40,000 Verizon Workers Strike Against Corporate ‘Race to the Bottom’

Verizon workers across the East Coast marched in picket lines on Wednesday in the largest U.S. strike in recent memory to protest the "corporate greed" of the multinational communications behemoth.

Verizon has failed to negotiate a fair contract with its employees despite making billions in monthly profits and multiple concessions on the part of union members. Verizon employees' contract expired eight months ago and talks over a new contract, which have gone on for ten months, broke off last week.

About 40,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBW) unions are joining in the strike.

"We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed," said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor in a press statement.

"If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers," Trainor said, "then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom."

Furthermore, the multinational corporation "is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014."

CWA also detailed the "devastating cuts" Verizon is attempting to force on workers, "even after significant worker concessions on healthcare." The desired cutbacks include offshoring jobs to countries with low wages, cutting job security, sending technicians on jobs away from home for as long as two months, freezing pensions, slashing benefits, and refusing to negotiate improvements to wages and working conditions.

The unions argue that "Verizon is making these demands despite having made $39 billion in profits over the last three years—and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016," as Common Dreams reported.

"Verizon's corporate greed isn't just harming workers' families," CWA states, "it's hurting customers as well. Service quality has deteriorated to the point that New York State’s Public Service Commission has convened a formal hearing to investigate problems across the Empire State. In the last few weeks, regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have launched similar inquiries into Verizon's operations."

Members of National Nurses United joined a Verizon picket line in Scranton, Pa., and expressed their solidarity with the workers' demands. Net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future also announced its solidarity with the striking workers.

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has lent vocal support to CWA, who endorsed the Vermont senator for president over rival Hillary Clinton back in December. Sanders met with CWA workers preparing to strike on Monday.

In a speech in Rochester, N.Y., on Tuesday morning, Sanders told the crowd that the communications giant's employees "are going on strike because they refuse to be beat down by a greedy corporation who could care less about them or the people of this country."

Sanders went on to lambaste what he described as Verizon's tax evasion and poor labor practices to a cheering crowd:

All they want is more and more profit, and it doesn't matter what happens to their employees or people in America. This is what they want to do: they want to cut benefits for their employees, they want to throw American workers out on the street, and move their calling centers to low wage countries around the world. They are not investing in inner cities in America, where people today do not have quality broadband. And they've got their lawyers and tax accountants working overtime so that in a given year, despite making billions of dollars in profit, they pay nothing, not a nickel, in federal taxes.

Sanders reiterated his support for the workers' demands in a speech on the picket line on Wednesday.

CWA members spoke about their reasons for striking in a video released by the union on Tuesday. "Corporate greed is them constantly getting raises as executives, growing profits, yet crying poor," said a call center employee in Delaware. "I'm worth a good contract. My kids are worth a good contract."

"A good contract would mean a lot to us, because we've fought long and hard," said a retail store employee from Brooklyn. "I truly believe this is something we deserve."


(this article is republished via CC license from CommonDreams. Photo: Verizon Workers picket a Verizon Wireless store in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)

Creating a Constituency for the News

The news industry’s downturn has created another crisis: People across the country are finding it harder to get the information they need to participate in society and be engaged members of their communities.

The public loses the most when local news coverage disappears. According to the latest census from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, newsroom employment dropped by more than 10 percent in 2014 alone. And over the last 10 years, the number of newsroom jobs has plummeted 39 percent.

Empty Newsroom

Each of those lost jobs means one fewer journalist representing the public interest and holding the powerful accountable.

There’s often a real distance between journalists and the communities they’re supposed to serve. To make local reporting more viable and vibrant, it needs to consider perspectives from outside the news industry. That’s why Free Press started News Voices. Our new project will connect newsrooms and communities and build a collaborative network of people invested in local journalism.

There’s no better place to experiment on ways to create this network than New Jersey, one of the most underserved states when it comes to local media coverage.

When Free Press surveyed Garden State residents about their local media, many noted that they craved more coverage of their communities. A significant share of the state’s 565 municipalities lacks a locally rooted news outlet. Many of the outlets that do exist ignore residents’ concerns.

Almost all survey respondents remarked on how the location of New Jersey — sandwiched as it is between the huge media markets of Philadelphia and New York City — means that important local issues often fail to get sufficient coverage.

“The past two decades have seen local newspapers bought out and either closed down, absorbed, or just hanging on with little local coverage,” said a survey respondent from Rumson, a New Jersey suburb. These papers are “merely a shadow of the past when each municipality was well covered.”

This isn’t an indictment of the media in New Jersey. Every U.S. newsroom is under pressure to do more with less, and delivering that extra load in a 24-hour news cycle can come at the expense of quality public-service journalism. Another loss: the capacity to cultivate the sources journalists need to cover vital local stories.

Local journalism is at its best when it’s community-driven. The News Voices project is about listening to what New Jersey residents have to say about their information needs — and bringing journalists to the table to hear those voices. By teaming up with reporters, members of the public can advocate for the kind of reliable, credible, and timely information they require.

We aim to create something that doesn’t yet exist: a constituency for the news. And by that I mean a constituency that not only consumes the news but also advocates for its future.


 

Mike Rispoli is the press freedom campaign director for Free Press. FreePress.net
Distributed via OtherWords.org

(Featured photo via Flickr Jon S/ News Flash)

Record Homelessness in Billionaire-Heavy NYC

Whatever “economic recovery” has happened has mostly benefited the already-wealthy, leaving average New Yorkers further behind than ever.

the uss inequality sinking-ship-inequality-cartoon

In terms of extreme poverty and wealth, New York City is having a banner year.

Hyperbole has become reality in the city that is now the sixth most economically unequal metropolitan area out of America's 50 biggest cities (and the most unequal of any city with more than one million residents).

Every day in The Big Apple, billionaires and the millions of lives they impoverished intermingle on the city's overpoliced sidewalks -- and the chasm between their economic worlds is only growing wider.

In the wake of the Great Recession and nearly two decades of Bloomberg-Giuliani-Pataki policies (that decimated the local "real" economy in favor of the FIRE industries), most New Yorkers' wages are either stagnating or dropping.

Whatever "economic recovery" has happened has mostly benefited the already-wealthy, leaving average New Yorkers further behind (EPI study-pdf) than ever.

But the news is even worse. According to a recent report, New York City now houses 56,000 people in its homeless shelters, the highest number in the city's history.

At the same time, the UBS billionaire survey found 108 billionaires living in New York City -- more than any other city in the world.

Meanwhile, in the city's wealthiest borough, Manhattan, homeless rate spiked 14% in the last year alone as cost of living increased steadily while wages continue stagnating or declining in real value.

Earlier this week, on WNYC, Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services Gilbert Taylor discussed some of the challenges homeless individuals face and the services the city is trying to provide them.

According to the National Employment Law Project, the average family needs to earn more than $68,000 year to be economically self-sufficient in NYC.

New York State as a whole has seen an uneven recovery rewarding the already-wealthy with even more wealth.

This follows a national pattern of uneven economic recovery, which itself comes on top of a lost generation of stagnant or, worse, declining value in real wages.

According to IRS records, 90% of Americans haven't seen real growth in their wages in more than 30 years.

At the same time, whether anti-worker policies were shaped as Reagonomics, Triangulation, Neo-Conservatism or Neo-Liberalism, the "new" economy that arose as the real economy was gutted, ultimately lined the pockets of the nation's uber-wealthy overclass, giving 1% of the nation's population around a 50% share of its economy.

VIDEO: Warren and Krugman talk economics at CUNY

Ever wish you could hear Paul Krugman and Elizabeth Warren exchanging ideas? Here you go… (Thanks, CUNY)

 
The following description via the CUNY TV Youtube channel

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for The New York Times and Distinguished Scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center, at the Graduate Center, CUNY, engage in a discussion of public policy, economics and the middle class. Moderator: Janet Gornick, Director of the Luxembourg Income Study Center, CUNY. Taped at CUNY Graduate Center, Sept. 4, 2014. (90 min.)

Check out other great CUNY shows here.


 
 

Minimum Wage Inadequate for Steep Housing Costs in the U.S.

Reality Check: Minimum Hourly Wages Needed to Afford a One-Bedroom Apartment in the U.S. (via Americans Against The Tea Party)

How much does it really cost to pay for a one bedroom apartment? The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a report that officially shows how much a worker would have to earn according to “fair market rent,” to afford a one bedroom rental…

3 Stats that Prove the “Recovery” is Just a Shift to Low Wage Jobs

The National Employment Law Project recently released a report(.pdf) on the state of the economic recovery. What it found was an economy where good-paying jobs are being replaced with low-wage jobs.

Wages broken down by jobs lost during the Great Recession vs. jobs gained during the Economic "Recovery." (Data via NELP. Chart MJalonschi/BQBrew)
Wages broken down by jobs lost during the Great Recession vs. jobs gained during the Economic "Recovery." (Data via NELP. Chart MJalonschi/BQBrew)

As workers around the country organize for higher wages, the report sheds new light on the new realities of the American economy.

The heart of the report can be summarized in these three statistics:

  1. Higher-wage occupations constituted 41 percent of recession losses, but only 30 percent of recovery growth.
  2. Mid-wage occupations constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.
  3. Lower-wage occupations constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth. Out of every 9 jobs created during the economic "recovery," four were lower-wage occupations.

You can read the full report here:

National Employment Law Project | Low Wage Recovery.

Slideshow: NYC Fast Food Workers Rally for a ‘Living Wage’

Slideshow: NYC Fast Food Workers Rally for a ‘Living Wage’ (via Moyers & Company)

Earlier this month, leaders from the New York Senate and the Assembly joined fast food workers outside a McDonald’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan to demand that the $8 minimum wage being paid to workers in the state be raised. New York State recently…