Two-Week Strike, Public Pressure Force Verizon Back to Restructured Talks
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Verizon workers returned to work this week stronger than ever in their fight for a fair contract, fortified by the bravery they showed in striking during a recession and by the public's strong embrace of their courage and solidarity.
The 35,000 striking CWA members and 10,000 IBEW members returned to work Aug. 23, many of them wearing red and marching into their worksites together.
That kind of solidarity during their two-week walkout forced Verizon to reset its bargaining position, extend the contract and agree to negotiate in good faith. Public support also put tremendous pressure on Verizon, as passersby waved and honked in solidarity with workers, joined them on the picket line and delivered ample supplies of food and water to picket sites.
CWA and IBEW reached agreement with Verizon last Saturday, Aug. 20. Workers returned to work Tuesday under the terms of their existing contract. The strike was the largest U.S. walkout since 73,000 autoworkers struck GM in 2007.
Striking Verizon workers line up in preparation for a candlelight vigil last week outside the Mendham, N.J., home of CEO Lowell McAdams.
Below: Young picketers support their parents, members of Local 2222..
CWA and IBEW members made it clear that they wouldn't stand for any attempt by one of the nation's most profitable companies to destroy collective bargaining, and with it good-paying, middle-class jobs.
Verizon tried to downplay the impact of the walkout on its business, but customers and workers reported big backlogs and delays in FiOS installations and repairs. Verizon has run full-page apologies to customers in the Washington Post and other newspapers serving the Verizon East region.
Pickets at Verizon Wireless stores coast to coast also affected the company's bottom line, as strikers and allies on picket lines reported that many would-be customers took flyers and decided not to go inside.
At a Verizon Wireless store on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, members of CWA Locals 9003, 9505, 9586 and 9588 picket during the Verizon strike with allies from many other unions.
Below: Members of Germany's ver.di union show their support for the ongoing fight for a fair contract at Verizon..
The company has frequently downplayed the importance of its wire line business to justify making deep cuts in workers' pay and benefits, but the argument fell apart following the East Coast's major earthquake this week, when wireless telephone service was virtually shutdown. Landlines were largely unaffected, or services were back on line quickly.
Going back to work won't curtail workers' mobilization efforts as they continue to fight for a fair contract and highlight Verizon's unreasonable demands. Leafleting continues in front of Verizon Wireless stores across the country. Visit the Unity at Verizon website to join workers in their fight and click here to find them on Facebook.
Leading negotiations are CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton and CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney.
The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., published an op-ed column by CWA President Larry Cohen on Thursday, "Verizon Strike Has Bigger Lessons for U.S. Economy." Click here to read it.
Visitors admire the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on his first day open to the public. CWA will join with thousands of other Americans for a march to the memorial Saturday. Photo by Gabriel Bayley.
One day before the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial on the National Mall is officially dedicated, a rally and march will bring CWAers and thousands of other Americans to the site to honor King and his values, including the urgent need for good jobs that respect workers' rights.
CWA President Larry Cohen, who will be among the featured speakers Saturday, is urging CWA members and their families to take part in what he calls "an event of unprecedented importance."
"This is about a movement, not just a monument," Cohen said. "If Dr. King were alive today, at 82 years old, he'd be with us on Verizon picket lines and he'd be marching with us not just for jobs, but for jobs with justice."
The march begins at 1:30 p.m. at 17th and Constitution Avenue along the National Mall. Participants will march past the Washington Monument to the new MLK Memorial, which is built in a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and the Jefferson Memorial.
The monument opened to the public Monday, and has gotten rave and heartfelt reviews. It features a giant tower of granite representing the "Mountain of Despair" with a piece removed representing the "Stone of Hope," where King's likeness is carved. An inscription wall along the perimeter of the monument has more than a dozen quotes from some of King's most memorable speeches.
An Associated Press story this week describes the power of the monument for three of King's aides — U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. As the men helped break ground for the monument five years ago, they broke into tears and "wept for how far they had come and for what they had lost."
The men want the memorial to be a living legacy, as Saturday's march will demonstrate. "We cannot freeze his work in a statue," Jackson said. "The statue is a memorial that we might remember the struggle. He was shot into immortality. The way in which he died illuminated his work and his worth. We must not allow people to stop at the memorial and read his poetry and ignore his policies."
Duluth Demonstrators Shame Congressman into Holding 'Free' Town Hall
In Tennessee, demonstrators marched in protest of GOP Rep. Diane Black's votes for Medicare cuts and corporate tax breaks.
Outside a deli called "Grandma's" in Duluth, Minn., this week, chanting demonstrators — including some angry grandmas — shamed a GOP congressman who was charging people to attend his so-called town hall meeting inside.
It was one of about 200 "August Accountability" events that CWA members have either planned or taken part in so far this month, as broad coalitions of angry Americans hold vacationing members of Congress to account for their attacks on Medicare, Social Security, fair taxes, workers' rights and more.
At the Duluth deli Tuesday, Rep. Chip Cravaack was greeted by chants demanding a real town hall meeting. He finally agreed that he'd meet with constituents at the city's small airport on Wednesday. About 300 people showed up to grill him, even though they had to pay $2 to $8 for parking for a "free" public meeting.
In California, CWA retirees demanded that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein pledge to protect Medicare.
Below: In Duluth, Minn., activists shamed GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack into holding a free public meeting after charging people to talk to him.
Across the country, CWA members have similarly been holding lawmakers' feet to the fire during their August recess. Through office visits, pickets, postcard campaigns, phone calls and other action, they are telling elected leaders that it's high time for them to stand up for America's middle class.
Here's a sampling of events:
- In Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Tuesday, CWA members and community activists marched in front of the office of Republican Rep. Diane Black, who has voted for Medicare cuts and in favor of corporate tax breaks. Passing drivers responded enthusiastically to signs that said such things as, "Honk to Save Jobs."
- In Indiana, CWAers are taking part in events such as "Letter to the Editor" parties, a statewide day of leafleting and phone banks to call Congress.
In California, CWA retirees have been among busloads activists protesting at offices of Republican Rep. Dan Lungren as well as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has made wavering statements about her stance on Medicare.
- In West Virginia, events have targeted Republican Rep. David McKinley, including labor council picnics, rallies at his office and a statewide postcard campaign.
- In Houston, Texas, CWA members led a large protest at a fundraiser for Florida Rep. John Mica, the Republican chair of the House Transportation Committee. Mica forced the recent shutdown of the FAA, and could do it again in September, due to his demands that funding for the agency be tied to stripping union rights.
- In New York, CWA members and retirees have held multiple events letting GOP Rep. Nan Hayworth know what they think of her votes to gut Medicare. Several YouTube videos feature CWAers, including Jeanette Spoor, president of the Local 1103 Retired Members' Chapter. Here's one.
There's still plenty of time to get involved in events in your communities. CWA's website and a page dedicated to August Accountability will keep you updated, and you'll also find links to photos and videos. Click the links or go to www.cwaaction.org.
CWA, Steelworkers Publicly Call on Congress to 'Aggressively Investigate'
Following revelations that Colombia may have misused U.S. government aid to probe and undermine the activities of labor leaders and union activists, CWA President Larry Cohen and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard are calling on the House Select Intelligence Committee to investigate the matter.
"Press reports allege that the United States provided aid, equipment and training that Colombian officials wrongly exploited in ways that endangered labor leaders and activists," Cohen said. He and Gerard are demanding that the House intelligence panel "take these allegations seriously and aggressively investigate abuse of U.S. government support and assistance by Colombia."
CWA, the USW, and other labor and human rights groups continue to oppose a pending U.S.-Columbia trade deal because of that country's failure to protect labor leaders or investigate the murders of thousands of union activists. "Colombia has the worst record of any country in the world when it comes to violence against union leaders and activists," Cohen said.
Gerard said, "If U.S. assistance fueled Colombia's actions in this area, it not only highlights the unacceptable track record of the Colombian government but undermines any conceivable legitimacy of an FTA with Colombia."
In a letter, Cohen and Gerard asked Select Intelligence Committee member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Calif.) for assistance in pressing the committee to review the allegations, which were made public in a Washington Post article Aug. 11.
As a Sept. 16 funding deadline nears, CWA activists are mounting an all-out campaign to prevent anti-union Republicans from forcing another senseless shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Call (888) 516-5820 to tell your member of Congress to fund the FAA without attacking worker rights. The U.S. Capitol operator will connect you to your representative.
For two weeks beginning July 23, House Republicans held funding for the agency hostage to their demand that long-sought democratic election rules for airline and railroad workers be overturned. By refusing to pass a funding reauthorization bill unless the fair election language was removed, Republicans forced the furloughs of 4,000 FAA employees and more than 70,000 airport project construction workers.
The shutdown ended only when members of the U.S. Senate put politics aside and agreed to extend the funding temporarily, ending Sept. 16.
Led by House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, and pushed by anti-union Delta Airlines, Republicans are trying to reverse a National Mediation Board rule change that simply ensures that airline union elections play by the same democratic rules as all other U.S. elections. Previously, airline workers who didn't vote in union representation elections were counted as "no" votes; now only the votes cast are counted.
To educate the public about the risk of another shutdown, AFA-CWA flight attendants are hand-billing passengers at airports across the country. AFA members leafleted at Phoenix International Airport earlier this week and are taking their campaign to Charlotte and Philadelphia today and Portland, Ore., tomorrow.
CWAers near those airports are urged to join the actions or take a moment to call members of Congress and tell them to stop playing politics with the nation's airline safety. Call toll-free, (888) 516-5820, to get the U.S. Capitol switchboard, which can connect you with your U.S. representative. You can also click here to send an email to your House member.
Download a "Countdown to Shutdown" handout explaining the campaign.
Citing case after case in which employers have systematically thwarted and delayed workers' efforts to organize, CWA is urging the National Labor Relations Board to move forward with rule changes to streamline and speed up union elections.
The NLRB announced in June that it would take modest steps to eliminate some of the procedural delays that employers abuse, and which give them more time to harass and intimidate union supporters.
The proposed rules would eliminate some of the abuses by:
- Holding hearings within 14 days prior to an election to resolve objections;
- Ensuring that employees, employers and unions receive and exchange timely information;
- Deferring litigation of most voter eligibility issues until after elections;
- Requiring employers to provide a final voter list in electronic form soon after the scheduling of an election, including workers' telephone numbers and email addresses;
- Consolidating all election-related appeals to the NLRB into a single appeals process after an election.
CWA cited campaigns by thousands of workers at Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, E-Z Pass, Dish-TV and other companies where employers delayed union representation elections by months and even years. The delays were used to erode worker support, terminate union supporters and even shut down workplaces to avoid an election.
One of the most glaring and prolonged abuses occurred between 2000 and 2005 at the Chinese Daily News, where the employer engaged in an aggressive campaign of threats, firings, intimidation and harassment while forcing one delay after another. Ultimately, the company defeated its 200 workers, who originally filed for union representation with 95 percent support.
"Reform of the NLRB election rules is long overdue," CWA told the Board. "For too long, employees who have wanted the benefits of union representation have watched in frustration and fear as the agency charged with protecting their right to make that choice appeared powerless to do its job."
Martin O'Hanlon, elected this summer as the new director of the CWA Canadian Region, has officially taken over for newly retired Director Arnold Amber, left.
Martin O'Hanlon, who was elected this summer as the new head of the CWA Canadian Region has officially taken over as the union's director.
O'Hanlon was sworn in upon the retirement of Arnold Amber, who had served as director since 1995. O'Hanlon had been the deputy director for seven years.
To serve as director, O'Hanlon is taking a leave of absence from his position as parliamentary editor for The Canadian Press in Ottawa.
In a message to members, he said, "I look forward to working with you all to build the union and I know you will join me in saying farewell and thank you to Arnold for strong, visionary leadership."
Momentum Strong for Nov. 8 Vote to Repeal Anti-Collective Bargaining Law
CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen with two New Jersey CWAers who traveled to Columbus for the daylong "Stand Up for Ohio" festival last weekend. Even babies got into the spirit of the event.
A daylong "Stand Up for Ohio" festival on Saturday drew thousands of families to the fairgrounds in Columbus for music, speeches and bonding over shared goals to restore workers' rights and rebuild the state's middle class.
"Winning the referendum in Ohio to repeal Senate Bill 5 is critically important, but the 25,000 people that attended the festival were sending a broader message," CWA District 4 Vice President Seth Rosen said. "We need to rebuild the American Dream. The attacks on workers' rights, civil rights, our communities and environment are all connected. In Ohio, union members, community groups and individual citizen activists, are building a broad movement to fight for good jobs and strong communities."
SB5, as the bill is widely known, is the public sector anti-collective bargaining law that Republican leaders rushed through the Legislature earlier this year, ignoring thousands of people lined up to testify against it. GOP leaders went so far as to remove opponents in their own party from committee assignments in order to ensure the bill got to the floor.
In a record-breaking petition drive, the We Are Ohio coalition rapidly collected 1.3 million signatures to let voters decide the fate of the law. With the Nov. 8 referendum looming and polls showing a strong majority of voters oppose the law, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his GOP allies are backpedaling.
In a publicity stunt last week, they invited unions to come to the statehouse and talk to them about revising the bill — the only overture the GOP ever made to seek input from workers and their unions.
We Are Ohio, which includes union and non-union workers, community groups, churches, and even business owners and self-described Republicans, told Kasich it was too little too late.
"While we thank the governor, senate president and speaker of the house for reaching out and recognizing that the bill is flawed, we are asking for a fresh start," coalition spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas said. "That fresh start must begin with a full repeal of Senate Bill 5...Upon repeal, we look forward to coming together as Ohioans to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family, just like our public employees — firefighters, nurses, teachers and police officers — do every day in their jobs."
As the campaign proceeds toward the election, CWA members throughout Ohio are making phone calls, leafleting worksites and taking part in other events to educate voters and ensure they go to the polls Nov. 8.
CWA members explain what they're fighting for in this popular YouTube video shot during the Verizon strike.
When Verizon workers went on strike in 2000, it was five years before anyone had heard of YouTube. Fast forward to 2011 and dozens of amateur and professional videographers are helping CWA members tell their story on YouTube and other social networking sites where videos are posted.
One big hit on YouTube has been Anna Mumford's moving two-minute video, featuring striking New York members. A videographer who specializes in progressive causes, she said she wanted to "show the diversity and the number of members who were out on the streets taking part in the strike and on the picket lines. It was cool to see how many drivers going by would honk their horns in support."
In fact, Mumford said she's been at many picket lines and "never seen so much community support." Mumford started her career as an SEIU organizer; today she runs Letitia Productions, dedicated to creating online video content for progressive advocacy, organizing and education campaigns. She’s worked with CWA previously on the T-Mobile campaign.
Click here to watch Mumford's video, where you'll also find a link to other excellent videos submitted by CWA members around the country. For full Verizon coverage go to www.cwa-union.org/verizon.
Encouraged by participants' rave reviews of the first AFL-CIO Young Workers' Summit last year, CWA is urging locals to send leaders and activists to this year's event, scheduled Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 in Minneapolis.
The summit focuses on building power for collective action and Election 2012, skills to help meet the challenges facing the labor movement, creating young worker groups and coalitions, and strengthening leadership skills.
The agenda features hands-on, movement-building workshops on organizing, activism, social media and leadership; expert panels on policy and legislative issues affecting young workers; networking opportunites; and community service projects in Minneapolis.
Go to www.nextupsummit.com for more details and registration information. Also check out the summit's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aflcionextup.
Inspired by picketers outside a Verizon building in his Queens, N.Y., neighborhood, professional songwriter John Beltzer gathered his team last week and within two days they'd written and produced, "Can You Hear Us Now?"
Can you hear us now?
We're 45,000 strong
Can you hear us now?
Don't you know right from wrong?
That's the first half of the chorus to the tune co-written by Beltzer, Alex Forbes and Ruth Antrich, and performed by singer Carl Allocco.
"I went over there on Wednesday, and I spoke to a steward, and he told me what the workers are fighting for," Beltzer said. "I'm totally for the cause, and I told them I'd like to create a song for them."
It's the first of what he hopes will be many songs for labor and social justice causes. But it's far from his first song for a good cause. For 15 years, he's run the Songs of Love Foundation, a non-profit charity that produces uplifting, personalized songs for sick children and teenagers.
Beltzer started the foundation 15 years ago in memory of his fraternal twin brother. Since then, he's helped create more than 22,000 songs for ailing children across the country. He's been covered by a major media, including a Dan Rather interview on 60 Minutes.
To download "Can You Hear Us Now?" and see the lyrics, click here. To learn more about Beltzer's foundation, go to www.songsoflove.org.
Local 1109 Member Roger Young, Jr., and his father, a retired telecom worker, on CNN Money in a report on unionization and the Verizon strike.
A CNN Money report on American unionization and the Verizon strike features Local 1109 member Roger Young, Jr., and his father, also a cable splicer who went on strike in 1971. Asked if he's fighting for his children's future, Young said, "I'm fighting for the survival of everybody's kids, because these are great jobs."
Check out a terrific column by the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts, who advances Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the national mall by revisiting King's commitments to the poor and the labor unions that helped many impoverished Americans climb into the middle class. "The man we honor Sunday could have died wealthy from speaking fees alone. But he gave that money away and instead died poor, struggling on the side of the poor — garbage workers who came home with maggots in their hair, reeking of other people's waste, having earned maybe $10, gross, for a 14-hour day," Pitts writes.