everyone’s patience and want to thank Craig for taking several meetings I had planned that I could not attend due to those circumstances.

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