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Monday, April 18, 2016

This Stoppage Won't Stop: Verizon Strike Continues as Talks Fall Through

"Workers are sticking together and standing up for their families and to protect all middle class jobs against excess corporate greed."

Verizon workers kept up coordinated marches, rallies, and picket lines up and down the East Coast this week. (Photo: Reuters)
Verizon workers entered day three of their massive strike against the telecommunications giant on Friday, as job negotiations reportedly continued to fall short.

As workers kept up coordinated marches, rallies, and picket lines up and down the East Coast, support for their actions kept growing and Verizon's stock dropped four percent since last week as "concerns over the strike's impact started becoming more real,"InvestorPlace wrote.

From the ground, the workers said they had been waiting for more than 10 months for Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam to address their needs. Unions "are ready and eager to get back to the bargaining table if Verizon executives are ready to get serious about negotiations," they said in a statement. 

"Until then, Verizon workers are sticking together and standing up for their families and to protect all middle class jobs against excess corporate greed."

The strike also comes at a pivotal moment as economic inequality takes the stage in mainstream discourse. Writing at The New Republic on Friday, journalist David Dayen notes, "The Verizon case incorporates big themes in the economy—outsourcing, monopolies, automation, and inequality, to name a few."

Dayen writes:
[The strike] reflects the gradual thinning out of good-paying, middle-class U.S. jobs. And in this election year, it forces politicians to choose—not just between labor and management, but between a future of shared prosperity for workers and one in which a lot of low-paid service employees cater to the bidding of the ultra-rich. 
That includes politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, both of whom joined the workers' picket line in New York ahead of their debate on Thursday. But McAdam reserved all his vitriol for Sanders alone, writing in a LinkedIn post that the Vermont senator's "uninformed views are, in a word, contemptible," a charge that was echoed by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

Sanders responded by tweeting, "I don't want the support of McAdam, Immelt and their friends in the billionaire class. I welcome their contempt."

He followed that up with an explicit demand during the debate for McAdam to negotiate with Verizon workers, telling moderator Wolf Blitzer, "This gentleman makes $18 million a year in salary.... This gentleman is now negotiating to take away health care benefits of Verizon workers, outsource call center jobs to the Philippines, and trying to create a situation where workers will lose their jobs. He is not investing in the way he should in inner cities in America."

As McAdam held out, union officials refused to back down.

"Verizon workers and customers are extremely frustrated that company executives are not more serious about bargaining," said Ed Mooney, vice president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) local 2-13. "Today, CWA and IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] met with Verizon to discuss the contract covering workers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia, but after 30 minutes and more demands to devastate workers' jobs, company executives left for the weekend."

"Workers already have put hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings at the table," Mooney said. "We simply cannot compromise on contract changes that would ship more work overseas and have our families separated for months at a time."