I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
On August 7th, 2011, 45,000 Verizon workers — 35,000 represented by the union Communications Workers of America, 10,000 by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — went on strike in defense of middle-class jobs. The strikers received major support from the other unions such as DC37 whose headquarters are across the street from Verizon Headquarters in NYC. They provided a place for the strikers to rest, use bathroom facilities, picket and supplied them with food, water and much support. There are no words to describe the warmth! The picketers were also greeted and supported by TWU, AFSCME, PSC-CUNY, AFTRA, UFT–who took out a full-page ad in The New York Daily News, in support of the CWA/IBEW strikers–The Teamsters, just to name a few.
The politicians, NYC Council member Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Congressman Jerry Nadler and Queens NYS Senator Malcolm Smith, all arrived to express their support. The public on the streets and in their vehicles showed support by waving, nodding their heads and honking their horns, which gave the strikers strength when fatigue was setting in.
The media was in full force on day 1. Fox News Channel already declaring that the union was being greedy because they make on average 65,000 a year. While the newscaster that stated this makes more than that for just  hours of talking and yet she felt that a Verizon worker didn’t deserve to receive that amount in wages for their labor. That figure would soon swell to $91,000 and $50,000 in benefits. Day 2 received just a smidgen of updated reports on the strike. By then they must have gotten the word….do not cover the strikers, just mention the strike and tell Verizon’s story, for after day 2, the public received showings of day 1 interviews with the strikers and daily updates and reports of sabotage from Verizon spokespersons.
Mark C. Reed, Verizon’s executive vice president of human resources, called the outcome of the unions’ actions “regrettable” for customers and employees.
“We will continue to do our part to reach a new contract that reflects today’s economic realities in our wireline business and addresses the needs of all parties,” he said in a statement.
The trouble begins when V.P. Mark Reed disconnects the fact that if Verizon was concerned about the needs of its employees, they would be at work and not on a picket line. The “regrettable” issue is that Verizon is part of the corporate global effort to minimize the value of the worker and maximize the importance of profit over people. The only economic reality of the wireline business is that Verizon used the profits of the wireline business to launch its wireless division and continues to use the skill of its workers in the wireline business to maintain the wireline circuits in the cell sites that gives the signals for cell service while making record profits.
The strikers were the center of it all. The whistles, the noise makers, the chants directed at the scabs and management, “Rif,rif, your job is next, they took your pension, took your medical, your job is next! Better organize, better organize cause your job is next!” Hours and hours of union chants, “Who are we?, CWA! Who are we?, CWA! What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!”
The tireless dedication of the Chief Stewards and Stewards, there every day for up to 12 and more each day. When the picketers seemed to grow weary, they injected new energy by starting the chants and giving pep talk. Day after day, for almost 2 weeks, August 7th through August 20th, when all received word from CWA that they had reached an agreement with Verizon on how bargaining would proceed and how it would be restructured moving forward, and there is now a 30 day cooling off period. They stated that the major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues are now ” focused and narrowed.”
Although they do not have a new contract, the union membership can use this time out to re-group and re-evaluate their strength and their strategy. This is a time to tweak the plan….or for those who didn’t know the plan, to find out what the plan was and is. For this is not just a Verizon issue, this fight is much bigger. This is Wisconsin! Verizon is the representative of the global corporate capitalists who sees unions as the only impediment between their conquest of global cheap labor and serfdom.
It is union that brings the message to the public that for as much as the elite sends out the message that this is a natural, normal progression of society, it is not natural or equitable. It was a deliberate blueprint that while the huge increase in productivity over the last 34 years (1973-2007), the median wage declined in constant dollars. To make up for that loss, the typical worker worked longer hours, additional family members worked and credit cards were maxed out, trying to maintain the same standard of living that they had become accustomed to….the middle class life, the American dream. But all of the benefits of the productivity gains went to those who were least in need of it. It went to the wealthiest 10% who now own over 90% of all business equity and over 90% of all stocks and bonds. By 2007, the total compensation of U.S. corporate CEO’s was over 475 times the average worker. The number of jobs with pay below the poverty threshold increased to 29.4 million, or 22 percent of all jobs, in 2006 from 24.7 million, or 19 percent of all jobs, in 2002. Poverty-wage jobs increased in part because 2.5 million new jobs paid poverty wages; additionally 2.2 million jobs that paid greater than poverty wages in 2002 became poverty-wage jobs by 2006, as pay failed to keep up with the cost of living according to a report by The Working Poor Families Project, based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
In this age of global corporate giants, they have become the devouring beasts that the founding father President Thomas Jefferson advised us to beware of. Jefferson had a deep distrust of concentrated power as well as his compunction for the monopolizing of economic power by banks, and those who put their faith in what the third president called “the selfish spirit of commerce (that) knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.” This is the soul of globalization!
Jefferson might not have wanted a lot of government, as the Tea Party often touts. But he did want enough government to assert the sovereignty of citizens over corporations–the Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission case in 2010 changed the definition of citizen to include corporations under the interpretation of the First Amendment–which the Tea Party fails to include in their rendering education about the founders.
In the meantime corporate mergers and acquisitions continue their process of eliminating competition and consolidating core power as we are told in each case that it will result in increase efficiency, enhanced competition, and benefit the consumer, most recently AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile, which is now being held up by the U. S. Justice Dept. Actually, the only certain winners, were and continue to be the deal makers who receive the commissions and the top managers who reward themselves with additional bonus. The shareholder is in many instances the loser unless he holds a substantial amount of the stock, and always the consumer loses while the corporate global economy continues to create unprecedented financial wealth built on illusions and bubbles. This is allowed at an intolerable cost to the worker and on a broader base, the country because the worker is a valuable asset to the country, and the worker is systematically being neutralized.
The union membership must now turn this assault into a movement. They must begin to figure out how to change this path of democratic destruction from having a job, which benefits only the employer, to making a living, which benefits the worker and society at large. On this Labor Day, lets remind America that it can celebrate this holiday with a day off, thanks to the union worker who fought for paid holidays. You can celebrate all of the labor workers who make this country run, from the Police, Firefighters, Sanitation worker and Telephone Company worker who has made sure that you can communicate with one another to make this Labor Day special for you.
HAPPY LABOR DAY!