CWA Local 7800

July 2012

I would like to start by saying we have sadly lost one of our Benefit Coordinator’s, Carla Floyd. She passed away very suddenly. It is a tragic loss for her family, as well as our CWA family.

AT&T is still in bargaining and ongoing; it seems progress is being made in many of the areas and they are getting close to really only having the big items such as healthcare, wages, and pensions left to settle. In a small twist IBEW represented workers had a vote on a contract extension. The same offer had been made to the CWA Bargaining folks who felt an extension was not beneficial to the membership and they chose to continue to bargain. So IBEW had actually stopped bargaining while they held a vote for the extension and the vote for the extension by the members was about 85% saying no. Thus, sending them back to the bargaining table.

At MV Transportation we are seeing an upswing in attendance issues and in fact several employees have been terminated. The company though, has not always treated everyone the same in that regard nor are they following progressive discipline so we are hopeful to get some of those overturned. But it is important for the members to understand the policy and also to understand the “Emergency time” availability and in some cases the full time employees may be able to seek FMLA, so the time is excused. We also have members being terminated for failure to report. In a couple of these cases it became clear the employees were not doing proper post checks on the vehicles. This must be done. One of the people I spoke with indicated that they were with the vehicle the entire time so they didn’t think they needed to do it. While I understand that, the company does not. It is important that the drivers do their proper pre and post inspections. Also if an employee ends up rubbing a curb or scraping a tail pipe please call it in. I have seen many incident reports that show when the driver calls it in and no safety points are given but if it’s not called in and the company figures it out they can and will issue safety points. Better safe than sorry.

We have 3 new stewards at MV- Dianne & Larry on the Connector side and Nancy on Shuttle side. All of them have been trained and we will work with them to get them proficient. Even with training it takes a while of working through issues for any Steward to be ready to take something on from start to finish by themselves. For those of you who don’t know, Gary Scholl has really been picking up the slack out there and busting his ass to represent folks. I think he is the one person most excited about having these additional Stewards. But if you see Gary around please take a second and thank him for all the hard work he has done the last few months. On a good note we had 2 employees who were terminated and we were successful in getting them back to work through the grievance process. We still have several others we are working on. Unfortunately, we have had some that we are not going to be able to succeed in winning.

At DGM Controls we finally have a tentative agreement and by next month we will be able to report how the members voted on it. I will say this negotiation was much longer and a lot tougher than I expected and after several months we reached an agreement we are comfortable taking back to the members. Going off topic a bit regarding bargaining; we know that with the larger corporations you kind of expect things to be difficult and with the smaller companies things just seem easier. In the case of this company and another we recently negotiated, they were really tough and the reason they give us is the economy. Obviously if the business is struggling that’s a pretty good reason to be looking at trimming costs but my problem with that is that we can’t do that at the expense of the workers. Sure we may have to compromise here and there and we may not get everything we were striving for but typically there are other places to cut costs and the burden does not lie with the represented employees alone. If the company is larger and profitable like CenturyLink as an example, then really we don’t have much reason to compromise. What I mean by that is if a company has billions of dollars in profits then I see no reason to cut their employees benefits and not to reward them for the work they did in helping the company earn those billions. You shouldn’t either.

Our Retiree Chapter will be meeting soon and that information will be put up on the website, the Local Facebook page, and our hotline. The President of the chapter (John Hamilton) has been out of town and he did participate in a national retiree call. He is also working on the By-laws to have them ready for voting, (hopefully) at the next meeting.

At CenturyLink things are gearing up for bargaining. We did do the Local surveys on bargaining proposals for this local’s top 5 and we held the meeting to discuss the survey results and voted on the top 5. In the end I believe the group was happy with the outcome. We did have discussion on all the proposals and as we went through and voted we had additional discussion on the contenders. In the end I believe it was pretty much unanimous. I won’t get into a lot of detail here but in order our proposals 1) Job Security/Contracting. Keep jobs 2) Pathways keep benefit or increase personal benefit 3) Article 7 work assignment/work group assignment 4) Article 19 increase ISPP payment. 5) Commuter assistance for public transportation. I will invite you all to the August and September membership meetings to learn more.

I will be in Denver on the weekend of July 21 for the District bargaining meeting. That meeting is where all the locals across the District vote on the priority proposals. I have talked with other Local Presidents and I think we are all in concurrence regarding the job security and the contracting issue. After that it gets a bit sketchy, they of course have their priorities as well. But I have some support on a couple of our other priorities and that is the goal, to drum up support for our proposals and see where our priorities line up with the District priorities. In years past we have been successful in getting some of our proposals accepted and the language in the contract.

One of the newest things that CenturyLink has decided to do is augment the centers with contractors instead of hiring actual employees. This is obviously a very big concern. Right now their numbers are small but the practice of it is problematic. In a couple of these groups the company recently offered VSPP and now are augmenting almost the same amount of folks who left with contractors. Again Problematic. Why would they hire into those positions if they can have some success outsourcing or worse offshoring the work? So be prepared for this round of bargaining will be intense and a lot is on the line; our jobs, retiree benefits, healthcare for the rest of us and plenty of other issues.

We all need to understand this is a very profitable company. A company who gave up on land lines years ago to focus on broadband and other types of communication. When your manager tells you that line loss is a problem, remind them they gave up on it publicly. We as employees and shareholders will not accept that as an excuse for anything. We can discuss the fact they pay around a 7% dividend typically almost double of what similar companies pay. We can discuss the billions of dollars of profit made last year and remind them that without the employees doing the work that built the company, they would have no business or profit. It is reasonable that they compensate the employees a reasonable wage and provide reasonable benefits. It shouldn’t be about gaining the most profit. There are other moral priorities other then profit.

I will say in order to be successful our members are going to have to become participants and not apathetic. We have to be strong together. We can’t do it without the support of everyone. I am asking you now to get prepared. To understand why we mobilize, participate, and understand that it does work. We will discuss more on that later.In the coming weeks we will be having more and more unionists around with information to share. Stay tuned.

In legislation news, the Affordable Care Act was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. That is awesome news. I have been hearing some people say it is the end of the world and frankly I just don’t get it. I have honestly tried to engage people in conversations against it to understand their concerns and frankly I have yet to have a reasonable conversation. Many times they are wrong on the facts and don’t know the provisions. I don’t get why they say it’s free… it’s not. They say they want Congress to have the same coverage as everyone else, it’s in the bill. By 2014 Members of Congress must have one of the plans in the exchange.

I guess the big thing is the “Tax” or penalty. That only applies to folks who have the ability and choose not to participate by purchasing their own healthcare. On top of that, the tax seems kind of low. If people have healthcare then it does not apply to them and if they truly can’t afford it then there are subsidies built in. Yes those subsidies are paid for by taxpayers but we are already paying it when the uninsured go to emergency rooms. This will allow those folks to get preventive checks and have ongoing medical treatment for chronic issues. What’s wrong with that and what kind of society do we live in when it’s ok to deny people the ability to see a doctor. It’s morally wrong. How many families have lost their homes due to being ill or even injured or had a childs healthcare cancelled because they somehow got cancer… and some folks think that’s ok. It’s not. We all should challenge these folks and call them out for their ridiculousness.

Change of subject. The House finally passed a transportation bill, a jobs bill if you will,…….. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
WHOO HOO!!! After trying over 30 times to repeal the ACA they finally passed a bill that would put folks to work on repairing our infrastructure. While they were at it they agreed to extend the current interest rates on student loans instead of doubling which is what would have happened had they done nothing.

We need more progress like this and it has been a struggle to get anything done in the House or the Senate and really the only way to change that is to change who represents us at those levels. We all have a stake in this. A very important stake, so again I am asking for volunteers to help in our political and legislative process; help elect candidates who support the middle class, help get bills passed that benefit people. Please consider working with us, other groups, the AFL-CIO and its affiliates. We need volunteers to call union families and knock on union households doors. Talk to them about candidates in their area and above all else encourage them to vote. If folks could give up a couple hours a week or every other week for the next 4 months we can find something useful and beneficial for you to participate in. It’s not a lifetime, just a few months. I know its hard, trust me, I know it’s hard but it is something that needs to happen. Let us know what your interests are and what your free time is and we will find something for you. Our research shows that when unions participate in the Labor to Neighbor program they can effect up to a 3% change in the outcome of an election. With all the elections so close these days 3% is a huge number.

I also wanted to congratulate the recipients of the Dick Wheeler Scholarships they are:

$1,000.00 Maximilliam Blake – Member, Bradley Blake
                   Alisha Singleton – Member, Cassandra Johnson
$600.00    Kyaa Dost – Member, Mir Dost

Congratulations and we hope these funds are helpful to you. The Dick Wheeler Scholarship fund was set up to honor one of our previous Executive Board members who worked hard every day for the members he represented and for people in his community. He was a strong advocate for education, a great leader, and a man with a great set of values. It is my hope that whenever a recipient receives this scholarship that they also learn a bit more about unions; why they were formed, what they have accomplished, and why they are still needed today. Normally we only have the two $1,000.00 scholarships but one of our previous winners did not use all of their scholarships so it was returned, which allowed us to award those monies in a 3rd scholarship this year for $600.00.

Next month we will have information regarding the District 7 Bargaining Proposals meeting. I would encourage folks to attend the membership meeting to get that information.

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