Tag Archive: strike

Look for the union label

The union label. When I was little, I grew up with these ads. Look for the union label. And we did. Other things we saw on TV were slick. Professional. But the ads for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) used real people…
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White Shirt Day: Two Governors – Michigan & New Jersey

Before midnight, I want to acknowledge an important moment in history – 78 years ago today: the end of the Flint Sit Down Strike at General Motors. It happened in Flint, Michigan, but there’s something I heard in a video with aging participants that got me thinking about my own governor, Chris Christie, in a way I never have before.

First the teaser – honoring the end of the strike with White Shirt Day (today). White shirts – like management wore. Because before, only management dictated how long and under what conditions they worked. But after, they workers had a say, and they had the power to require management to listen. The teaser:

But it’s the second video about the strike that I want to talk to you about:

Memo to Star-Ledger Editorial Board

re: Verizon strike

Yesterday, S-L ran an editorial: Can you hear us now? Knock it off. It says, among other things, that striking union members are:

… childish …

… militant …

… irresponsible …

… knuckleheads …

Our Ledger friends ask whether the good people of New Jersey will even want Verizon workers in their houses ever again after witnessing them in the act of striking. Witnessing what? S-L reports the FBI is investigating 90 acts of ‘sabotage’. That’s 90 ‘incidents’ over 9 days of striking, in states from Massachusetts to Virginia, with 45,000 people out on strike. Really?

Strikes are a challenging business for both sides as S-L notes in their first paragraph (then promptly forgets). Their story deals only with striker behavior. And they have to pull from the entire Eastern Seabord for alleged stories of BB guns, blocked trucks, and cut cables. They, like many right-wing websites, are particularly scandalized by a worker “using his young daughter as a roadblock for Verizon trucks”. I thought you should see that video. Does she look scared to you? Maybe she knows the well-financed PR assault her Daddy’s up against.

What about what may be bad actions of scabs? Did S-L even consider the longstanding union-busting tradition of management sabotaging equipment so that striking workers are blamed? No. (Let alone snafus like managers rusty at dangerous ‘hands-on’ work [apparently] doing stuff like blowing transformers).

A few things for S-L to consider:

$258 million: compensation for Verizon’s top 5 execs over the past 4 years

$6 billion: Verizon’s annualized profits for 2011

$6,800: increased health care costs to each worker if Verizon wins

This isn’t about getting rich off this company. Top Verizon execs have that covered. It’s about retaining living wage jobs; that’s what unions are supposed to do. The company’s asking for about 100 give-backs including freezing pensions, cutting paid holidays, and exporting jobs to foreign companies.

Where’s Star-Ledger’s outrage at that? The people on strike are the people who built Verizon, literally. Verizon’s claiming their back’s against the wall because the market’s transitioning from land-lines to wireless. Investment experts say even if Verizon succeeds in cutting worker benefits there’s no guarantee it will stop their market share loss in landline. And the union makes the case its workers helped build Verizon’s highly-profitable wireless side, which is not unionized. So why not support workers earning a living wage, and trying to keep their jobs in America?

So, difficult as strikes are – we get that, S-L – maybe you’ve overplayed the inconvenience to this company its workers built, that wants to shave worker benefits to rake in even more money. And maybe you haven’t noticed many of its customers support the strike.

Jump for a video on the strike from the workers’ side: