That approach has not sat well with much of the commentariat. They have embraced Verizon’s description of the landline business — and of the workers who make it possible — as ‘legacy,’ frequently quoting Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam’s assertion that the strike is about ‘nostalgia for the rotary-phone era.’
(M)ost contemptible was Mark Gimein’s New Yorker essay about ‘the Verizon workers’ shrinking world.’ Gimein, who is under the impression that ‘a picket line is to a Democrat what a revival meeting is to an evangelical,’ argues that labor’s future lies in a tamer, more policy-oriented road, without loud strikes and rudely still-existing workers.
(Such condescension overlooks salient facts, such as the still-requisite necessity of skill. Moreover), (w)e still need strikes, and unions. Gimein writes that the ‘greater hope in the labor movement these days comes not from the picket line but from legislative efforts such as the union-backed minimum wage initiative Fight for 15.’ This is a bizarre leap of logic. Fight for 15’s goals might be legislative, but its primary tactic has been — wait for it — strikes. To be sure, many on the Left have criticized Fight for 15 for prioritizing media optics over worker organization. But Gimein’s argument is almost precisely the opposite. As he writes: ‘The way forward now is less in getting people to join unions and more in taking seriously the question that Sanders raised: what can be done for the millions of workers who don’t have a union and never will?’
(As well), (t)he legislative route is a dead end. Part of Gimein’s argument seems to be that because CWA members comprise a small slice of the Verizon workforce, this makes them irrelevant and their decent pay and work conditions, perhaps, unfair. But what the striking workers lack in numbers they make up for with their strategic position. As Verizon’s sole unionized beachhead, CWA members will play a pivotal role in spreading unionization to the rest of the company’s ranks — the wireless and retail side in particular.
A strike defeat would forestall, if not foreclose, the possibility of organizing these workers — giving Verizon free rein to cut wages and attack working conditions. It would also make organizing harder in the retail industry more broadly, relegating millions of people — disproportionately women and people of color — to desperate poverty. A successful strike, on the other hand, could shore up union strength, steadying the foundation for a drive into the ranks of the non-unionized.
For Gimein, the problem seems to be that strikes are difficult and workers are outmatched. But that’s always been the road that labor has had to travel, through narrow passes and in enemy territory. When it wins, however, it greatly expands what’s considered politically possible for working people.”—Jacobin
CWA alleges that Verizon is offshoring U.S. customer service calls to centers in the Philippines, where workers are paid as little as $1.78 an hour. The union says that Filipino workers told it they are being forced to work overtime an extra one to two hours each day, along with another full eight-hour sixth day, and are not receiving additional overtime compensation. In a statement, CWA also claimed that, when it discovered the alleged offshored operations, the company sent armed forces to intimidate union representatives in the Philippines.
Verizon flatly rejected the union’s accusations. Salon reached out to the company, and spokesperson Rich Young described the allegations as ‘misguided assertions.’ …Shelton, in turn, criticized Verizon’s claims. ‘Verizon has doubled down on its deception, claiming workers were on a ‘vacation.’ Let’s be clear: being on strike, exposing Verizon’s lies about off-shoring and being harassed by Verizon armed security guards is no vacation,’ he said.
CWA says a delegation of union officials — including its own representatives along with reps from the UNI global union the Filipino union KMU— confronted Verizon officials in its corporate headquarters in the Philippines on Wednesday, May 11. The delegation claims that Verizon officials refused to speak to the union representatives. ‘Presumably, it is difficult to justify paying workers $1.78 an hour when the company’s CEO made $18 million last year, and the company has piled up $1.5 billion a month in profits for the past 15 months,’ CWA wrote in a statement.”—Salon
(This structural disparity overflows into issues of whether neoliberal Democrats will do anything to assist wage-earners). The dynamic is complicated by Clinton’s record in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her then-president husband championed more than two decades ago. Sanders calls trade pacts ‘disastrous’ while Trump pledges to renegotiate or scuttle Nafta. Some workers have taken note.
The streets and squares of Paris are alive with democracy, and if the Spanish and US examples are anything to go by, this participatory and chaotic movement could play an important part in creating transformative change. The link between these movements is clear. On May 15th they jointly organized #GlobalDebout – over 300 actions across the world demanding real democracy, economic justice and sustainability. There were major demonstrations in Madrid, a general assembly in Mexico, a free orchestra in Brussels and occupations across Italy.
They manifest a commonly held feeling that something has gone profoundly wrong with the political system. After 30 years of neoliberal policies, unemployment in France sits around 10%. The French government’s big plan address this problem, destroying communities across the country, is more of the same. They propose a new labour reform that will make it easier for companies to fire staff and reduce payouts to laid-off employees, and it threatens the 35-hour workweek.
Yet the protest movement quickly became about more than just one law, it became a rejection of the neoliberal system that regards profit as the main goal and purpose of human society. A system that believes ‘the market’ should govern every action, that poverty drives efficiency and environmental destruction is necessary.
On March 31st, over 1.2 million people took to the streets across France in a massive strike against the new labour law. And this time protestors decided not to go home. This was the beginning of #Nuitdebout (Night on our Feet). The occupation has now continued for a month, and engaged a new generation in politics.
The beauty of the square occupation model is that it enables people to express themselves in myriad ways. At #nuitdebout there is a television station, endless political debates, direct action protest, free food and live music – all run by the participants. Centered around participatory decision-making structures and the belief that people should have a much greater say in democratic processes, it reaches out to people who have never been involved in politics before. This process can be transformational on both a personal and collective level.”—Common Dreams