A group of union members from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are starting to challenge their union leadership and are asking the pressing question: Are CWA California union leaders out of touch with both their membership and reality?
While tentative labor agreements have been reached nationwide with CWA and AT&T, both California and Connecticut have not settled for the improved packages presented to union leaders. This is causing significant distress among the rank and file who have quietly contacted this blogger to complain that union leadership is not listening to its members, which want to settle for the same package as other CWA units across America.
CWA locals have recently signed new contracts with AT&T in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, representing 22,000 AT&T employees.
Among the newly provisions in the newly ratified agreements in other states were:
–General wage increases in each year of the contract for most employees – 2.25 percent the first year, 2.75 percent the second year, and 3 percent the third year.
–A 1 % pension band increase in each year of the contract.
–New hires will continue to receive the Bargained Cash Balance 2 Pension Plan, with a one-time, 1 percent pay credit increase and a generous 80 percent match in the AT&T Retirement Savings 401(k) Plan.
–Continue to cover 100 percent of network preventive care, including such items as annual physicals and well-child care, with modest increases in employee contributions.
AT&T’s West Coast contract employs 17,000 workers in California and Nevada (and 3,000 workers in Connecticut for its East Coast contract). CWA contracts expired in April, and negotiations have been going on since February, but still to no contract settlment in California.
Though the economy has been rebounding over recent months, the U.S. is still facing a difficult economic time nationwide making the refusal of this generous agreement by CWA labor leaders baffling and is causing members to raise eyebrows. While the jobs of 20,000 CWA members are at stake it seems that union leaders are failing to see that the agreement before them would bring security to their members and their families.
It appears the question proposed by so many CWA members as to whether or not their union leaders are in fact in touch with reality is being answered resoundingly by leaders’ refusal to act in the best interest of their fellow union members.
A number of members are taking issue with the chair of the bargaining committee, Tom Runnion, and other union leaders. Runnion and CWA union leaders took the union on a two day strike, costing members pay and resulting in nothing but dissention in the union ranks against leadership.
“What the Company has experienced the past two days is a product of its own actions. We’ve told you repeatedly on and off the record that the Company’s actions prior to and during these negotiations have created a level of morale and anger that will likely take years to reverse. You haven’t listened to us so our members spoke with their feet. This action was about multiple violations of our rights and the law during this process, all of which make a mockery of the concept of good faith bargaining,” Runnion said in a statement to members.
But rank and file union members who have contacted us disagree with Runnion’s statement and say that they want to settle and don’t care for the angry rhetoric being put forth by CWA leadership.
“We want the same package that all the other state’s got,” said a CWA member, speaking for a group of other CWA members. “The union leadership is holding up our contract over the stupid sticker issue that we don’t even care about.”
The ‘sticker issue’ began earlier this year when union leaders demanded members wear a sticker that read: “WTF” with smaller print saying, “Where’s the Fairness?” This controversial negotiations button lead to the ban of such stickers around the state by AT&T, which felt the language was offensive, as it is also an abbreviation for “What the F…K.”
Now CWA union leadership seems to be facing a challenge and backlash, not from AT&T, but instead from their own membership which is angered that the sticker issue is holding up settlement of a new and beneficial contract for CWA members.