Family Values @ Work

Workers Strike Back at Verizon

August 8, 2011

Verizon appears not to have learned the lesson of Wisconsin — workers DO notice when “sacrifice” is a one-way street. Corporate giants like Verizon are trying to kill middle-class jobs in America, even going after the paid sick days that help foster a healthy and productive work environment.

But working families have sacrificed enough. It’s time for Verizon to share its success with the hardworking Americans who made it possible.

In the last four years, Verizon made more than $19 billion in profits — a third of that just in the last six months. Their top five executives raked in more than a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation over that time. Yet now the company is demanding workers accept a host of cutbacks, including more jobs outsourced and shipped overseas, an end to benefits for those injured on the job, and fewer healthcare benefits to retirees.

The Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition rallied in support of striking Verizon workers. Verizon employees are at risk of losing their paid sick days, among other benefits cuts.

Among the cuts — slashing sick days for those who’ve been on the job, and eliminating them altogether for new hires. This follows the pattern of Harley Davidson, Kohler Company and others who hold a hammer over unionized workers’ heads by telling them they can keep their jobs only if the new hires get paid significantly less and are stripped of all benefits.

After negotiating for six weeks, the two unions representing the workers, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said, “Enough!” They’ve gone out on strike.

Member groups of Family Values @ Work have been supporting the Verizon workers. In Massachusetts, for example, the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, which is organizing to win paid sick days for the one million Massachusetts workers forced to choose between the job they need and the family they love, are standing on the picket line with strikers.

They presented the company with a “Sick Day Award” for apparently eliminating all disease and preventing medical emergencies. Why else, said the organizers, would Verizon propose to reduce and eliminate paid sick time?

“Our community recognizes the importance and necessity of fair labor practices and will not stand by while companies such as Verizon lower the standard for treatment of employees,” said Mimi Ramos of New England United for Justice, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition. Activists pointed out that paid sick days is a modest policy that helps companies like Verizon keep a healthy and productive workplace by ensuring workers are able to afford to stay home when they or their family members are ill.

Verizon workers have thousands of paid sick days supporters — working families, business owners and elected leaders — from across the country standing with them in their fight for a fair contract. In cities and states across the country, paid sick days is a common sense policy that is advancing because it helps strengthen the economy and public health.

For the sake of our middle class and our communities, we will not stand by while corporate giants like Verizon try to take paid sick days away.




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