CWA Local 7800

July 2014

Well the big news is that we had some members forced off payroll in the COEIT surplus. We also still have contractor’s doing work in the field. District 7 has asked that all impacted locals file grievances on the surplus. This may be the first time we get to really test the language in the contract about those being forced off payroll and contractors. In the past (since that language was put into contract) the surpluses (where follow your work was an option) have always been resolved without anyone being forced from the payroll. We know over 20 examples of people forced from the payroll in the 14 state region including two members in this local. We tried to work out several ESVPP matches but they did not happen. Contractually, I will say the company did follow the ESVPP process (at least for the members of this local) so I don’t think we have a grievance on that portion but we will pursue the contractor piece.

Everyone in a surplus who wants to stay employed by this company should put down anything and everything that you are willing to do in every location that you are willing to go to. It is really that simple. It’s possible we might have had a couple opportunities for the COEIT if their choices were a bit broader in title and location.

On June 10th CenturyLink announced the closure of the Seattle Business Service Delivery Operations (BSDO) office, under Vice President Deb Quinby. This closure will affect 145 of our members, who are in the SDC job title, and one member under the Data Specialist Title. The office will close officially on September 8th 2014 with some employees being allowed to work until final transition of the work on September 30th 2014. The Company made the decision to close this office and move the work to Bismarck, ND and Minneapolis, MN. The company made 44 positions available in Bismarck, ND and 2 positions available in Minneapolis, MN for impacted employees to follow their work.

From what I understand only 2 SDC’s opted to go to Bismarck and 8 opted to go to Minneapolis. It seems the company is trying to find jobs for those who want to go to Minnesota but as of today the company officially has not said anything. I also understand they are having some difficulty hiring folks off the street in Bismarck into the SDC position but frankly that isn’t really confirmed. What I do know is for the company will be hard pressed to get half of the positions filled so I am wondering what will happen. I have let management know that we will be watching to ensure they don’t move our work to non-represented workers outside of the 14 state area. I asked about a contingency plan if they don’t get workers in Bismarck, they indicated at this point they don’t have a plan and feel they will get the workers they need in Bismarck.

Lots of people have questions regarding their healthcare as a retiree and pension questions etc… Everyone needs to talk with the pension people about their specific pension. What I will say are people that are qualified to retire under the “modified 75 rule” and are under 55 years of age there are significant penalties to ones pension if taken as an annuity. I also want to point out the word “modified” is there for a reason it’s not a simple calculation of age + years of service, both numbers have to be divisible by 5 so as an example you are 53 years of age you can only count 50 and if 24 years of service you can only count 20. Doing simple math, it shows 77, but under modified rule it only equals 70-meaning one is not Service Pension eligible.

I want to speak about the Local for a bit. With the closure of the BMG department in Seattle it is reducing our headcount by about 150 people. 4 of the 7 on the Executive Board are involved in this surplus. One of the current board members not affected has indicated they will not be seeking reelection to any position for personal reasons. Of the 4 in surplus, we still don’t know if they might find jobs locally, will have to transfer, or simply retire.

Speaking for me I applied for the Health Benefits Coordinator position in May, long before any of us had any idea about the surplus. That position may come through or it may not. Even if it does the position does not allow someone to have that position and hold an elected position (without consent from the company and District) at the same time. So it pretty much means there is no way I could hold both positions. But at this point the position may come my way or may not. I may be able to find an alternative job here in Seattle that would allow me to run, or I could have to transfer to a different city in order to keep my employment with CenturyLink.

Basically what I am trying to say is moving forward into new officer elections and the direction of the local I don’t think I will be part of it given the options that lay before me. Since we will be having new officer’s elections and the absence of so many of our current Executive Board, Stewards, Committee Chairs, other members of this local should really consider getting more involved. It is a crucial time in our country for labor and for working people. We are still constantly under attack while the conservative groups continually try and limit our effectiveness and the 1%’ers continue to do everything they can (in my opinion) to screw over workers and get everyone to work for substandard wages and working conditions. It’s not just our fight; it’s a fight for future generations… our kids and grandkids.

Our local is still a viable local, even with this round of layoffs we will still have over 600 members. I know of many locals with only 100 or so members. Granted, we won’t be as big as we once were, we won’t have the resources we once did, and our membership base will be more of outside employees rather than inside business folks and of course we still have several hundred members at MV Transportation that are a part of this local. My hope moving forward is the local will still participate in legislative issues, community service projects, partnering with our other CWA locals on big projects and with our MLKCLC or WSLC when appropriate, as we have done several times in the last couple years. So while we are still a viable local. It will be important to move through the officer elections and then the new Board can set the direction moving forward.

In the meantime we have some changes to make. The building we are located in simply will not work moving forward. Our tenant that we sublease to is in the process of moving out now, so the revenue from that will cease. We had talked with the new building owners about moving upstairs and sharing the space with the business that is located there. However that business decided not to move forward with the plan and have moved out of the building. The landlord has not said anything to us about that. Clearly we can’t move forward with that plan. We are currently the only tenants in the building and we are not on a lease. Either side can give 30 days’ notice that we are moving or they want us to vacate. Given the current situation I don’t see me signing a new lease for this building, so an alternative plan must be acted upon.

We have contacted the Labor temple and they have some small rooms. I feel strongly we should rent those rooms and move the local to the labor temple at least temporarily and again let the new board figure out what is the best direction of the local to go to and how they intend to get there. Again these are very small rooms but it would get us out of this building and have a secure location for the local to conduct business until other decisions could be had. We will be discussing this at the August membership meeting as we have to have a motion and a vote from the membership before we can expend any monies to move the local to a different location. We do have a motion that was passed months ago to allow expenditures for purchasing a building and costs associated with that but at this point that is not a decision that will be made by the current Board, so we need another motion that would allow moving to another location under a lease. Given the options on the table it is important these decisions are made now.

I hope that we can get the local relocated by Sept 1st. After that, the people who are part of the surplus may or may not be available and I don’t want to leave this burden on the remaining officers.

Another option on the table is to merge with one of the other locals in the state. While mergers happen infrequently in our union they are coming more commonplace. It is not unheard of and may be an option for the Board and Membership to consider. It takes several months for a merger to happen so clearly it can’t happen during this term of officers, so I think it is best for the new board to consider. On the flip side of that, if we don’t have enough officers to run the local (I don’t see that happening) then the District would have to take the office over.

Craig Our Secretary Treasurer is in the surplus and unless he finds a position here in Seattle he would not be running for reelection as well. In my opinion the Secretary Treasurer is the hardest job in the local. It is not something you can simply pick up and do. It requires some knowledge and or training on all the requirements that must be filled. Losing Craig in that position will be a difficult loss for the local to overcome. There is training available and our Staff Rep was a local Secretary-Treasurer for a long time so she would be available to provide assistance for the transition.

I do want to reiterate- this is not the end of the road for the local. This is a transitional time, a time to reflect on what we have been able to do over the years and to look forward as to what remains to be done and put together those plans. What that will take though is our membership becoming participative in the process. If the remaining members do not participate, it will be difficult for the Local to participate with other groups whom we share the same working values and continue to fight to maintain our current rights.

As you have read, lots of changes are in the midst. The next membership meeting (August 12th) will be important. Several decisions will have to be made and voted on by the members. I also think this will be the last membership meeting at this location. We want to have kind of a farewell meeting as we will be voting on moving the local immediately following the meeting, so it can be done by September 1 st. We hope to have some food and stuff... maybe even a cake… (Pending approval) Again this isn’t about closing the local, just moving out of the space we have been in for almost 3 decades. So please put it on your calendar, come to the meeting, get the latest information regarding the surpluses, and moving the local, etc.

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