Victory at Verizon Is a Victory for All

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NYC DSAers Support Striking Workers at Verizon

The strike this past spring by 39,000 Verizon workers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast was the largest and most significant since United Parcel Service workers struck the package giant in 1997. After decades of retreat in the face of attacks by employers and right-wing politicians, it’s a hopeful sign.

Verizon infuriated landline and call-center workers from Massachusetts to Virginia with demands to outsource more jobs, cap pension contributions at 30 years of service, and force workers to live away from home for months at a time.

After 45 days on the picket lines, the unions beat back these concessions. In the end, Verizon committed to adding 1,300 more jobs in the United States, doing away with a hated disciplinary program, and phasing in 10.5% raises over four years. Although the unions still took a hit on healthcare, workers emerged feeling that they had achieved an overwhelming victory against a corporate behemoth.

 

What made this strike succeed, at a time when strikes are at an all-time low, with most unions hesitant to walk out for fear of suffering a crippling defeat? (There were just 12 work stoppages involving more than 1,000 workers in 2015, versus an average of 300 a year between 1947 and 1979.)

First, skilled workers in vital infrastructure such as telecommunications still have some power. Managers and scab replacement workers proved unable to maintain Verizon’s network or install FiOS. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam was forced to admit the strike’s impact on the company’s bottom line, with analysts estimating that the strike cost the company $200 million in profits.

Second, the timing was right. Bernie Sanders’s campaign gave the strike more publicity, boosted strikers’ confidence, and framed the strike as a clear battle against corporate greed. “We should remind ourselves never to call a strike again unless it’s one week before a competitive New York state primary in which a socialist is running,” joked CWA’s Bob Master, a key architect of the strike, in the Progressive.

One hundred and fifty strikers were given front row seats to Sanders’s Manhattan rally on day one of the strike, and Sanders repeatedly called out Verizon’s $1.8 billion in profits a month and McAdam’s $18 million salary. With corporate greed in the news, union members kept up relentless and public pressure on the company, picketing (and being arrested at) a shareholder meeting and organizing demonstrations against scabs and company executives.

Third, with Verizon Wireless retail workers on strike at seven stores in Brooklyn, New York, and Everett, Massachusetts, the union picketed Wireless stores across the entire United States, affecting sales and raising concerns among investors about longer-term damage to the company’s brand. Workers at the struck stores—who voted to join CWA in 2014 but had been stymied by management—won their first contract and, it is hoped, paved the way toward organizing more Wireless workers in the futureSolidarity was key. Workers told me they’d never felt such an outpouring of community support. “You don’t feel like you’re alone,” said Dennis Dunn, chief steward with CWA Local 1108 on Long Island. “We had bagels delivered almost daily on the picket line, pizza from other unions, contributions from retirees. . . . It helps when you don’t have people driving by yelling, ‘Get a job! Go back to work!’”

That support included the many groups—among them many locals and organizing committees of DSA—that answered CWA’s call to “adopt a Wireless store” to picket. The eagerness of DSAers to organize pickets at stores shows a solid understanding of socialists’ role in a struggle like this. Above all else, it’s to help the strikers win.

In New York, our recently established Labor Branch formed the backbone of the Verizon Strike Solidarity Committee (alongside the International Socialist Organization). We reached out to numerous local unions and community organizations who adopted stores for picketing, in addition to the pickets organized by our Brooklyn branch.

Many of our younger members said this was their first time on a picket line. It certainly won’t be their last. There’s no doubt that Corporate America will continue its decades-long war on workers. But, as our strike solidarity committee T-shirts said, “A victory for one is a victory for all.” The win at Verizon should boost all workers’ confidence in their own power. And DSAers should be proud that we played a part, and be ready to play an even bigger role in future struggles.

Dan DiMaggio is the assistant editor of Labor Notes and a member of the Brooklyn Branch and Labor Branch of NYC DSA. The opinions expressed here are his own. To read more of his coverage on the strike, visit labornotes.org or e-mail him at dan.dimaggio@gmail.com.

 

This article originally appeared in the Labor Day 2016 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.