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#UniteAC — Trump Taj Mahal Workers Walk-Off In Strike

Trump Taj Mahal FB Share[2]STRIKE! Nearly 1,000 Trump Taj Mahal Workers Walk-Off Job Ahead of Atlantic City’s Biggest Weekend of the Year

Carl Icahn-owned Casino Has Cut Wages & Benefits by
35% for Workers Who Average Less than $12/hour

Atlantic City, NJ — Nearly a thousand cooks, housekeepers, bellmen and servers from the Trump Taj Mahal walked off the job on Friday ahead of the industry’s biggest holiday weekend to fight for decent wages and the future of their middle class livelihoods. 

The strike at the Trump Taj Mahal— a casino owned by billionaire Carl Icahn — follows on the heels of tentative agreements with the Tropicana and Caesars Entertainment, which owns Atlantic City’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Bally’s.

Many workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, including those with years on the job, have seen only $.80 in total raises over the last twelve years. The cost of living in Atlantic City has risen over 25 percent in the same time period. Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers at the Taj Mahal earn an average of less than $12/ hour. 

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

When casino workers can’t earn a decent wage, it hurts women and families the most. The Atlantic City casino workforce is predominantly female (55 percent), many of whom have kids and families at home to support. The average age is 49 years old.

Billionaires’ Gains Means Workers’ Pain

As the principle creditor between 2010 and 2014, Icahn extracted $350 million from the property, driving it into bankruptcy and then swooping in to take control. He used the bankruptcy proceeding to strip Taj Mahal workers of health benefits, retirement security and even paid breaks. Overall, he cut worker compensation in wages and benefits by 35%.

“For 20 months, 1,000 loyal Taj Mahal employees have been fighting to restore the middle class jobs that were destroyed in the bankruptcy. Today, we said enough is enough, and went on strike for a restoration of health benefits and fair wages and working conditions,” said Fabia Sespedes, a housekeeper at the Taj Mahal for 9 years.

Without health benefits, half of workers at the Trump Taj Mahal rely on subsidized health insurance. A third have no health insurance at all, putting them at risk of bankruptcy in the event of an illness and forcing taxpayers to pay for visits to the Emergency Room. Some of the workers rely on other public assistance programs, like food stamps.

“We’ve sacrificed long enough to make the Trump Taj Mahal a success. It’s time that the billionaire who owns the Taj use the millions in profits he’s taken from the Taj Mahal to provide the people who built those profits with a decent wage and good benefits that let us support our families,” said Mayra Gonzalez, a pantry chef at the Taj Mahal for 26 years. “We’ve given them every chance possible to do the right thing, now we’re going to take it to the streets.”

A Need to Reinvest in Atlantic City

Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers — who earn less than $12 per hour, or less than $25,000 per year – can’t survive on stagnant wages and have their backs against a wall because a billionaire is bent on squeezing out profits at the expense of working people and the Atlantic City economy.

“We have said from the beginning that it is impossible to revitalize Atlantic City unless the casino industry offers good jobs that let workers support their families. Four other casinos have recognized that simple fact, and it’s a shame that the Trump Taj Mahal can’t get with the program,” said Bob McDevitt, President of UNITE HERE Local 54. 


Use Twibbon to change your Facebook or Twitter profile photo to show your support for striking Trump Taj Mahal workers: http://lil.ms/1a9u 

Click here to sign their petition bit.ly/TajStrikePetition


ABOUT UNITE HERE

UNITE HERE represents workers throughout the United States and Canada who work in the hotel, gaming, food, service, airport, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry and transportation industries.  Learn more at www.unitehere.org.

Local 54, UNITE HERE’s Atlantic City affiliate, represents almost 10,000 casino workers fighting for the future of their families.

Massive Strike Against Verizon Ends As Tentative Agreement Is Reached

Union to take down pickets.
Company agrees to add good union jobs on the East Coast.
First contract for retail wireless workers.
Improves workers’ overall standard of living.

2015-07-25_Mass_Rally_Stand_Up_To_VerizonFor over six weeks now, 40,000 Verizon workers have been on strike. They have been standing in opposition to proposed cuts and potential plans to offshore American jobs.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez along with federal mediator Allison Beck, stepped in to help me help resolve this massive strike.

“I’m encouraged by the parties’ continued commitment to remain at the bargaining table and work toward a resolution,” Secretary Perez said. “We will continue to facilitate conversations to help the unions and the company reach an agreement.”

On the 44th day of the strike, Perez announced that a tentative agreement has been reached between Verizon, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management,” said Perez. “The parties are now working to reduce the agreement to writing, after which the proposal will be submitted to CWA and IBEW union members for ratification.

“This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement,” Perez continued.

Perez concluded by stating, “I expect that workers will be back on the job next week.

CWA praised the announcement and the tentative agreement. The agreement includes provisions that include improving working families’ standard of living, creating good union jobs in our communities and achieving a first contract for wireless retail store workers.

“The addition of new, middle-class jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and our country as a whole. The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and protect the American middle class.”

“This tentative contract is an important step forward in helping to end this six-week strike and keeping good Verizon jobs in America,” said Lonnie R. Stephenson, President of the IBEW. “We will be sharing the details of it with our members for approval in the immediate days ahead.

“My thanks to our members, along with those of the CWA, who made numerous sacrifices to finally come to this point,” added Stephenson.

“Our members look forward to returning to work serving their customers, working under a strong pro-worker and pro-jobs contract,” Stephenson concluded.

The strike against Verizon was not only about the contract for the 40,000 unionized workers at Verizon, it was about taking a stand against corporate greed for all working families.

“We thank the members of CWA and IBEW. They negotiated well with Verizon and elevated working people throughout the country. We applaud them for their solidarity and hard work,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.

Some say that unions are relics of the past and are no longer needed. This agreement shows that unions are the only ones to stand up for working families against the greed of Corporate America.


Author’s Note:

United_we_bargainI am pleased to write this story and congratulate all of the members of the IBEW and CWA who stood strong for 44 days. A long term strike like this can take a serious toll on workers’ families and tests the strength of their resolve.

Your strength and perseverance prevailed. Now Verizon Wireless workers all across the country will see the benefit of a strong labor contract.

Non-union workers will also see how standing together against corporate greed is the only way we are going to rebuild a strong middle class.

United we bargain, divided we beg.

Verizon Workers Announce Strike Deadline of Wednesday, April 13th

TELECOM GIANT MAKES $1.8 BILLION A MONTH IN PROFIT, BUT SEEKS TO DESTROY GOOD JOBS FOR NEARLY 40,000 EAST COAST WORKING FAMILIES

After trying for ten months to reach a fair contract, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia will go on strike at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13 if a fair agreement is not reached by then. The Verizon strike will be by far the largest work stoppage in the country in recent years.

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

Even though Verizon 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 — the company wants to gut job security protections, contract out more work, offshore jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families. Verizon is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014.

“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, Vice President, CWA District 2-13.”  This very profitable company wants to push people down. And it wants to push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”

With negotiations at a standstill even as workers have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings, support for a fair contract is growing. Last month, 20 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam calling on him to “act as a responsible corporate citizen and negotiate a fair contract with the employees who make your company’s success possible.” And the working families of Verizon are reaching out to the public about the threat the corporation is posing to communities up and down the East Cost, including a new 30-second ad about the company’s efforts to offshore and relocate jobs.

“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Va., who’s been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”

The Verizon negotiations began in June 2015, and the workers’ contract expired on August 1. At the same time, Verizon’s CEO is making 200 times more than the average Verizon employee, and the company’s top five executives made $233 million over the last five years.

“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”

Even after significant worker concessions on healthcare, Verizon is attempting to make devastating cut backs, including:

  • Offshoring and contracting out even more customer service work to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations.
  • Cutting job security for all workers.
  • Requiring technicians to work away from home for as long as two months, without seeing their families. For anyone trying to balance work and family life, this is impossible.
  • Refusing to negotiate improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions for Verizon Wireless workers, who formed a union with CWA in 2014.
  • Freezing pensions at 30 years of service and forcing retirees to pay extremely high health care costs.
  • Slashing benefits for workers injured on the job.

Verizon’s corporate greed isn’t just harming workers’ families, 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.

For years, Verizon has been cutting vital staff — it has nearly 40 percent fewer workers now than a decade ago. Verizon has failed to hire the personnel necessary to properly roll out FiOS, the high-speed broadband service that is still unavailable to many of its customers. In cities like Philadelphia and New York, Verizon has failed to meet the buildout obligations under their citywide cable franchise agreements.

“Verizon wants to force through changes that would make it easier to uproot workers and hurt our communities,” said Betsy Derr, a customer service representative and CWA member in Bloomsburg, Pa., who’s worked at Verizon for over 16 years. “My job could be relocated about 70 miles away.  With three more hours of time commuting every day, I’ll be gone before my stepsons get up and maybe home for an hour before they go to bed.”

Worldwide Protests And Strikes In #FightFor15 Scheduled For April 14th

On Eve of Tax Day, Underpaid Workers to Wage Biggest-Ever Global Strikes, Protests as Fight for $15 Turns up Heat

From AFGE in 2015

From AFGE in 2015 

Protests Planned in Record 300 U.S. Cities, 40 Countries, on Six Continents

Fast-Food, Home Care, Child Care, Higher Ed, Manufacturing Workers to Protest Against Low Pay, Tax Avoidance by Companies

Workers Across the Service Economy Zero in on McDonald’s Role in Undercutting Pay for Everyone

Momentum Builds off $15 wins in CA, PA, Showing Power of Workers Organizing 

WORLDWIDE – Days after millions of workers in California and thousands in Pennsylvania won historic pay increases to $15/hr and amidst ongoing negotiations for $15/hr for millions more in New York, the unstoppable momentum for $15 and union rights continued to build as underpaid workers across the globe said they would wage the biggest-ever day of strikes and protests on April 14.

Fast-food workers will go on strike in a record 300 cities and tens of thousands of underpaid workers—including home care, child care and higher education workers—will lead hundreds of protests from Manchester, NH to Memphis, Tenn. to Marina Del Rey, Calif. Around the world, workers will join in, with protests expected in more than 40 countries on six continents. 

Who’s the Real Problem?

American families are being forced to scrape by because big corporations are ripping off workers, ripping off taxpayers, and ripping off communities. To get richer and richer, big corporations manipulate the rules to avoid paying fair wages and their fair share of taxes, forcing working people and taxpayers to foot the bill. As a result, workers and communities are being starved of the money needed to build a bright future, and left with impossible choices over how to care for their children and elderly parents and how to meet their basic expenses.  

The workers’ protests, timed to hit just before Tax Day, will zero in on McDonald’s, highlighting how the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15. The workers will also highlight how McDonald’s tax avoidance around the globe hurts governments, workers, taxpayers and consumers. 

“McJobs cost us all,” said Brenda Lozada, a home care worker from Aurora, Colo. who is paid just $11/hr after 12 years on the job. “McDonald’s is holding everyone back, not just fast-food workers. The company influences pay, how people are treated at work and how people run businesses, both large and small. The Fight for $15 isn’t just about fast-food workers getting higher pay. It’s about workers in every industry, all over the world being held back because of McDonald’s desire to make bigger profits.” 

Fast-food, home care, child care, university, airport, retail, building service and other workers will demand McDonald’s change its business model and use its massive economic power to lift up working families across the globe instead of dragging them down. 

“There are undocumented immigrant mothers in my city who work hard and pay taxes, but McDonald’s, America’s second-largest employer, does not pay its fair share,” said Rolanda McMillan, who has worked at McDonald’s in Richmond, Va. for four years. “McDonald’s cheats its workers, pays the bare minimum and dodges taxes despite making billions in profits and paying out millions to top executives. Meanwhile, workers can’t afford child care for our kids and grandkids. That’s just wrong.” 

The announcement comes as workers fighting for $15 and union rights prepare to go on strikeWednesday night and Thursday at eight airports across the country and as fast-food workers in Chicago calling for $15 and union rights prepare to walk off their jobs Friday. The Chicago workers will join with striking teachers to highlight how low pay forces fast-food workers’ to rely on food stamps and other public assistance programs—money that could be spent on schools. Members of the California Faculty Association who are demanding a 5% raise are also expected to be on strike April 14—on all 23 campuses of the state university system— in what would be the largest higher education strike in U.S. history. 

“Fast-food workers may have started this movement, but now the Fight for $15 is for everyone because it’s about a living wage for all,” said Michael O’Bryan, an adjunct at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our momentum is unstoppable. Our movement proves that when workers in all industries come together and speak out, we produce real change.” 

The Choices We Face

Because of the wage and tax schemes of greedy corporations like McDonald’s, workers, consumers and taxpayers face a series of impossible choices. American workers aren’t paid enough to afford child care and we don’t have the public resources we need to fund quality child care programs; people who provide critical home care and nursing home care for seniors and persons with disabilities can’t afford to take care of themselves, and we can’t provide access to quality long-term care for the growing number of Americans who need it; and adjunct professors and other faculty who educate our young people at public universities can barely make ends meet, while the schools themselves are starved for funding, putting higher education out of reach for too many people. 

Workers chose April 14 – the day before Tax Day – to emphasize that McDonald’s low wages force more than half the company’s workers to rely on public assistance, costing U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion every year. In addition, the company’s manipulation of loopholes and offshore schemes to avoid taxes means there is less money for child care, health care and public universities.

Industrywide, low pay forces more than half of fast-food workers to rely on public assistance to support their families, costing taxpayers $7 billion a year. And across the economy, nearly three-quarters of people aided by public assistance are members of a family headed by a worker, costing taxpayers more than $150 billion.  

“McDonald’s matters to everyone, because it hurts just about everyone,” said Kimmie DeVries, a child care worker from Kansas City, Mo. “Its influence is huge, but instead of using its global scale to support good jobs and lift pay, McDonald’s uses its enormous footprint for just the opposite. When McDonald’s pays workers as little as it possibly can, it pushes wages down throughout the service sector, making it impossible for workers across the economy to get ahead.” 

The effects of low pay reach deep. Earlier this month, Burger King worker and Fight for $15 member Jeffrey Pendleton was found dead in a New Hampshire jail cell. He had been arrested on a minor marijuana possession charge, and was held because he could not afford $100 bail. In USA Today, his co-worker Andy Fontaine wrote, “We may not yet know the cause of death, but we do know this: Jeffrey might be alive if he had been able to afford justice in our society. And his death tragically illustrates that the lives of black men caught up in our criminal justice system matter far less than they should.”

The Fight for $15 is dedicating the April 14strike to Pendleton, a vocal proponent for higher pay and union rights, who participated in the first-ever fast-food strike in New Hampshire last month.

Workers in California, Pennsylvania Win Historic Raises; New York Could be Next

The April 14 strike comes on the heels of an unprecedented series of pay increases this week, with workers in California winning $15/hr and the largest employer in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, announcing it will pay workers $15/hr. Negotiations around $15 in New York are ongoing.  

With wins piling up across the country, the Fight for $15 is building a growing awareness that $15/hr is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. And the workers in the Fight for $15 are demonstrating the power of coming together in an organization to fight for higher pay. 

“There has never been a stronger case for why workers need an organization to help them improve their lives,” said Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry. “Millions of people are being lifted out of poverty because workers joined together and acted like a union.”

Cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hr. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hr statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hr or higher; and workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hr via collective bargaining.

The Democratic Party adopted a $15/hr platform, the Democratic candidates for president have lined up in support of the workers in the Fight for $15, and elected leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Kristen Gillibrand back a $15/hr federal minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the situation when the campaign started—when discourse on the economy was limited to talk of debt and deficits and two lone Democrats in Congress (former Sen. Tom Harkin and former U.S. Rep. George Miller) were the only ones brave enough to even call for $10.10/hr. 

Slate wrote that the Fight for $15 has completely “rewired how the public and politicians think about wages; the New York Times declared that “$15 could become the new, de facto $7.25;” and the Washington Post said that $15/hr has “gone from almost absurdly ambitious to mainstream in the span of a few years.”

It all started on Nov. 29, 2012, when 200 New York City McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs, demanding $15/hr and union rights, in what theNew York Times called, “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of the fast-food industry.” Few gave the workers a chance, but their calls for higher pay caught on and spread across the country. Within months, workers walked off their jobs in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee, sowing the seeds of a national movement that would eventually spread beyond fast food to workers in home care, child care, higher education and other industries. 

McDonald’s Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The movement is also gaining momentum overseas, as workers across the globe are increasingly joining together to hold McDonald’s accountable. Workers in 40 countries on six continents are expected to protest at McDonald’s restaurants on April 14, with marches in cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Seoul and London to Lagos. 

The global protests come as McDonald’s is facing scrutiny by federal regulators from South America to Europe. Late last year, the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s following allegations by trade unions and NGOs that the company has dodged more than one billion euros in taxes since 2009. In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors said they were investigating alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the federal governmentcontinues to prosecute its case against the company for violating federal labor laws, charging both McDonald’s and its franchisees with illegally threatening, intimidating, firing and otherwise retaliating against workers who had joined together in the Fight for $15.

Changing the Debate 

The strike also comes as workers have made $15 and union rights a hot button political issue in the race for the White House. Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 have followed closely behind, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hr.

Ahead of debates in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Miami, Houston, and Charleston, fast-food workers went on strike for $15 and union rights and marched on the debates, calling on candidates to “come get our vote.” The massive protests forced candidates on both sides of the aisle to address workers’ growing calls for higher pay and union rights. On four occasions in the debates, candidates were pressed by moderators to respond to workers in the Fight for $15, including in November, when the first question directed at GOP candidates asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers outside the Milwaukee Theatre demanding $15/hr and union rights. 

The New York Times and USA Today both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press said underpaid workers are flexing, “increasingly potent political muscle,” and that they have “made low wages a hot political issue; and BuzzFeed said they “could make up a powerful new voting bloc.”

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

New TV Calls Verizon “The Poster Child Of Corporate Greed”

With contract negotiations for 39,000 workers stalled, Verizon Workers Blast Company’s Corporate Greed in new TV ad.

Verizon workers call company “the poster child of corporate greed”

as they prepare to go on strike, if necessary

NEW YORK — Frustrated with the unproductive pace of negotiations towards a new contract for 39,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia, the Communications Workers of America has launched a regional TV and digital ad buy calling the nation’s 16th largest company “the poster child for corporate greed.”  The ad can be viewed here: http://standuptoverizon.com/poster-child/. 

Verizon made $1.5 billion a month in profits in 2015—and $39 billion in profits over the last three years—while insisting at the bargaining table that workers accept major cutbacks in health care coverage, job security, pension protections, and benefits for injured workers.  Verizon also adamantly refuses to bargain a fair first contract for wireless retail store workers in NY and Massachusetts.  Continued management intransigence on these issues, which has left workers without a contract since August 1st of 2015, could lead to a strike that would affect consumers from Massachusetts to Virginia.  

In the new advertisement, which will start running this weekend, retired Verizon worker Ernie Hammel – 29-year former field technician – tells customers, “This company is the poster child for corporate greed.” 

Following clips of national TV reports about growing economic inequality in the country, the advertisement shows that Verizon’s CEO makes more than 200 times as much as the company’s average worker.

“For a communications company, Verizon executives seem to have trouble hearing their customers and their workers,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One, which covers Verizon workers from New Jersey to Massachusetts.  “A company this profitable should not be making the wealth gap in America even worse by cutting benefits and destroying job security, while a handful of executives line their pockets with $50 million a year in compensation.” 

“Americans are outraged by what the corporate elite has done to working people in this country over the last 30 years,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, which covers the workforce from Pennsylvania to Virginia.  “And Verizon typifies everything that people in this country are angry about.  If we have to walk, Verizon will be a national target for anger at corporate greed.”

Verizon workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), have been working without a contract since August and are growing increasingly frustrated that the company is still attempting to make devastating changes, including: 

  • Eliminating job security and allowing the company to force transfer workers anywhere in the company’s footprint, away from their families, for up to two months at a time.
  • Refusing to negotiate a fair first contract for 100 Verizon Wireless workers who organized into CWA in 2014.  No raises, no benefit increases, no improvements to working conditions.
  • Freezing pension accruals at 30 years of service.
  • Vastly expanding contracting out and offshoring of union jobs. This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of call center jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other overseas locations in recent years.
  • Gutting the Family Leave Care plan, which provides paid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Gutting the Sickness and Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.
  • And continuing their oppressive, bullying tactics of harassment and intimidation every day on the job.

“Verizon workers are the backbone of this company, and executives have lost sight of what makes this company so profitable,” said national CWA President Chris Shelton.  “Verizon workers have helped executives pocket $249 million in the last five years while their own families are worrying about job security.  We’re all tired of waiting for Verizon executives to agree to a fair contract.  It’s time to let customers know what is going on, and why we’ll be on strike if the situation doesn’t change soon.” 

Verizon is falling short on commitments to its customers as well. The company refuses to build out FiOS in many underserved communities up and down the East Coast, and has abandoned upkeep of the traditional landline network, leading to extensive service problems for consumers.  Even in New York City, where Verizon pledged to make FiOS available to every customer by the end of 2014, the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications issued a report finding that the company was evading the buildout commitments it made under its 2008 video franchise agreement.

In a strike vote conducted last summer, 86% of Verizon workers supported walking off the job if a fair agreement could not be reached.

One Year Ago, The Moment That Van Ostern Changed The Momentum of The FairPoint Strike

The Fall of 2014 ended with unusually bitter cold and piles of snow on the ground.

While many were at home snuggled up to a nice warm fire, the unionized workers from FairPoint Communication were walking the picket line. Failed negotiations led to what ultimately became a four-month strike through the coldest and snowiest winter in recent history.

It was the strength and solidarity of the workers and the political savvy of one Executive Councilor that helped end the bitter dispute.

fairness at Fairpoint strikersThe Strike Begins

In mid-October 2014, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America, which represent the 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications, collectively decided to walk off the job in protest.

“The company’s actions have brought us to this place,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We did not want to take this step. Our members want to work; they want to take care of their customers. However, our bargaining team worked as hard as we could to reach a fair agreement that would preserve good jobs and help the company prosper. We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.”

As the strike began, FairPoint made wild accusations, without any proof, that strikers were sabotaging equipment.

“It’s outrageous that management is lobbing these accusations at the very workers who’ve poured our blood, sweat, and tears into making this a viable company in our region,” said Chris Whidden, a Service Splice Technician and a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2327 in Maine.

FAIRPoint Strike Rally 12-19-14 Arnie Alpert Continued attempts to negotiate failed. Elected leaders from all across New England spoke out against FairPoint and their failure to resolve this strike.

As the weeks went on FairPoint began hiring “scabs,” non-union workers willing to walk across the strike line. FairPoint was caught anonymously posting job applications for telecom workers on Monster.com at nearly four times the pay of the average FairPoint employee. If these scab workers stayed in New England for a full year, they would have pulled in over $300,000.

By mid-December, FairPoint workers had been on strike for sixty days and it did not appear that anything was going to bring the striking union members and FairPoint back together again. Something was going to have to change and shake the negotiations up.

That is exactly what happened.

A Game Changer

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern had publicly voiced his support for the striking workers, but the maneuver he flawlessly executed in the Executive Council changed the entire game.

Colin Van Ostern

Executive Councilor and Gubernatorial Candidate Colin Van Ostern

Those who do not live in the Granite State may not know what the Executive Council is. As Van Ostern explained, “The Executive Council is a group of five Councilors, each representing a region with roughly a quarter-million New Hampshire citizens, who are elected to help the Governor of New Hampshire manage our state government.”

“Many people compare it to a Board of Directors for our state executive branch. The Councilors review and vote on all nominations by the Governor (i.e., judges, boards and commissions, etc.) and nearly all state contracts,” continued Van Ostern.

The Executive Council was set to meet on December 23, 2014 and one of the agenda items was renewing the State’s contract for telephone and internet services through FairPoint Communications. Van Ostern had immediate reservations about renewing the contract, especially after hearing multiple complaints from constituents.

“During the strike I got dozens of calls from New Hampshire residents, businesses, and even a few town buildings who had no [phone] service for weeks and needed help. At one point, a contractor from out of state showed up at a home in a rural town I represent, with a box of wires and instructions for the woman who lived there to fix her telephone service herself. It was outrageous. When I asked FairPoint executives what was going on, they said that contractor had been fired – but it was also clear the company needed their professional, well-trained labor force on the job to get back to normal,” said Van Ostern.

On the day of the Executive Council meeting finally arrived, Van Ostern had made his choice.

“There’s no way I was going to approve a multi-million dollar contract for state phones and internet lines with FairPoint, when it wasn’t even clear if the company could live up to its existing contracts in the middle of the strike…I asked Governor Hassan and the other Executive Councilors to remove it from the agenda until we could be sure FairPoint could really live up to its promises.”

This simple maneuver sent shockwaves through the region and sent FairPoint scrambling.

“New Hampshire just a sent strong signal to the executives back at FairPoint’s North Carolina headquarters,” said Glenn Brackett, (then) business manager of Local 2320 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “It’s become clear that the company’s attack on its skilled and experienced workforce is an attack on every one of its New Hampshire customers.”

“This is a serious wake-up call to the executives of FairPoint. For years, they’ve been pushing to outsource work to low-wage contractors. But the wave of service outages during this strike shows that you can’t run a high-tech company with cut-rate contractors,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400.

The Strike Comes To An End

Fairpoint strikers from Dec 9th

With New Hampshire’s multi-million, multi-year contract with FairPoint placed on indefinite hold, FairPoint had finally decided they needed to resolve this dispute before they lost any more business.

The two sides once again sat down to discuss the terms of a new contract, one that would benefit both the workers and FairPoint.

In late February 2015, FairPoint and its workers’ unions had reached an agreement.

FairPoint agreed to a union-administered health insurance plan with better benefits that will cost workers and the company less.

FairPoint also agreed to eliminate the two-tier wage structure that would have paid new hires as much as 20 percent less to do the same jobs as current workers.

“This agreement is a win for our members and for future FairPoint employees,” said Trementozzi. “We went on strike last October because we are committed to keeping good, middle-class jobs in New England. Our members walked the lines for more than four months, not just for themselves, but for future generations. Our success will benefit FairPoint workers—and New England’s working families—for years to come.”

Ultimately it was the strength and solidarity of the workers, with some help from their political leaders, which brought this strike to a successful conclusion.

“Our members are incredible. They walked the picket lines in blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. They stayed strong and they stayed together,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont.

Political Leaders, like Colin Van Ostern, showed that striking workers were not alone and helped to give them the strength they needed to continue standing on that line until a contract was reached.

CWA Launches TV Ad Slamming Verizon’s Broken Promises

 Ad Highlights City Audit Finding Verizon is Failing to Meet Terms of Its Franchise Agreement, Refusing to Build High-Speed Internet

Pressure Grows on Verizon to Stop Stalling as City Council Hearing Scheduled for Wednesday  

Video courtesy of CWA


New York – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced today a new TV ad that will air on local broadcast and cable channels slamming Verizon’s failure to build out its high-speed FiOS network in New York. The 30-second ad highlights a New York City audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City that found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it [script below and video file can be viewed here].  In a sign of growing concerns about Verizon, the City Council is holding a hearing Wednesday to hear from the Administration, customers who have been unable to get FiOS and the company.

“Verizon should stop breaking promises to its employees and its customers,” said Bob Master, Assistant to the President for CWA District One. “Customers want FiOS and our members want a contract that maintains family-supporting jobs.  Verizon should stop stalling on both issues.” 

New York City is not the only city frustrated with Verizon’s broken promises.  Last week, 13 Northeastern Mayors and the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia sent a letter to Verizon expressing anger at Verizon’s refusal to build its high-speed FiOS network at all in some cities while in others the company fails to meet contractual and legal requirements to complete universal build-outs.  The Mayors also expressed concern about Verizon’s treatment of its workforce in ongoing contract negotiations. 

The anger has been growing across the East Coast as Verizon systematically refuses to invest in its infrastructure.  In a letter to the FCC it admitted that it had only spent $200 million or $3.50 per customer over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in eleven states and the District of Columbia.  The Communications Workers of America filed letters in six states and Washington, DC calling on them to investigate whether Verizon was neglecting its responsibility. 

In August, it was the only major U.S. telecommunications company to turn down federal funding to build broadband in unserved, primarily rural, communities, leaving many residents in eight states and the District of Columbia without access to vital communications options.  The company was offered $568 million over six years by the Federal government to bring broadband to 270,000 locations in Washington, DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. 

In New York State, the company refuses to avail itself of Governor Cuomo’s $500 million New New York Broadband Fund, which offers up to 50% subsidies to companies willing to build high-speed service in underserved areas.  For years, Verizon has steadfastly refused to bring its high-speed internet service (or FiOS) to areas like Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Rome, Utica and numerous other upstate New York cities, as well as much of Eastern Suffolk.  At a series of hearings held by New York State, elected officials from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, the North Country, the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley decried the lack of FiOS in their communities. 

Campaigns in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have also called for FiOS to be built in their communities.

Featured image is screen shot from CWA’s ad

Verizon Walks Away From $550M+ In Federal Broadband Money

Verizon Only Telecom Company to Do So, Exacerbating Digital Divide 

Millions in Eight States and DC to Remain Without Access to High-Speed Broadband

2000px-Verizon_logo.svg

WASHINGTON- Verizon today became the only major U.S. telecommunications company to turn down federal funding to build broadband in unserved, primarily rural, communities, leaving many residents in eight states and the District of Columbia without access to vital communications options.  The company was offered $568 million over six years by the Federal government to bring broadband to 270,000 locations in Washington, DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. 

“Verizon’s track record is clear,” said Bob Master, Assistant to the Vice President of District One of the Communications Workers of America.   “Even while raking in a billion dollars per month in profits, Verizon is turning its back on underserved communities by refusing federal subsidies to expand high-speed internet access. Instead, its top priority is slashing job and retirement security for its employees and eliminating benefits for workers  injured on the job.”

In April, the Federal Communications Commission launched Phase II of the Connect America Fund.  The FCC offered major telecommunications companies nearly $1.7 billion a year over six years to provide high-speed internet and voice to unserved, primarily rural, communities.  The carriers had until August 27 to decide whether to participate.  The program was based on the successful universal service program, which ensured telephone service was available in rural communities.

Verizon accepted funding for two states where it is selling its network to Frontier Communications and rejected funding in the other states it operates.  

Verizon’s attitude toward the federal subsidies is sadly consistent with its approach in New York State, where the company refuses to avail itself of Governor Cuomo’s $500 million New New York Broadband Fund, which offers up to 50% subsidies to companies willing to build high-speed service in underserved areas.  For years, Verizon has steadfastly refused to bring its high-speed internet service (or FiOS) to areas like Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Rome, Utica and numerous other upstate New York cities, as well as much of Eastern Suffolk.  At a series of hearings held by New York State, elected officials from Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, the North Country, the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley decried the lack of FiOS in their communities.

Campaigns in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have also called for FiOS to be built in their communities.

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process.

At the same time, Verizon has been letting its traditional phone network deteriorate.  In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services.  Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement.  Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions.  On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline. 

CWA Launches New Ads Slamming Verizon’s Failures Ahead Of Possible Strike

Despite $18 Billion in Profits in Last 18 Months, Verizon Still Insisting on Slashing Job Security, Health Care, and Retirement Security

Union Stands Ready to Bargain; Workers Prepared to Strike if Needed 

New York – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced today a series of eight radio ads slamming Verizon’s failure to build out universal FiOS broadband across the East Coast as it outsources jobs and cuts workers’ pay. The 30-second ads are scheduled to begin running Friday across New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Washington D.C. [full scripts below and audio files can be heard here].

Listen to this ad from New York (other states below). 

The ads come after Verizon allowed its labor contract to expire on Aug. 1 at midnight, leaving 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telecom workers from Massachusetts to Virginia without a labor agreement. The company has demanded harsh job security, health care and retirement security concessions from its workers, despite making profits of $28 billion over the last five years and paying its top five executives $249 million during that time. 

“Verizon continues to play games with its workers and its customers. Despite our best efforts, the company refuses to engage in a serious negotiation towards a fair contract for its workers.  At the same time, its customers continue to suffer because of decaying infrastructure and poor service quality. Verizon has earned $1billion each month in profits for the last 18 months, while steps to build its high-speed FiOS network into low-income cities like Baltimore, Buffalo and Bethlehem, PA have yet to be seen,” said Bob Master, Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One. “Enough is enough. It’s time for Verizon to give their workers a fair deal and give their customers the service they deserve. It’s time for them to come to the bargaining table and negotiate.” 

Verizon has not significantly moved off its outrageous initial bargaining demands, made on June 22nd, which includes the following proposals:

  • Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
  • Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
  • Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs.  This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of jobs in recent years.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Reducing overtime and differential payments.
  • Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides unpaid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

At the same time, Verizon refuses to build out FiOS to many underserved communities up and down the East Coast, and has abandoned upkeep of the traditional landline network, leading to extensive service problems for consumers. In these negotiations, the union members’ interest is linked directly to the public interest, since their jobs involve maintaining quality service on traditional landlines and building and servicing Verizon’s state of the art FiOS broadband network. 

Background on negotiations with Verizon

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon. Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time. 

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. This came on top of $4.2 billion in profits in 1Q2015, which means Verizon has made $1 billion in profits every month for the last 18 months. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process. 

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.

(Please take a moment to sign the pledge to Stand with Verizon Workers, located at the top right of this post’s page.)

CWA-blue-line

CWA Verizon FiOS Radio Scripts Text

A.  NEW YORK

B.  MASSACHUSETTS

 

C.  NEW JERSEY

 

D.  PENNSYLVANIA

E.  MARYLAND

F. VIRGINIA 

 

G.  DELAWARE

H.  District of Columbia

 

New York State Mayors Join CWA at Bargaining Table, Tell Verizon to Stop Stalling on FiOS

 Elected Officials Representing More Than a Million NYers Write Letters to Verizon Leadership, Demand Action

With Days Remaining Before Contract Expiration, CWA and IBEW Demand Good Jobs, and Verizon Commitment to Good Service and FiOS for All 

Rye, New York – With days remaining before the contract between Verizon and its 39,000 unionized workers, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo joined the workers at a bargaining session with Verizon in Rye, New York.  At the same time, four other elected officials from across New York State wrote letters calling on Verizon to stop ignoring their communities’ need for high-speed internet and television service. 

The unprecedented visit and supportive letters from the Mayors of Albany, Utica and Rome and the Town Supervisor of Brookhaven demonstrate the common cause between the workers and customers around the state who are fed up with Verizon leaving them behind.  Verizon is refusing to build its state-of-the-art FiOS network in lower-income areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers at the mercy of their local cable monopoly, while at the same time letting its copper landline network deteriorate. 

In New York City, a damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process.  

The calls to build out FiOS come as the build-out of FiOS has become a bargaining issue between the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Verizon as they negotiate a new contract.  The contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Read more about possible Verizon strike and the radio ads CWA is running about “Verizon’s Failure to Develop FiOS Broadband Service.

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