Sisters and brothers,
This weekend I’ll leave to join our CWA bargaining team in Chicago, where we’ll begin negotiations on behalf of CWA members and their families with AT&T Midwest. Those who know me also know that I am not one to shy away from a responsibility, especially the one conferred on me by the Local 4009 membership to be their Local president. As a member of the CWA District 4 bargaining team, my commitment to my Local members, and all the CWA members who put their trust and hopes in our elected leadership, is that I and the rest of YOUR bargaining committee will be your unceasing voice at these negotiations.
Recent events seem to indicate that AT&T takes for granted our long and profitable relationship. In the face of almost embarrassing riches after receiving the recent tax-cuts, AT&T almost immediately began shedding employees. Days before Christmas. Outside of seniority. Recently, it has sometimes seemed to our members that arbitrary and capricious decisions and directions taken by management are almost designed to discourage us, to degrade our unity and divide us. Perhaps AT&T hopes we will tip our caps and say, “Thanks, Boss, may I have another?” Instead, these actions enrage us. And they strengthen our resolve to remind management that they have it backwards: We are not lucky to have a job; you are lucky that we show up in all kinds of weather, endure all kinds of mistreatment, to make AT&T profitable!
There are some things CWA members must do to help the bargaining succeed, to have your voice be heard:
- Listen up
The bargaining team will put out as much information as possible, while still keeping other things under wraps as necessary to further negotiations. Sorry, that’s the way it is when you are engaged in adversarial negotiations. During such times, you will certainly be given information and encouraged to mobilize by your representatives. Receiving mobilization information and acting on it appropriately is critical for our success. I remind you to ensure that you can be contacted by your Local and that you follow the appropriate information sources (website, social media, etc.) so you know when and where to show up.
- Show up
Whenever there is a craft-meeting, a Union-meeting, an informational picket or any other place to be that includes standing next to one of your Union brothers or sisters, that is the best place for you to help secure the best agreement. If one of your coworkers is in dispute with management, remind her or him to demand a steward. If you see a job-action, join it; this provides more protection and impact for all workers. Do not assume someone else will show up. You show up.
- Stand up
Bargaining can sometimes produce tension in the workplace, especially in management. Union members have certain rights to make their point to management that are protected by federal law. These rights can be irksome to management from time to time and that’s just too bad. In fact, job actions and demonstrations are well-known to produce desirable contracts for Union members! Don’t worry, it is normal to be nervous when exercising your rights to picket, do job-actions, and the like. Bravery is proceeding to do the right thing, even when you are nervous, and bravery is easier when you are standing with your brothers and sisters!
Though I am “merely” your voice at these negotiations, and you the arms who raise the signs and legs who walk the lines, my voice is powerful because our membership is powerful. Our Union is powerful.
Tina Culver, President
CWA Local 4009