Comcast Using Deceptive Advertising, Bait-and-Switch

New Orleans   Among other things Comcast provides internet service.  As we have discussed previously, they promised to provide internet access to lower income families for $9.95 and connect the same families to a computer for $150.  Comcast called the program Internet Essentials.  They claim to be proud of it.

We don’t know why?

In Houston a delegation of Local 100 United Labor Unions picketed Comcast’s offices demanding the company live up to its promises.  Most of these Local 100 members work at Head Start locations and in public schools in Houston.  They are in perfect position to know whether or not Comcast made any effort to live up to its promises to at least provide access to families with children in Head Start or who were eligible for free school lunches.  In a survey our union conducted of 75 families, we found 1 who knew about the Comcast program and had been able to access it.  One as is only one.

Yet, somehow Comcast was surprised that we did not call off the picket line when they agreed to a meeting on Monday afternoon.  Why would we?  In Little Rock they wanted to meet in two weeks, when they could kinda sorta get around to it.  In Shreveport we have not heard a peep.  The FCC has asked for our permission to forward our letters to them about the problems with the program to Comcast, but Comcast has not responded anywhere or at anytime except when they have learned that we planned a public protest.

Comcast’s troubles are deep and thus far their response to our pointing out the problem in cities where our coalition is active has been non-existent.  They seemed to have wanted a “pass” in the meeting in Philadelphia just for “saying” they would do something, rather than for actually making the program work.

In Houston, as well as other cities, we are also troubled by the fact that if you call the regular Comcast service number and ask for this program, Comcast believes they have “license” to do their damnedest to “up sell” you for a more expensive plan for service.  In the meeting in Philadelphia with our partners at Action United they took the preposterous position that all of that was fair game unless the family called specifically about their so-called “Internet Essentials” program.  We have now found examples of this with our members everywhere.

There is a name for this kind of sales tactic, and it is not called “lowering the digital divide,” but it is called “bait and switch.”

Add to that the millions of brochures that Comcast has printed for their public relations program about “internet essentials” and their virtually non-existent effort to really deliver the goods, and what do you have?  Well, there’s a name for that, too, and it’s called “deceptive advertising.”

Bizarrely, the FCC does not have a complaint form on their website for the inability to get access to internet or cable services, but they do have one for deceptive advertising.  Perhaps as the stack of those complaints rises higher and higher, both Comcast and the FCC will finally start taking seriously the need to finally walk the walk and talk the talk and begin to actually do what it takes to get internet to lower income families.

 

Union Leaders Thinking “Outside the Box”

Workshops on subcontracting and nursing homes and community homes

Workshops on subcontracting and nursing homes and community homes

Texas Union Members speakingUnion Organizer Roger from Houston listeningShreveport Local 100’s stewards and leaders organized themselves into three different workshops. One focused on schools and head start units, another looked at health care with nursing and community homes, and the last bit hard into contractors and subcontractors for sanitation and janitorial workers. The results were inspiring and exciting. In the report backs one leader perhaps summed it up best by saying, “we have to think ‘outside the box.’”

The reason is simple enough to follow as well. Companies are “way out the box.” One problem stewards were unpacking focused on a unit where Local 100 had won an election in April 2009 for cleaners with a local, Dallas-based company at D/FW Airport Concourse D. After endless delays in bargaining including company delays around election objections, after six months of bargaining in which the company delayed and postponed one meeting after another, they walked away from the table in spring of 2010 with dueling NLRB charges. Another company won the bid in May 2010 and recognized the unions but within hours of coming to agreement with the union in August, they walked away from the contract. A third company is now bargaining with the union, and prospects are fair for a settlement, but the union has now had to also demand recognition with several additional companies that are subcontracting part of the work. The workers, those that have survived, are shell shocked. The giant public airport authority running one of the USA’s largest airports is involved in such a race to the bottom, that it is squeezing contractors and sweating workers without a moment’s hesitation. The Local 100 stewards understood that these problems require not just leadership, but virtually heroism!

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Living Wage for Garbage Workers in Dallas

P1010025Dallas Having represented subcontracted laborers on the back of City of Dallas for the last two years, United Labor Unions Local 100 has been at wits ends trying to prevent a slashing of the wages back down to the federal minimum in the City’s newly bid contract.  We have had our champions on the Council, but not enough votes to either win a “living wage” provision yet or to prevent such a gross injustice.  Saturday found us going “old school” with new friends and allies as we gird ourselves for what seems a longer fight against stark injustice.

In searching for allies and support for our workers, Kenneth Stretcher, Local 100’s Dallas office director, had found common cause with Peter Johnson, the head of the Dallas Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  SCLC was a legacy from its days in the forefront during Rev. Martin Luther King’s time, but was spry and enthusiastic about joining with the union on this issue partially as a bridge to the tragic, but momentous, last days of Dr. King in Memphis standing with sanitation workers on strike there.

Many false starts finally led to a true bearing, as we convened at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church on MLK Boulevard in South Dallas, the site of so much of the civil rights history of Dallas.  I could all most hear the echoes of long, tired strategy sessions coming through the basement walls as we prepared for the meeting.  When Johnson began the program the hands of history lay heavy with the introductions of some of the participants.  Ernie McMillan, was a legendary link to that great tradition.  A former city council woman was a major voice in the meeting.  One old warrior whose voice was still strong was introduced as tied through their mutual friendship with Stokely Carmichael.  East Texas Jobs with Justice was on hand to help along with other unions like CWA’s Texas State Employees Union.

Our garbage workers were moving as they told their stories of injuries and illnesses from the trucks along with the pride of their professions and the mystery that their work was so little valued.  James Fortenberry, who had led Local 100’s drives as a leader both in New Orleans and in Dallas where he had relocated as a hopper after Katrina, was articulate in his confusion why New Orleans could do so much better for sanitation workers than Dallas, even though Dallas charged almost 40% more for the service.

We spoke and planned for a long term struggle, and then marched in the heat the few blocks to the King statue in front of the City of Dallas center named after King.  To enjoy the video, here’s a great link from the Dallas Morning News: http://dallasnews.com/video
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Forty Years and Counting

P1010003New Orleans        I was a couple of minutes late and walked into a speech by long time New Orleans community leader Beulah Laboistrie’s remarks about her decades of leadership in ACORN and now A Community Voice, which has arisen from the ashes of the organization in Louisiana, so I was looking sidelong at the wide grins of 50 local leaders and friends of the organization.  The spirit was powerful in the room as they announced an award named after long time leaders Gerri Bell, dead now several decades but a legend in that room and represented by her daughter and son, Beulah Laboistrie, who mentioned she would be 90 this year, and Lanny Roy from Lake Charles, who has been a rock in southwest Louisiana.

Greetings were read from ACORN Canada and ACORN International.  Mildred Edmond, President of Local 100 of the United Labor Unions, was there and in the thick of the celebration.  I wore my new “Tenants Vote” t-shirt from Toronto ACORN with its big maple leaf in the middle of their design of the ACORN button, which elicited comments and appreciation from many of the leaders in the room.

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