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  Check Out This New Feature

Attached is the first edition of Centurylink's Retiree Benefits and Wellness newsletter .

It can be accessed at and then clicking on Retiree Status.
 It is planned as a quarterly newsletter.

Retiree Benefits and Wellness Newsletter for CenturyLink Retirees

The union revolt no one is talking about: This election proved that you overlook the labor movement at your peril

Democrats took rank-and-file union members for granted. They must make labor central to the conversation again

Donald Trump’s election victory has sent the Democratic Party into a circular firing squad of recrimination. But the folks that should really be worried are the leaders of organized labor who opted to back Hillary Clinton, the “sure thing,” over the right thing, Bernie Sanders. This decision by the union leadership was in the face of consistent polling throughout the primary season that showed Sanders holding a commanding lead over Trump in head-to-head matchups.

The 74-year-old Vermont firebrand just did not have all of Clinton’s baggage on free trade, Clinton Foundation self-dealing,  and the six-figure speeches she gave to the likes of Goldman Sachs that had pillaged America’s Main Street for fun and profit,

Not since the Reagan Revolution has the leadership of organized labor been so repudiated by the vote totals in the very states and counties data would indicate they should be able to deliver. NBC reports that Trump flipped 225 counties that President Obama carried in states like  Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania,  where union registration is well above the national average. Yet the exit polls indicate the rank and file union voters split with their leadership over who should lead the free world.

NBC exit polls documented that in Ohio, that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, Trump’s anti- free trade stance and messaging on the economy carried the day with union households that Romney lost to Obama by 23 points. Four years later Trump carried those same union households by 6 points. For these communities, the loss of good paying factory jobs to global free trade was life altering with generational consequences the elites missed.

The corporate news media had to concede that the Trump working class wave had come from states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan where the damage done to the Main Street economy by the Great Recession (or Great Wall Street Heist) had been far more extensive and enduring than they had reported. If the media did not see Donald Trump coming, it was because they had become entirely disconnected from the circumstances of the working class.

The alleged “recover” that President Obama hoped would be a corner stone of his legacy made the banks more than whole but left many rust belt many households twisting in the wind. Whatever income gains there were went overwhelmingly to the top one percent.

Not surprisingly, the places where Donald Trump made inroads with union households were the counties that had not recovered from the financial crisis, and in many cases were already in decline from before the official start of the Great Recession. As I have previously reported, as late as this early this year the National Association of Counties had documented that a full recovery had actually only occurred in seven percent of America’s more than 3,000 counties.

It is important to note that there were unions who were more in touch with this growing working class anger and backed Senator Sanders. They knew that Clinton had everything going for her but the arc of history.  The Communication Workers of America, The American Postal Workers Union, the National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and TWU Local 100, which represents   New York City’s transit workers  backed Sanders.

After the election, I interviewed TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen for the Chief-Leader. As Samuelsen saw it,  Mr. Trump’s vocal opposition to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership free trade pact and his pledge to roll back NAFTA wooed millions of blue collar union workers looking for a shake-up of the political status quo.

“I think that it is now absolutely clear the Democratic Party  has lost touch with its working class roots,” Samuelsen told Salon. “These fissures between the working class have been exploited and blown wide open by Donald Trump. Democrats need to take a step back and ask why, with all the ridiculous things Trump said, he was ultimately more palatable to working class trade union Democrats?”

Throughout the bruising primary campaign there were reports of a split between union leadership and rank and file when it came to the Sanders-Clinton face-off. Back in April Politico reported that, despite the enthusiastic endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers for Clinton, a search of  Federal Election Commission contribution data base indicated Mr. Sanders had garnered $413,000 in donations from 9,000 teachers to her $394,000 from just 4,500 educators.

Trump’s victory certainly raises the stature of Gov. Scott Walker  of Wisconsin, whose success at pitting  taxpayers against public unions catapulted him to the national stage, where he pledged as a presidential candidate to eliminate unions from the federal workforce.

Perhaps, more than any other faction of the Democratic Party’s base the labor movement is the one that faces an existential threat to its own existence in Trumpworld. Currently, thanks to anti-union campaigns in Wisconsin and West Virginia a majority of the fifty states are as so called ‘right to work’ states where unions  can’t get traction.  For decades the percentage of Americans in a union has been in decline since its high of 35 percent   in the mid-1950s. Now, it is 11 percent, less than a third of that even though, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual earnings for a union member are significantly higher than non-union workers. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics union workers make $980 a week contrasted to $776 for non-union  workers.  It is no coincidence that as the prevalence of unions continues to wane income inequality has become more pronounced.

So now what? Yes, Clinton has the popular vote and Trump has the Presidency based on the Electoral College, which is a vestige of white male oppression that can trace its roots back to when the slave states could hold dominion over our  entire republic. The challenge for labor is to insert itself with a new militancy into the national conversation by zeroing in on the thing that many parents and grandparents of all political perspectives are most anxious about, the ability of their kids and grandchildren to support themselves.

For too long labor unions have been perceived as protectors of the status quo who look out for  their most senior members, even if it means cutting rotten deals for their new hires that are most often young people.  In too many workplaces in America this has created a two tier system where the legacy union worker makes $25 an hour and the new hires make $9.10 cents. That was my recent experience in a New Jersey supermarket where I was a member of the United Food & Commercial Workrs Local 1245.  I was blown away when I looked up the six figure salary the head of that union local made, even as the bulk of the union workers were making pathetic wages based on scheduling that was based on whimsy of management.

When I talked to the twenty somethings, working in the “union” supermarket with me they felt the union was actually a predator, a dues collecting machine disconnected from the misery of  a single mother struggling to feed her children on sub-standard “union wages.” Where unions have to focus like a laser is on these young people, making their struggle and aspirations their own,  just as some unions like the SEIU are already doing, with their national $15 an hour campaign.  Any union not pushing for a livable wage should be called out.

Historically, unions got traction because they became incredibly relevant to people’s lives by offering a path to something better in life, even if it had to be redeemed by struggle. Right now, in too many American cities millions of 16 to 24 year olds are not in school and not at work. They are a generation wasting in waiting.  By some estimates  as many as six million are idle. There are millions of un-employed and under-employed millennials.

We know that every year that goes by without them being engaged in work or school increases the likelihood of them running afoul of the law. Labor needs to champion these young people and lead a national campaign for job training and placement.

Sadly, even in a place as progressive as New York City, despite an historically  large commitment to funding for 60,000 slots youth employment, close to 80,000 kids went away empty handed from the lottery based system. That’s about a one percent improvement from 2015 when 130,000 young people applied for 54,000 openings.

There are massive changes already underway in the world of work that could mean the emergence of a permeant underclass in American life, disconnected from productive society because year after year we ignored their circumstance. In many communities we have seen such a trend get a foothold as a consequence of our decision to criminalize drug use and brand a generation as unemployable.

The path to employment is getting steeper all the time in ways that transcends the economic cycle. A study just released by the National League of Cities, entitled the “Future of Work In the Cities” , describes a pretty sobering state of affairs where by 2025 15 to 25 percent of jobs linked to manufacturing, packing, construction maintenance and agriculture could all be automated. We need to be focused on job training and entrepreneurial coaching for the world yet to be not the one that has been.

There are real world examples where young people of color, from neighborhoods  where good jobs are hard to find, are being embraced by the labor movement, a dramatic contrast  to just twenty years ago. Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents the city’s construction unions, says in New York City a robust apprenticeship program has made all the difference in helping shape a far more diverse building trades union workforce in the 21st century.

“Many, many years ago, twenty years ago, there was no question that diversity was a challenge in the trade,” LaBarbera said during a phone interview. “Today it is a very different picture and I will tell you frankly that the current membership is extremely diverse. Our estimates are that there is over  50 percent diversity within the trades currently, over 50 percent, which is a very good number.”

LaBarbera credits a collaboration between the unions and the Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York on an apprenticeship program that was created more than ten years ago that helped the unions and contractors tap tnto a broad cross section of New York City high school seniors willing commit to the trades.

“On the workforce side the union members employed by BTEA contractors are highly diverse,” said Lou Coletti, President and CEO of the BTEA.  “Today, there are about 8,000 apprentices. With 65 per cent being African American Latino and women 75 percent are NYC residents.

The Edward J. Malloy Construction Skill Pre-Apprenticeship  program, along with the city’s Department of Education, offer eligible  seniors the chance to enter into a three to five year training  program, depending on the trade, that will lead directly into a well paying apprenticeship.

Back in 2014 Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs conducted a comprehensive examination of the program and found  that it has an 80 percent retention rate and that almost 90 percent pf the graduates were black, Hispanic or Asian. Between 2001 and 2013 the program had produced 1,443  graduates directly into union apprenticeships.  But program just wash’t racially diverse. A third of the participant came from Brooklyn, 28 percent from the Bronx, 23 percent from Queens and 6 percent from Staten Island.

For what amounted to a $7,500 investment per student investment the gradates of the program were projected to earn $1.6 million over their work lifetime compared with a classmate who found work as a short order cook. The union, DOE, contractor collaboration was placing the program’s graduates  into industry positions that paid a $67,110 salary  on average. Authors of the Columbia study “Expanding Opportunity for Middle Class Jobs In New York City”  say the program is the “most successful construction industry pre-apprenticeship program in the country.”

Just as organized labor identified with civil rights,  back fifty years ago, it now has to be championing more than the preservation of their own fringe benefits and pensions.  It needs to be seen as the leading champion of full youth employment and engagement. It’s an opportunity that is wide open.  And there is no time to waste. It is time to get all of America  back to work again.

Follow Bob Hennelly on Twitter: @stucknation

Brothers and Sisters of CWA 7102.
I thought now would be a good time to send out a reminder that we are just a little over a year away from the end of our current contract.
Our brothers and sisters at Verizon just ended a nearly 7 week strike. Their fight is going to be our fight. They were able to make big gains by standing together. Corporate America’s attack on the working class is never ending. When companies like Verizon that make a billion dollars a month in profit want to take more away from its workers. We need to be prepared.
We hope to never have a strike or lockout. That being said they do happen.
Now is the time everyone should be putting money away in preparation for a work stoppage.
We need to be signing up non-members.
Just remember united we bargain divided we beg.

In Solidarity,
Don Dawson
President CWA 7102

Dear CWA Retiree,
The best way to keep in touch with fellow CWA retirees and receive current information, is to join the Retired Members Chapter. At this time, we are meeting at the CWA 7102 Union Hall at 3612 SW 9th St. in Des Moines, on the third Tuesday afternoon of each month, at 1 PM. Our meetings usually last for around an hour, and you may feel free to bring a guest. If you’ve not been attending these gatherings, you’ve been missing out!  Please come join us!
Our membership dues are $24 per year, which helps with the cost of keeping us informed of news that affect us and our wallets. This small amount, widens the scope and power of the union, and provides the strength and foundation for positive changes.
Why should you join with your fellow CWA retirees?
SOLIDARITY… Since we no longer meet at work, it is an opportunity to remain united with your fellow members, and stay informed on issues of contract negotiations and endangered healthcare benefits.
STRENGTH… If we remain silent and isolated, we won’t be heard by those who affect our union benefits.  By joining with us in unity, our strength increases, and we WILL be heard!
ACTION…  As an organized group, we strive to resolve our shared issues and concerns.
INFORMATION/EDUCATION… We learn about news affecting our lives. Enlightening program speakers share insightful current information from which we can benefit.
  COMARADERIE … After union business has been discussed, we have time for food, fun, and friends!
AND, even though we have retired, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE REMAIN UNITED, with upcoming contract negotiations, the results of which could certainly impact us! Our health care benefits are of vital concern, both for those who are Medicare-eligible, and –ineligible, as well as for future retirees. WE NEED TO SHOW OUR STRENGTH AND UNITY, toward a positive outcome within the new contract!
Please complete the attached/enclosed survey (if receiving this communication via e-mail, the survey link is , and return your completed survey WITHIN THE WEEK, so we can compile your responses to better serve your needs.
Thank you, in solidarity,
  The CWA RETIREES Local Board
Robbie Thompson-Blythe, President   515 490-9571
 Loretta Hansen, Vice President
Danita Sapp, Treasurer   515 238-8656
 Roberta Summy, Secretary   515285-7432 or 515 537-3121
Labor Leaders and members gathered to have a discussion with former 
CWA International President Larry Cohen Friday Jan. 8

Mark Rocha had the privilege to introduce Larry....

Through its Next Generation program, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is connecting members aged 35 and under with seasoned member-mentors over the age of 35 to form a network of committed union activists across the country. Next Gen activists bring youthful energy and unique insights to the task of advancing economic and social justice.
If you are a CWA member who is 35 or under and want to learn and lead, you belong in Next Gen.  If you are a CWA member who is over 35 and willing to share your experience as a Member-Mentor, Next Gen needs you.

Be part of CWAs future.

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There is one solution to skyrocketing inequality that most of the TV talking heads love to ignore: Unions! It is no surprise.
Without unions, big companies like Walmart or Amazon can cut benefits, allow unsafe working conditions, slash wages, and pocket the massive profits.
Well, I am not afraid to talk about how unions are essential and I am relying on you to get the word out. Please watch and share now:
More economic growth, higher wages, shared prosperity all by strengthening unions. 50 or 60 years ago, it was considered obvious; today, folks are afraid to talk about it. That is what decades of right-wing propaganda will do.
The first step is to spread the word by sharing this message right now, because MoveOn will be campaigning for the idea that gets the most traction in our Big Picture series.
This video is the latest in the â€Å“Big Picture: Ten Ideas to Save the Economyâ€Â&#65533; series I am working on with MoveOn. And MoveOn has committed to campaigning on the ideas that get the most traction. So if you believe in fair pay for a hard days work, you wont want to skip watching and sharing this video.
Thanks for all you do.
Robert Reich

A worldwide virtual community of workers, union members, leaders and activists coming together in support of ALL labor. Click HERE to go to the UNIONS4WORKERS facebook page

New from your Union. Sweatshirts
They are $40 each.  Sizes M-4XL. 

If you just wonder down the road of life without speaking up for your rights you are just ROAD KILL.  But you can occupy the road telling the 1% you are not going to be run over by them anymore.


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