PHILADELPHIA - Showing their solidarity against the firm they've nicknamed "VeriGreedy," some 5,000 Verizon workers, members of the Communications Workers and the Electrical Workers campaigned August 11 on the streets of Philadelphia against the firm's corporate greed.
The protest, in front of a regional Verizon headquarters in the city's Chinatown, also marked the one-year anniversary of when the firm forced the two unions into a two-week strike over its refusal to bargain. CWA has 45,000 members at the giant telcom and IBEW has another 10,000.
"We've spent 14 months at the talks" after last August's strike forced the firm back to the bargaining table "and we're still there," IBEW Local 827 President Bill Huber of New Jersey told the packed crowd in a talk from the back of a flatbed truck.
"It's not about CWA and IBEW any more," he added. "It's about one union fighting a greedy company."
Verizon, which earned $10 billion last year, refuses in public from a list of giveback demands that would cost workers pay, cut pensions, impose higher health care costs, eliminate seniority and security protections, the unions point out.
Officially the firm offered wage hikes of 1.75 percent in 2012 and 1.5 percent next year, with no retroactive increases since the old contract expired in 2011. It also wants to freeze pension benefits for current workers and cut the value of future pension benefits to 70 percent of current levels for workers with fewer than 30 years service. New hires would be barred from the company pension plan. New sales reps would have lower base pay.
"It's me and you against these as*h*les," added CWA District vice president Ed Mooney, whose area includes thousands of Verizon workers. Verizon "wants flexibility. But you know what 'flexibility' gives these corporations? They tell people to say to you: 'I don't have health care, so why should you have health care? I don't have benefits, so why should you?'"
After talks resumed, the unions asked and Verizon agreed to federal mediation in May, with a session scheduled for August 15. The workers in Philadelphia wanted to show Verizon they're determined to stand their ground against its giveback demands.
"If things don't change," Mooney warned, "We'll all be back on the street like we were last summer."
"This is about our families," declared CWA Local 13000 President Jim Gardler. "We don't need greedy bastards like this company telling us we can't have anything" to have a decent middle-class life.
The firm also fired at least two dozen union activists who participated in the two-week strike, on flimsy or false reasons. The National Labor Relations Board will hold a trial on labor law-breaking charges, filed by its general counsel's staff, against Verizon on behalf of those workers, in September.
"Verizon wants to make an example out of them. We'll make an example out of Verizon," CWA President Larry Cohen declared.
Photo: CWA Local 1101/Dawn Sickles