STRIKE! Verizon Workers Showing CTU the Light?

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about 45,000 Verizon workers going on strike was — who is running their union? In an era when concessions are the unions first — not middle — name, the middle class has been shrinking as big business continues to expand its bulging waistline. Nowhere is this more evident today than in the world of the teachers unions, one of the last frontiers the ruling class has focused its next devastating attack on.

Verizon strikers picket in Maryland.Leading the way has been American Federation of Teachers President — and Ms. Concessions extraordinaire — Randi Weingarten.

Her thinking goes something like this — as long as I get to sit at the table where multi-billionaire Bill Gates can throw me the occasional table scrap, life is good.

Never mind the uncomfortable fact that Mr. Gates does not believe teachers should be entitled to a pension, or seniority protections, hard-fought union victories for teachers over the years that turned public school teaching into a half-way decent job.

Weingarten and other education union leaders across the country have taken the lead to make sure everything is slowly, but surely, given back to the class that never wanted teachers to have a half-way decent job to begin with.

And now, in the middle of it all, as the world of working class people comes tumbling down (and the stock market continues to ascend despite the twists and turns exposing the reality of a really whacked global capital system), here we have 45,000 Verizon workers on strike to stop the attack.

Verizon strikers picket in New York City.Thank you to the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

While the latest news states the workers will return to their jobs as Verizon and the Union go back to the negotiating table to “bargain in good faith,” the fact that these courageous people have been walking picket lines since August 7 is inspirational to say the least.

Perhaps this strike will serve as a wake up call to the newly elected Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU leadership, comprised of the newly formed caucus CORE (which this reporter is a member of), got elected on an activist/ protest model to fight the bosses, rather than concede almost everything, as the United Progressive Caucus under the direction of Marilyn Stewart did so in Chicago, with Randi’s nodding approval.

Today the Chicago Teachers Union is working on informing and organizing its members about the contract that will expire in 2012.

It will be a contract that the Chicago Board of Education is sharpening its knives over – perhaps hoping to do to teachers what Verizon management is hoping to do to its workers.

So let’s take a look at the specifics of what exactly Verizon management wants in a new contract.

In a sharply worded CWA flyer that was distributed at the CORE Convention last weekend, the reason Verizon workers went on strike is that despite the fact Verizon earned $22.4 billion in profits in the last 4.5 years (and awarded its top executives $258 million in compensation), management is demanding its workers give up to $1 billion, or about $20,000 per striking worker.

Verizon wants to freeze the value of pensions for active employees and eliminate them for new workers (sound familiar?), slash disability benefits for injured workers, eliminate job security language so workers can continue to be outsourced overseas (charter schools?), eliminate paid sick days for workers with less than two years of service, impose increased health care payments on retired workers of up to $6700 and up to $6800 on active employees, and make all pay increases contingent on merit pay with no guaranteed raises (merit pay, sound familiar?).

Now corporate America and its corporate propaganda will continue to mouth lies about why such concessions are necessary (better yet, this just won’t even report it, like when the Chicago Tribune refused to write much about the Wisconsin protests).

But those who read Substance know better – they have the money, they just happen to think their workers deserve less (slavery, sweat shop labor anyone?).

Verizon strikers picket outside the home of the Verizon CEO in Mendham, New Jersey.Verizon is on track to earn $6.1 billion in 2011 and Verizon Wireless recently declared a $10 billion dividend, and board chairman and outgoing CEO Ivan Seidenberg earned over $81 million over the last four years, which comes to about $55,000 per day, 365 days a year, the CWA flyer states.

If that’s not bad enough, how’s this. Good Old Uncle Sam, according to the CWA, kicked in an extra $1 billion federal income tax refund over the past three years, plus $1.9 billion in tax refunds and subsidies despite $13.8 billion in profits.

Verizon has already eliminated 68,700 wireline jobs in the last four years, according to the CWA flyer.

I ask Substance readers to read the CWA facts on Verizon carefully because you will NOT hear about this on the network television stations, or national public radio, nor read about it in our two corporate dailies.

Also, it is a harbinger of what’s to hit Chicago teachers, and trust me, corporate America, as well as the Chicago Public Schools, are watching very, very carefully to see what they can get away with.

How can Verizon management be so bold as to demand such worker concessions despite its rather healthy profitability?

Union concessions, my dear Watson, union concessions.

It was noted that because corporations like General Electric and several others just recently negotiated disastrous worker contracts, Verizon expects no less – the facts and common decency be damned.

That is what is facing the CTU and the incredible fight all public school teachers – active and retired – have ahead of us.

With the likes of Randi as mentioned above, and the largest teachers union, the National Education Association’s decision to endorse President Obama, who has joined up with corporate America to destroy public education, what corporation or public entity needs an enemy?

The big question in Chicago will be – who is going to blink first? Newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who obviously has his sights on the Oval Office as soon as he can bolt Chi-town, wants to know what CTU President Karen Lewis wants to do.

That’s why the mayor made sure to take her out on a date immediately after his historic election, which ended King Daley’s 22 year reign, and the family dynasty (hopefully forever).

Will you strike girl?

All credit to Lewis in Round One – she hasn’t blinked. Unlike former CTU President Tom Reese who said the only strike he wanted to be a part of was in a bowling alley, Lewis knows better.

And the corporate propaganda spinmasters are spinning – CTU wants to strike because Lewis is talking tough and saying a strike is not out of the question.

But the question still remains. Will the CTU strike? Can the CTU strike?

Recent anti-CTU legislation was passed to ensure it would not, requiring an unprecedented 75% strike vote for it to happen.

The reason teachers got the salary, benefits and pensions they got was thanks to all those strikes in the 1970s and 1980s. Some were wildcats, meaning illegal. The last strike was in 1987.

Here’s to hoping, and believing, this new CTU team understands how important a strike is, and how devastating it is when taken away, or not used at all.

It ain’t easy, it ain’t fun and it certainly has no guarantees – but to not strike, and not fight ensures the already dying workers of this country a quicker route to the grave of capitalistic insatiability.

Go Verizon workers! Go CTU teachers! Long Live the Strike!


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