What CWA Members Should Know About the First COVID-19 Vaccinations 

There has been a lot of news recently about COVID-19 vaccinations. Today, an independent panel of experts is holding a vote on whether or not to recommend that the FDA approve the first COVID-19 vaccine under the agency's Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process. The vaccine is made by Pfizer. Limited distribution of vaccine doses will be sent to states next week, and there are other vaccines under development. Having many different vaccines that have been tested to make sure they are effective and safe and have been approved by the FDA will help speed production and distribution.

It will be a while before everyone is able to get a vaccine, and the availability of vaccines will not immediately end the pandemic. Record numbers of people are hospitalized with COVID-19 and deaths have been increasing in every age group. Epidemiologists expect cases to continue to surge over the next few months. Every one of us should take steps to stop the spread.

It's critical that employers provide workplace protections and that CWA members fight for improved protections and safeguards. Members should continue to observe basic public health measures, both inside and outside of work, to keep themselves and their families safe and stop the spread of the virus. Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, stay at least 6 feet apart, and avoid gatherings with other people, particularly in indoor spaces. The more steps you take, the more you are protected against COVID-19.

The states will determine who will be prioritized to get the vaccines in their state and how the distribution will be carried out. For this first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, states will likely be following the CDC's recommendations, which means that CWA-represented healthcare workers will be among the first to be vaccinated. Employers are setting up the process for vaccinations for healthcare workers, including where healthcare workers will be able to get vaccinations. CWA locals are working with employers to understand the distribution and prioritization plan and to ensure that employers will be providing adequate vaccine education to eligible members.

Your state's Department of Public Health website has the most up-to-date information about your state's COVID-19 vaccination plan.

For additional information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the CDC website at

Michael Ferreira

CFI Local 39000 TNG-CWA

New California OSHA Guidelines concerning COVID-19



LASC members:

In light of the many issues that are coming up with administrators/supervisors putting pressure on interpreters to log the DALs into the CICDS/Judicial Council's portal, and the many issues with the portal itself, we decided to give you a email to which you can write all your complaints and observations on this topic.

Below is the email link you should use every time you want to report an issue with any supervisor concerning DALs, or any issues with the CICDS portal itself. Most important before sending the email is to place “CIDCS Interpreter Portal” in the subject line. Please send them to [email protected].
As a reminder, your Union is still in a formal meet and confer with LASC over the issue, and we ask that you please do not enter your DAL information on the portal until all the issues are straightened up, and all the terms and conditions are set in writing. 
However, please continue keeping track of all your DALs separately to later enter the information after the meet and confer has come to an acceptable conclusion. 
We will keep you posted on any new developments.
In Solidarity,

Monica P. Almada
Union Steward


A Call for Pro Bono Assistance

There are still over 500 children and adolescents in custody or at other holding facilities who are separated from their parents or guardians. The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law is asking for interpreters to help them do a round of interviews to help alleviate this travesty, as well as aid in processing asylum petitions. Although they are happy to work with Spanish-language interpreters, there is an acute need to find people who could interpret indigenous languages: Mayan, Miskito, Kanjobal, Mam, Quiché, etc. 
One of the mainstays of unionism is to work toward social justice; here’s your opportunity to lend a hand in that endeavor. I know that many of our members do not work in these indigenous languages, but perhaps you know someone who can interpret from the indigenous language into Spanish … perhaps a relay interpreter arrangement could be possible. 
If you can, please contact the organization below; a couple of hours of your time and talents could mean the world to a refugee.
In solidarity,

Michael Ferreira

Center for Human Rights 

Dear attorneys and indigenous interpreters (or those who can pass this on to indigenous interpreters),

Given the Trump Administration's refusal to release detained immigrant children during the pandemic, Flores lead counsel are recruiting Spanish-speaking attorneys (or attorneys with an interpreter available to them) and in case needed interpreters (who can help with detained minors or parents who only speak indigenous dialects such as Quechua, Miskito, Mayan languages, etc.) to interview detained immigrant children and their parents.

Telephone interview may be conducted on these dates:

South Texas Family Residential Center, Dilley, TX 

November 3 and 4, 2020: 10 AM to 5 PM Central Time 11 AM to 6 PM Eastern Time, and 8 AM to 3 PM Pacific Time. 

Karnes County Family Residential Center, Karnes City, TX

November 5 and 6, 2020: 10 AM to 5 PM Central Time 11 AM to 6 PM Eastern Time, and 8 AM to 3 PM Pacific Time. 

Berks County Residential Center, Leesport, PA

November 9 and 10, 2020: 10 AM to 5 PM Central Time 11 AM to 6 PM Eastern Time, and 8 AM to 3 PM Pacific Time. 

These interviews will take about one to two hours each. We will email an interview form to attorneys who sign up to do one or more interviews. The purpose of these visits is to gather updated information regarding the federal government's compliance with the terms of the Flores settlement and previous court Orders that require the humane treatment and prompt release to family members of immigrant minors in federal custody. 

Please email [email protected] if you want to conduct one or more interviews or if you are an interpreter who may assist with minors or parents who only speak an indigenous language. When emailing me, please copy [email protected] and in your email please include:

. When emailing me, please include: 

• Your name, state where you practice, bar number, and telephone number of the phone you will use to conduct the interview. ICE will call that number to connect you with the class member or parent you will interview. 

• Please state the dates and times you are available for phone interviews. See schedule above. For times, please indicate the time zone you are in (e.g. November 5 and 6, 9 AM and 10 AM Pacific Time).

• Please email me a copy of your bar card and drivers license, or take a picture of them with your cell phone and text to Mary Jane Hunter, a paralegal at the Center for Human Rights, 631-655-9943.

If you know of any indigenous interpreters, please forward this email to them. If you are an indigenous interpreter, please email Mary Jane and me and let us know what dates and times you may be available should your help be needed, and the telephone number where you can be reached. All help by lawyers and interpreters is on a volunteer basis. 

Any questions, please email Mary Jane and me, or text me at 323-251-3223.

Thank you.

Peter Schey


Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law


 Trump Labor Board Upends Special Status of Union Stewards

September 09, 2020 / Robert M. Schwartz




And you thought it couldn’t get any worse!

On July 21 the Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) eliminated the special legal protections enjoyed by union grievance handlers for the past 70 years. In the interest of promoting workplace “civility,” the Board announced that employers will no longer be restrained from disciplining or discharging stewards or officers who use profanity or engage in other “abusive” actions in violation of an employer’s enforced code of conduct, even when these actions happen in the course of heated meetings with management.

The new decision, known as General Motors, overrules scores of NLRB rulings permitting grievance representatives to engage in “zealous” advocacy.

As far back as 1948, the Labor Board announced that:

The relationship at a grievance meeting is not a “master-servant” relationship but a relationship between company advocates on one side and union advocates on the other side, engaged as equal opposing parties in litigation.

In 1995, the Board said:

Some profanity and even defiance must be tolerated during confrontations over contractual rights.

In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court added that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA):

[G]ives a union license to use intemperate, abusive, or insulting language without fear of restraint or penalty if it believes such rhetoric to be an effective means to make its points.

In 1981, the influential Fifth Federal Circuit joined in, stating that:

The [National Labor Relations] Act has ordinarily been interpreted to protect the employee against discipline for impulsive and perhaps insubordinate behavior that occurs during grievance meetings, for such meetings require a free and frank exchange of view and often arise from highly emotional and personal conflicts.

These rulings, and others, allowed union representatives to use “salty language” and gestures when making cases to management. Discipline was forbidden unless an outburst included extreme profanity, repeated racial epithets, or physical threats. This became known as “stewards’ immunity” or the “equality principle.”


General Motors complains that the earlier Board rulings failed to acknowledge the employer's right “to maintain order and respect.”

“Much more often than not,” said the Board, workers are able to resolve conflicts among themselves in a civil manner, without resort to profanity. Why shouldn’t they be required to handle disputes with employers in the same manner? Civility, the Board explained, is “the one common bond that can hold us together.”

Cutting through the noise, the Board is really telling stewards to show respect no matter what a manager says or does. This is the same approach mandated by the British Master-Servant Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries—with firings replacing imprisonment.


General Motors discusses three union scenarios: grievance meetings, social media posts, and picket lines.

Grievance meetings. Grievance meetings are well-known flash points. HR personnel often goad union representatives with insults, jokes about vocabulary, or simply by playing dumb. At the same time, they defend trampling on the contract. It is not surprising that stewards become angry.

Before General Motors, “salty” responses such as “You’re talking s***” or “Stop acting like an a**h***” could not serve as grounds for warnings or more severe discipline. Under the Board’s new standard, employers can discipline militant leaders in the hope of sending a chill through the workforce.

Social media posts. Union members have historically been able to post vivid comments about managers on social media. After all, conduct outside the workplace is traditionally off-limits for employer discipline. In 2015, for example, the Board ruled that a company violated the NLRA when it discharged a poster for calling a manager a “nasty m*****f***er.”

Under its new standards, the Board is likely to uphold penalties for “abusive language” up to and including discharge.

Picket lines. The NLRB has long afforded protection to picket line banter, even when strikers used obscenities or made ad hominem personal attacks. Comments were only considered lawful grounds for discipline if they involved a threat of physical harm or included substantial racial or gender taunts.

General Motors permits employers to discipline strikers for picket line language that violates the employer’s enforced civility code, adding another risk to hitting the bricks.


Trump’s hold on the Labor Board will not last forever. Should Joe Biden win the presidency in November, he will be able to begin filling openings for members whose terms expire. But it may take until 2022 or later before Biden secures a majority on the five-member Board.



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Over time, a new Board may revisit some or all of the Trump Board aberrations, including General Motors. It is hard to predict what may come out in the mix. In the meantime, union representatives and members will need to tread carefully.


Q. Does General Motors apply to public sector workplaces?

A. No. The NLRB only has jurisdiction over private sector employers. Eventually, however, state labor boards often adopt federal standards.

Q. The NLRB almost always defers ULP charges over the discipline of stewards to the grievance-arbitration process. Will arbitrators apply the General Motors standards?

A. Hard to say. Veteran arbitrators are likely to stick with the existing standards requiring employers to tolerate zealous advocacy. Less experienced arbitrators may follow the NLRB’s new approach.

Q. Is there anything unions can do to increase our chances of winning grievances and arbitrations over steward civility violations?

A. One of the best defenses to a civility charge is discriminatory enforcement. Unions should maintain diaries or other records tracking instances when managers or supervisors use profanity with employees or in conversations with union representatives.

Robert M. Schwartz is a retired union labor lawyer. He is the author of several books including The Legal Rights of Union Stewards and No Contract, No Peace! A Legal Guide to Contract Campaigns, Strikes, and Lockouts. His books can be purchased from the Labor Notes online store.

Further Reading from Robert Schwartz

Robert Schwartz has been a frequent contributor to the pages of Labor Notes over the years. Here are a few highlights. For more, check out his Work Rights Press book series at Labor Notes.

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