Big Stakes in Verizon Strike

Posted on August 15, 2011 by

Americans don’t see picket lines very often so it’s big news when 45,000 American workers go out on strike. 

The two unions taking on Verizon – CWA and IBEW – are calling it a campaign to save the middle class.  That’s a good way to gain public support.

But a rapidly dropping unionization rate makes it challenging for any union to arouse sympathy for workers who earn about $1,000 a week.

Just one in fourteen private sector workers are unionized and, unless there’s radical change, very few nonunion wage earners will ever get a union job or have a chance to organize one.  While some American workers may envy or respect union members who can stand up for their rights, most are either indifferent to – or resentful of – those who have the luxury of highly-paid union work.

This is the box the American Labor Movement finds itself  in.  For generations, anti-union employers and their political allies have made large-scale private sector organizing nearly impossible.

About a third of Verizon’s workforce is unionized (it varies depending on how and who you count).  To be sure, the company would like to shift that balance even further in the union-free direction, though it’s unclear how far they would go to bust their unions.  At this point, of course, Verizon says it wants only a slight adjustment in employee health care co-pays (plus several dozen additional concessions).

CWA and IBEW know that this battle can erupt into an all-out war and have filed a failure to bargain “unfair labor practice” which restrains the company from permanently replacing strikers.  So far, picketers – stretching from Virginia to Massachusetts – appear to be disciplined and united

Union leaders are comparing this dispute to the struggle over bargaining rights by Wisconsin state employees.  I hope the public makes that connection and is able to again see what worker power looks like.

Though employees across America are not about to “rise up” and demand union rights, a successful outcome here – a decent settlement – would help the cause.

And would be a great victory for these courageous strikers who are risking a lot to hold onto what they have.

Comments (5)

 

  1. Marc Abrams says:

    I’m a bit confused. Why are the unions supporting the AT&T merger? Which will lead to vast job losses. The reality is union leaders could care less about the rank and file – similar to Obama. It’s about time the “soldiers” smartened up and threw out their “management” – otherwise they should stop whining and accept what they get – all the way to the unemployment line. The real war isnt between rich and working class – it’s between members and their corrupt leaders who smile at them, while digging a knife in their back.

  2. Greg II says:

    So, Marc, you are a corporatist? Is that who you are? That was about one of the most unenlightened comment I have heard about unionism since Fascism was in style.

  3. T Santora says:

    Thanks for this post, Labor Lou. As a 36 year Verizon employee and CWA leader, it is heartening to see my sisters and brothers standing up so firmly on the East Coast. Some may recall that we worked without a contract for almost 6 mos. when we negotiated our last contract with the nation’s largest unionized employer – AT&T. We didn’t hesitate with Verizon this time, but I must say, the company proposals were completely beyond the pale.

    As for why Labor is supporting the acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T, it’s pretty simple. Unionizing the wireless industry is an imperative for the long-term survival of our movement in this country. Our friend Mr. Abrams may be under the illusion that simply opposing the acquisition will save jobs. The facts are that T-Mobile is going away. And, the only other credible bidder for them is Sprint. Sure, with any merger/acquisition there will be job losses. The question he and others need to examine is what happens to those workers who remain with the new corporation. If you are a worker, the best choice is to be with an employer who practices (enforced by contract language) neutrality on organizing. If you are a consumer, you should be worried about net-neutrality and prices. Again, does anyone really believe there is any significant distinction between AT&T and Sprint when it comes to regulatory controls of their business? Please.

    Thank all the gods for the folks taking Verizon to task right now. For those who want to help with this fight, drop by your local Verizon Wireless store and give the manager a piece of your mind and the workers a piece of advice – live better, work union!

  4. Wendel Eckford says:

    Marx was right!

  5. Salvador Sanchez says:

    This shit is not sustainable, these corporations will start treating workers with respect when they see people rising up from LA to New York… It will happen Lou

    P.S. Mr. Abrams only good point above is that labor leadership is disconnected….

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