Why the Verizon strike matters to us and how you can help


It's about saving middle class jobs

By Peter Szekely
New York NewsGuild President

The Verizon strike matters to us not only because it involves our fellow CWA members, but because it goes to the heart of who we are: middle class workers struggling to stay in a shrinking middle class.

Whether you work as a journalist or anything else, there are a few simple things NewsGuild members can do to support our fellow union members. But first, how is a strike by telecommunications workers relevant to us?

Verizon is a hugely profitable company – netting $18 billion last year – that does what most big, profitable companies do: Pay workers at little as it can get away with. Now it wants to set the stage for paying even less. It’s the same old story, except that Verizon’s workers, those on the landline side of the business at least, are unionized. And that makes all the difference.

The company has gotten away with subcontracting and offshoring some work to low-wage havens, but no more. That’s what this strike is about. Verizon workers make a decent middle class salary with benefits, and the company has offered to increase it by another 7.5 percent over the term of the next contract. But it’s not about the money.

It’s about the future. That’s why 39,000 members of the Communications Workers of American and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off their jobs more than three weeks ago. They’re resisting Verizon’s demands that it be allowed to assign more jobs to lower-paid contractors and send more U.S.-based work to developing countries. They’re saying no to the prospect of being assigned to faraway locations for months at a time to fill staffing gaps that should be filled with new-hires. They want Verizon to invest in expanding its jobs-producing, state-of-the-art FiOS network.

And then there’s Verizon Wireless. The company has fiercely resisted organizing in the growing wireless division of the business. As a result, workers have succeeded in getting CWA representation at only two Verizon Wireless stores. Not surprisingly, pay and benefits are much lower at nonunion Verizon Wireless than on the landline side. After two years, the company still hasn’t agreed on terms for a decent first contract. This strike is about Verizon Wireless too.

When you add it all up, you have a highly successful company doing everything it can to dismantle its unions. Meanwhile the company is doing all it can to discourage union representation at its wireless division, which would become its new standard for a lower-wage, smaller-benefit workplace. We’ve seen similar patterns in much of the news business over the years.

We all lament growing income inequality and the decline of the middle class. But here is a very large group of workers who are boldly trying to do something about it, and we should support them. Unless you’re a journalist who covers this story, telecoms or labor, or your news organization has a restrictive, enforceable general policy against advocacy, there’s no reason you can’t support these workers.

There are a number of ways you can support the Verizon strikers. And most of them are very easy.

-- TAKE THE PLEDGE not to cross a union picket line or patronize a Verizon Wireless store. If you have Verizon now, there’s no reason to cancel your service (but you may want to consider paying your bills by mail, instead of electronically). Also, AT&T Wireless is a union-represented alternative to Verizon, and as a Guild member you can get it at a discount.

-- SIGN THE PETITION to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam urging him to agree to a fair contract.

--  ADOPT A VERIZON WIRELESS STORE. The NewsGuild of New York has adopted the Verizon Wireless store at 125 West 42nd St. (between Broadway and Sixth Avenue) every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. You’ll find us there every week. Come join us! If possible, give us a heads-up that you’re coming with a quick email.

--  SHOW A LITTLE SOLIDARITY with the strikers. Wherever you see Verizon strikers, give them a wave, a smile or a handshake. Tell them you support them. Little things like that mean a lot when you’re putting in hours on end on a picket line. A cup of coffee or a cool drink wouldn’t hurt either.

--  STAY IN TOUCH with the strike. To find out what’s going on or to sign up for email alerts click here.

--  DONATE TO THE SOLIDARITY FUND that helps striking families with special needs who are facing difficult financial circumstances.

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