New protests, but no new pact with Verizon
The 39,000 striking Verizon workers, members of the Communications Workers and the Electrical Workers from Maine through Virginia, are introducing a new facet to the worker-boss struggle: The virtual picket line.
As described in a blog on labor law issues, the virtual picket line not only is pioneering in the use of social media for a traditional strike, but it also gives millennials – who use social media more than their elders and who often don’t know about unions – exposure to organized labor and its causes.
“While not nearly as sizable as the ten largest strikes in American history, this strike is the first of its kind to last more than a few days and be liked, shared, and tweeted en masse in the United States,” said the OnLabor blog.
But the virtual picket line via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other platforms hasn’t stopped CWA and IBEW from traditional strategies in their fight against the multibillion-dollar telecom.
The two unions sponsored a “National Day of Action” against Verizon, with rallies from Maine to Los Angeles, on May 5. And CWA, with citizen and consumer group allies, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission charging that Verizon is deliberately short-changing its landline customers.
Verizon forced the CWA and IBEW members to strike on April 13 after months of fruitless talks for a new contract. The firm refused to negotiate on its demands for maximum flexibility in outsourcing call center jobs from the U.S. to Mexico and the Philippines and for huge health care givebacks.
Verizon's newspaper ads said it moved, a little, on raises, to 7.5 percent. The ads did not say that figure covers five years.
From the beginning the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America has been committed to working with Verizon to come to a fair and equitable contract that benefits employees and employer alike, said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Sadly Verizon has refused to compromise on its most extreme demands, like its call to further outsource American jobs overseas, while rejecting our offer to save the company millions in health-care spending without gouging retirees.
“It’s time for Verizon to sit down and engage in serious negotiations so my members can get back to work serving their communities.”
West Virginia's RTW law is challenged
Organized labor sees the court system as the most direct way to overturn statewide right-to-work laws. A Wisconsin judge has ruled that state's RTW law invalid, and now a coalition of unions in West Virginia have announced that the constitutionality of that state's new RTW law is being challenged.
The lawsuit claims that “there are a number of errors in the law that are clear indications of sloppy and hasty legislating.” West Virginia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Josh Sword said that his group will argue that state's courts "that such a Right to Work law generally violates the West Virginia Constitution’s prohibition of taking property without due process and compensation."
If a labor-friendly set of district, appeals court and a Supreme Court can be lined up, so to speak, organized labor leaders maintain that RTW laws could be overturned simply on the basis that such laws are invalid because they don't allow equal rights under the law. The argument being, RTW laws mandate that workers be allowed to enjoy union benefits without having to pay for representation.