VERIZON WORKERS STAND UP: On August 7, 45,000 workers at Verizon, represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, went on strike, becoming the latest front in an ongoing battle that has taken on national significance, as the financial crisis exerts a heavy toll on union workers and their paychecks.
While governors such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio attack public sector workers, massive—and massively profitable—corporations like Verizon have demanded givebacks from their workers even as their executives rake in the cash. The unions estimate that the wage and benefit reductions amount to $20,000 per worker per year.
The weak economy has forced people across the country to accept wage and benefit cuts or take new jobs that pay far less than they were making, out of fear that the only other option is unemployment. But the Verizon strikers joined protesters in Wisconsin and Ohio in saying that it’s not fair for working people to face austerity while the rich get tax cuts and bonuses.
The Verizon strike ended after two weeks, with participants returning to work on August 22, after the company agreed to resume bargaining with the unions. It was the country’s largest strike since 2007, when General Motors workers left their posts for two days. But that strike took place in a radically different context, before the economic crisis and the ensuing loss of millions of jobs. Americans have seen companies like Verizon return to profitability, while the rest of us are still struggling. Working people who are standing up for their rights and demanding what they’re owed are standing up for all of us. SARAH JAFFE
THE AFL-CIO SAYS ENOUGH: In a victory for the progressive movement, the AFL-CIO has condemned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “militarization of our foreign policy” and a “costly mistake.” Its statement, adopted on August 3, is the most forthright in the history of a labor movement marked by pro-war allegiances and reflects a deep sentiment among working families, a large majority of whom oppose the wars, according to one longtime labor official in Washington. Much credit goes to the patient bottom-up organizing by US Labor Against the War and others, who solicited endorsements from hundreds of local and mobilized labor contingents at countless rallies across the country.
The AFL-CIO officially opposed the Iraq War at its 2005 convention. But the organization was supportive of military action in Afghanistan, or at least reluctant until recently to oppose the administration’s policy. For example, at a closed meeting last year, the labor federation refused to participate in a large Washington march if the demands included withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to Judith LeBlanc of Peace Action, the new stance “opens the door to more intense activity at all levels of the labor movement to partner with community, social service, religious, student and other organizations for racial and economic justice in an effort to turn back the deficit mania sweeping the country and establish new priorities in public policy that create jobs and provide the social services people need.” TOM HAYDEN