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CWA National News: Stony Brook Research Assistants Win First Contract After Long Battle & Major NLRB Case Seeks Justice For Guild Members At Thomson Reuters/Complaint Includes First Charge Involving Workers' Free Speech On Twitter

Also… Campaign Underway to Repeal Ohio's Anti-Union Law/New Allies Emerge to Fight Back As Governor's Agenda Gets More Extreme & All CWA Locals Urged To Join Central Labor Councils To Fight Attacks On Unions

Published Saturday, April 16, 2011 9:00 pm
by CWA National News

Stony Brook Research Assistants Win First Contract After Long Battle

Research Assistants (RAs) at Stony Brook University in New York stood tough for 10 years, organizing, mobilizing and calling out management for trying to get rid of their Union.  Now, RAs have ratified their first contract.  The 683 RAs are PhD candidates who work for faculty at the university's Research Foundation, which is supported by Federal Funds.  They ratified the three-year agreement with a 78% "yes" vote.  Kasia Sawicka, an RA in Bio-Medical Engineering, helped found the Union and bargain the first contract.  She said RAs are proud "that at a moment in American history when Collective Bargaining Rights are under attack, the hard work and tremendous energy invested into the struggle of the Research Assistants Union at Stony Brook University has paid off."  The RAs thanked CWA (Communications Workers of America) Local 1104, which supported their long fight.  Local 1104 President George Bloom said the university "tried every trick in the book to prevent the best and the brightest from forming a Union to protect their rights and the rights of future research assistants.  RAs realized early on that a Union and a Collective Bargaining Agreement were needed.  They did it and CWA couldn't be prouder."  Jim McAsey, Organizing Director and Mobilization Coordinator for CWA Local 1104, said the RAs "won this contract with grassroots, movement-based Unionism. They recognized their power, organized, took direct action, and commanded respect from the Research Foundation.  Their commitment inspires me and should inspire us all."  The unit is already moving ahead on next steps: Electing Union Stewards and Division Coordinators for academic departments.  The contract increases RA salaries, establishes a fair grievance process, and expands dental and vision coverage, among other improvements.


Major NLRB Case Seeks Justice For Guild Members At Thomson Reuters/Complaint Includes First Charge Involving Workers' Free Speech On Twitter

Citing massive violations of Workers' Rights at Thomson Reuters, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is filing a complaint against the media company and for the first time is charging an employer with illegally restricting its employees' right to use Twitter to communicate about Working Conditions.  In January 2010, Thomson Reuters declared an impasse and shut down bargaining with TNG-CWA (The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America) Local 31003, which represents more than 400 Journalists, Technicians and other employees at the news service.  The NLRB said the company's action and subsequent, unilateral pay cuts were unlawful.  "The NLRB's complaint affirms our belief that company negotiators weren't dealing in good faith and weren't respecting the rule of law," Local 31003 President Bill O'Meara said. "Our hope now is to move past the rancor and return to the bargaining table so we can give our members the certainty, security and respect they deserve."  Unique to the case is the NLRB's complaint that the company illegally reprimanded a reporter who posted this on Twitter: "One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild Members."  Reporter Deborah Zabarenko, who authored the tweet and is the Guild's unit chair at Thomson Reuters, said she sent the message to a company Twitter address after a supervisor invited workers to post comments about making Reuters a better place to work.  "The next day the bureau chief called me at home," Zabarenko said, quoted in a New York Times story about the case. "He told me that Reuters had a policy that we were not supposed to say something that would damage the reputation of Reuters News or Thomson Reuters.  I felt kind of threatened. I thought it was some kind of intimidation."  TNG-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said the NLRB's complaint "is an extremely important recognition that this is protected activity for workers and that they have a right under law to have a voice."  "The best path to free speech is still through a Union where you don't have to fear reprisal or job loss for speaking out on behalf of your fellow workers," Lunzer said. "It is sad that a news organization had to be reminded that free speech is the law of the land."


Campaign Underway to Repeal Ohio's Anti-Union Law/New Allies Emerge to Fight Back As Governor's Agenda Gets More Extreme

More than 11,000 people recently rallied outside Ohio's Statehouse to officially kick off the campaign to repeal the state's new law stripping Public Workers of their Collective Bargaining Rights.  An army of opponents is ready to begin gathering 231,000 valid signatures to put the repeal on November's ballot.  And it won't just be CWA, other Union Members and progressive allies circulating petitions.  A growing number of Republicans are furious, too.  A police sergeant interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch said he plans to use vacation time to collect signatures on petitions.  While most police officers he knows used to lean Republican, "Not anymore," he said. "I don't know of one cop now who admits he's Republican."  Opposition is even coming from the business community, where some companies have resigned from the Chamber of Commerce over its support for the Union-Busting Law.  Shrugging off the backlash, Republican Governor John Kasich has actually intensified his Anti-Worker Agenda.  Hidden deep in his budget proposal is a provision that would allow his administration to contract out — for 75 years — any and all state services to any business chosen by the state budget director. Contractors would pay no business tax on gross receipts or on any income derived from providing public services.  "There is no requirement that the favored bidder be current on taxes, operate a safe workplace, pay a legal wage or even be an Ohio company that employs Ohioans," reports Innovation Ohio, a think tank that discovered language buried between pages 261 and 266 of the budget bill.  Imagine this scenario, Innovation Ohio said: "A generous Kasich campaign donor behind on his taxes — who operates a call center in Bangladesh paying workers four dollars per day — would pay no business taxes on income from a state contract providing job re-training advice to unemployed Ohioans over the phone."  CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen, who was at the rally with about 650 CWA members, said the budget revelation and the rest of Kasich's attacks on Working People are fueling the anger of Ohioans and their resolve to stop his agenda.  "The good news is that we have a broad, growing movement fighting for good jobs and strong communities and we're gaining support every day," Rosen said.


Devastating Texas Budget Proposals Focus Of Huge Texas State Employee Union-CWA Lobby Day

Fighting to save vital public services and good jobs, Texas State Employee Union-CWA Members turned out in force last week in Austin, some of them riding buses all night, for their biggest Lobby Day ever.  The day of marching, rallying and lobbying drew about 5,000 people from TSEU and the Texas Forward coalition of Unions, Faith and Civic Organizations and Advocacy Groups for people who badly need the services on the legislature's chopping block.  TSEU, with more than 12,000 members working in state agencies and universities, fits two categories, Vice President Mike Gross said: A Union and a champion for those in need.  "We see ourselves as advocates for the services we provide," he said. "When you're talking about something on the order of ten-thousand State Employee positions gone, you're not just losing jobs, you're losing Child Protective Service Investigators, Parole Officers and Human Service Employees.  These cuts would devastate our communities."  The extreme proposals made Lobby Day's constituent visits especially important, Gross said.  The Texas government is GOP-controlled, with a 19-12 split in the Senate and a super-majority in the House, but some Republicans are resisting the deep cuts.  "They're feeling the ground shift beneath their feet as their party moves even further right," he said. "We have people who are pretty conservative Republicans saying, 'We can't do cuts like this.'"


CWA Joins Thousands in Rally Against Anti-Worker Budget In Michigan

CWAers joined with thousands of Union Members, Students, Senior Citizens and Working Families in Lansing, Michigan last week to rally against devastating budget proposals that would slash vital services, raise taxes on those who can least afford it and give a $1.8 billion tax break to businesses.  Republican Governor Rick Snyder seeks to raises taxes on Low-Income Families, tax Workers' pensions for the first time and take $900 million away from education, programs for people in need and other services.  That's on top of the new law he signed last month that cuts jobless benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.  Especially controversial is the scheme that would allow the governor to literally declare financial "martial law" in a city or school district and give officials sweeping power to fire elected officials, break Teachers and other Public Workers' Contracts, seize and sell assets and eliminate services.  All of it could occur without any input from the public.  CWA and other Unions set up tents at the rally where citizens could register to vote and sign up for lobbying visits with lawmakers.


All CWA Locals Urged To Join Labor Councils To Fight Attacks On Unions

As National, State and Corporate Attacks on Unions intensify, CWA and the National AFL-CIO are asking Locals to make it an "immediate priority" to join and participate in their communities' Central Labor Councils.  "As we respond to the crisis faced by workers in our states and local communities, it becomes clearer than ever before that we need a movement that is strong and united at every level," the AFL-CIO Executive Council said in a letter to Union Locals Nationwide. "We cannot survive as a movement if we let solidarity be simply a word and not a way of life."


Ohio IUE-CWA Members Raise Funds for Japanese Red Cross

As Japan struggles to recover from last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami, IUE-CWA members at Moraine, Ohio's DMAX plant are helping.  Local 84755 members launched a fundraising drive at the plant, which is jointly owned by Japan's Isuzu and General Motors.  IUE-CWA matched the $3,000 raised and Isuzu/GM is matching the sum for a total of $12,000 to be sent to the Japanese Red Cross.  "We have a lot of Japanese workers at the plant, and we just felt bad and wanted to try to do something to help," said Local Treasurer Donald Daniels, a DMAX employee. "We stood out at the front door with buckets and took in donations for about a week."


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