Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Biggest U.S. Strike in 4 Years

Image by LLLEV
45,000 unionized workers at Verizon entered the fourth day of their strike today. Negotiations between Verizon and two unions representing the workers, Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, broke down, leading to the work stoppage. Verizon is trying to cut health and pension benefits for workers and make it easier to fire them, according to Democracy Now. CWA says that Verizon’s concession demands, worth $1 billion, will result in losses of $20,000 per worker. It will do away with pension accruals, eliminate job security and shift the cost of health care to employees. They also want to reduce sick days and paid holidays and shift more work out of the country.

The strike is the largest the country has seen in four years. In that same period, Verizon made $19 billion in profits, Labor Notes reported. in the last four years. The company has been so profitable that it recently announced that its wireless unit would pay a special $10 billion dividend to shareholders.

As is typical, Verizon executives claim that union members must take some hits to bring labor costs into line with non-union competitors. They also point out that their wireless employees are almost all non-union, implying that the unionized “landline” employees have an obsolete job and are expendable. In reality, the workers currently on strike are responsible for maintaining the fiber optic cables that make wireless communications possible. Nevertheless, unionized Verizon workers would be much more powerful if they had the support of their colleagues in the wireless division.

In 2000, Verizon’s “landline” employees struck for 18 days. As part of the settlement, Labor Notes reports, Verizon signed a neutrality agreement in which they promised to allow the unions to organize the wireless division—but the company immediately violated the agreement. As a result, only 50 Verizon wireless workers have a union.

While not completely replaceable, some of the work done by the striking workers can be outsourced, necessitating creative tactics. The unions are picketing Verizon wireless stores, trying to turn away customers and deny the company its most profitable source of revenue.

This is What Solidarity Looks Like

Teacher Solidarity With Verizon Workers
Yesterday afternoon Norm, from Education Notes Online, joined a bunch of GEMers and teachers from other UFT activist groups at the Verizon picket line on West St. in the shadow of the World Trade Center site.

From Education Notes Online: “the imbalance of wealth and corporate control is due to a large part to the lack of a counter force. And labor is the only real potential force out there. But labor union leaders have continually played footsie and made sure to dampen any militancy that might arise among workers. The cuts to social programs in this country will lead to London calling on our shores real soon.”

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