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.
Thomas Jefferson

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 [4] 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.



Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
Abraham Lincoln

The Republican Party and their pals in the corporate owned media have been sending a constant message out to the public that unions are a problem and a drain on the economy.  They claim that the states are broke and it’s due to how much they give union workers.  These claims are being hailed and repeated over and over as it indoctrinates the public[ including union workers] that we, the working class, are now making too much in wages and benefits and we must help the government clamp down by paying for more ourselves.  Now lets examine how the working class can manage to do this.

According to the Monthly Labor Review, unions made the middle class strong by fighting for and winning a workers right to  have a strong voice in both the market and in our democracy. When unions are strong they are able to ensure that workers are paid fair wages, receive the training they need to advance to the middle class, and are considered in corporate decision-making processes. Unions also promote political participation among all Americans, and help workers secure government policies that support the middle class, such as Social Security, family leave,  the 40 hour work week and the minimum wage.

But as unions became weaker over the past forty years, they were less and less able to perform these functions—and the middle class withered. Their numbers steadily declined largely because politically driven legislation prevents private-sector workers from freely exercising their right to join or not to join a union. Membership in private-sector unions are now 7 percent, from around 30 percent in the late 1960s. Public-sector unionization remained stable for decades—it was 37 percent in 1979 and is 36 percent today, but they are now designing the illusion that it has grown out of control over the years which makes it seem as if their attacks on them from conservative political opposition are justifiable and reducing their numbers is warranted.  The total union workforce is now less than 12 percent , and this percentage is likely to continue hemorrhaging unless we do something to stop the bleeding and heal the wound.

It amazes me as to why no one has asked the Congress and the Senate to take a pay and benefits cut.  The rank and file members of the House and Senate are $174,000.00 per year.  The House and Senate Leaders [Majority and Minority] are paid $193,400.00 per year.  The Speaker of the House earns $223,500.00 per year.  Each member gets an automatic COLA every year unless Congress votes not to accept it.  Let’s wait on that to happen.  Members pay 1.3 percent of their salaries into their retirement plans and 6.2 percent of wages into Social Security taxes, with an annual wage maximum of $106,800.00. They are eligible for a pension  at age 50 after completing 20 years of service or after completing 25 years of service at any age or after the age of 62.  You would have had to service 5 years to receive any pension.  The amount that the member gets depends on the years of service and the average amount of the highest 3 years of his or her salary.  Their salaries also affect the salaries for federal judges and other senior government executives. They receive the same health benefits available to other federal employees.  Is this shared sacrifice?

Without the counterbalance of workers united together in unions, the middle class withers, the economy and politics tend to be dominated by the rich and powerful, and as we are now seeing, this leads to an even greater flow of money in our economy to the top of the income scale. As union membership declines the middle class wages declines and all working class wages and benefits declines.  But if we pull together and give up some more of our pay increases and pay more into our health care and pension benefits, we can continue to support the tax breaks for the top 1 percent and the CEOs can continue to see an increase in their million dollar salaries.  I’m sure that will keep a smile on the face of shareholders and maybe next budget they will allow us take to the streets and beg as the rich goes by, so that we can pay what they charge for our rents, mortgages, food and most of all health care.

In recent years, the middle class accounted for the smallest share of the nation’s income ever since the end of World War II, when this data was first began being collected. 60 percent of all Americans, received only 46 percent of the nation’s income in 2009, down from around 53 percent in 1969.

The middle class weakened over the past several decades because the rich secured the lion’s share of the economy’s gains. The share of pretax income earned by the richest 1 percent of Americans more than doubled between 1974 and 2007, climbing to 18 percent from 8 percent. And for the richest of the rich—the top 0.1 percent—the gains have been even more astronomical—quadrupling over this period, rising to 12.3 percent of all income from 2.7 percent.  CEO pay has gone up an average 20 percent just in 2010 according to an article in the New York Times.

With all of the earnings of the richest 1 percent, this group was given several tax cuts in addition to the tax loop holes they used to avoid taxes.  In 2010 GE reported 5.2 billion U.S. profit but got a refund of approximately 3 billion..  Bank of America has 2.2 trillion in assets, yet it pays less percentage in taxes than the average American household, as Verizon who reported 24.2 billion in pre-tax U.S. income and claimed a Federal  corporate refund of over 1 billion.  The tax rate is 35 percent yet these corporations pay less  than 10 percent in taxes.  But instead of the corporate tax cheats that are bankrupting America, they use union as the resource of our political arena.  They wouldn’t dare attack their corporate sponsor Citigroup who were the largest recipient of bailout monies [476 billion] but paid no taxes for the last 4 years.  Instead the quote by the republican party is ” America doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.”  Yet the more tax breaks they get, the more jobs they send overseas.

I contend that when Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s [Chairman of the House Budget Committee]  sells the Path to Prosperity  budget agenda, it is meant to continue to facilitate the corporate oligarchy plan of socializing losses and privatizing gains.  The gains that were made because of our labor. After all the tax cuts and profits, he wants to reduce taxes on the wealthy by another 10 percent [ from 35% to 25%] while continuing to cut entitlements for the poor and seniors who are on fixed incomes.  They have succeeded in convincing the public through their corporate owned media, that you run a government budget the same way as you would run your household budget.  At the same time the push to privatize every government function on the premise that the private sector who are experienced in running businesses can do these functions better than the government.  Well as we see with our health insurance companies [premiums are skyrocketing and you and I are not getting anymore for our money], our military [Xe Services…previously known as Blackwater USA gets over $600.00 up to $10,000.00 a day, depending on who you are guarding, contractor or diplomat and how well you negotiate] and our prisons, in each case our tax dollars pay for it while the corporations reap the benefits.  As for our health care, our taxes funds the research and the companies patent the breakthroughs [socializing the risk and privatizing the profits].  You cannot run a government the same way you do a household budget…capitalism is not designed that way.  A government is going to always have debt and revenue.  It has a different function than a household has.

We must make up our minds to win and not be divided or distracted from our goal.  We must not let them throw in the public union making more than the private union scam [not true] to divide union against union and non-union against union.  We must not let them throw in the lie that it’s the migrant worker who is stealing your jobs, because there has always been immigrants coming to this country legally and illegally.  It’s just that the ones that have not come by way of Europe are not given many visas, just work permits to come and work the fields and be exploited by their rich employers.  We must not let them tell us that the person on welfare is why we are going broke, because the fact is that AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and Food Stamps take up only 1% each of federal and state budgets.  When they put out these illusions, it is for the sole purpose of making us [and they know that we will] turn on the victim like we always do.  I say victim because what is being done to us now has already been  done to them tenfold by the same corporations.  We must not let them pit the workers in the right to work states against union, because through their propaganda, they have taught those people that union workers would hurt the economy because if they pay them the salaries and benefits that they demand, then they can only afford to hire less than 1/2 of  the amount of workers and therefore they would be out of work or they would have to pay them less for their labor.  They also threaten to close down saying that they can’t stay competitive.  Who are they competing with, themselves?  It’s the same players in the global markets.  In the meantime those workers have not done their homework on the benefits of being a union worker.  For instance, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, in 2003, states with right-to-work laws in general had a higher rate of workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers.

We must begin to EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE.  We must educate ourselves, our families, our neighbors, even our co-workers who want to believe that they could be a part of the aristocrats if it weren’t for those lazy workers, or the so-called illegal immigrant.  The immigrant, who if they come from Europe they are your sonogram and mammogram imaging technician, but if they are non-white they are systematically and automatically looked upon as illegal.  But without the immigrant in the past, wages nor opportunity would not have ever increased for the American worker.  We must be educated enough to know that in the words of Pres. James Madison,  America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.  So let them not win by playing to our prejudices small mindedness, and lack of education because the RICH are counting on our ignorance.

Let us understand our VALUE.  WE AS THE WORKING CLASS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE ASSET TO THIS COUNTRY, CORPORATIONS AND THE WORLD. We are the reason that the wealthy have their wealth.  We must stand up and fight for our rights to a living wage and pension.  We must DEMAND our rightful share of the wealth that WE CREATED. We must fight for our right to WORK and RETIRE with DIGNITY because WE EARNED IT!

Penny McQuaig