Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Verizon strike highlights need for new workers' movement Aug 21 2011

45,000 workers at US communications giant Verizon have been on strike for
nearly two weeks. Adam Ford, of Infantile Disorder, examines the lengths
the company and the state have gone to to undermine the strike.

Global communications giant Verizon have made profits of more than $19
billion over the last four years - that's nearly two British pounds per
person on the planet. All of that was created by the company's workforce,
but instead found its way into the bloated bank accounts of executives and
shareholders. That's not enough for them though, so Verizon are currently
trying to extract the equivalent of $20,000 per US employee per year. In
this effort, they are being assisted by the corporate media, the court
system, the FBI, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions.

The 45,000 American workers have been on strike for nearly two weeks,
having not surprisingly rejected management's demands. As the strike has
worn on, the government has aggressively intervened on the side of the
company, imposing strict anti-strike injunctions to facilitate
strikebreaking, and setting up an FBI investigation into alleged
'terrorist' sabotage of the Verizon networks.

It is instructive to examine the injunctions, and to see just how
carefully calculated the attempt to force strikers into submission
actually is. For instance, New York pickets are limited based on the
number of scab workers on each site. A workplace with twenty-five
strikebreakers can have only six pickets at any one time. Fifty
strikebreakers can be met by ten pickets, et cetera. In Pennsylvania, all
pickets are limited to six strikers, who must be fifteen feet from the
door. More than this, "videotaping, photographing, or recording in any
manner, the likeness of any individual at any worksite of any Verizon
employee or contractor performing company work" is illegal. Neither the
CWA nor the IBEW have raised a finger to dispute this injunctions, and
have instructed strikers to follow them to the letter.

Last Friday, the FBI announced that it is investigating a "national
security" issue, relating to possible "sabotage" by Verizon workers.
Special Agent Bryan Travers declared that: "Because critical
infrastructure has been affected, namely the telecommunications of both a
hospital and a police department, the FBI is looking into this matter from
a security standpoint as part of our security efforts leading up to the
9/11 anniversary."

Verizon workers immediately dismissed this as a slander, designed to
reduce public sympathy. As a cable splicer in Fairfax, Virginia commented
to the WSWS: "Of course they'll say that. In reality the cables go down
all the time, even on a good day like this. These are scare-tactics that
Verizon is attempting to use." And a Pittsburgh employee added that: "I
feel the company is feeding the media the reports on sabotage. They want
to have a lot of negative publicity out there about us and try and make us
look bad. We need to all stand together."

The company have attempted to put an abstract limitation on the strike, by
setting a deadline of 31st August for workers to return, or face the
immediate suspension of all health-related benefits. For their part, the
union bureaucrats continue to offer their assistance to the company,
stating that they will accept major concessions if Verizon "bargain
fairly". As the company's artificial deadline approaches, workers can
expect unions to do far more than "meeting [the company] halfway."

As always in industrial disputes, one cent taken off the compensation
workers receive for their blood, sweat and tears would be an outrage, but
as things stand the total will be far more than that. To have a chance of
winning, Verizon employees must take charge of their own struggle by
forming rank-and-file committees, and make the biggest possible appeal for
the solidarity of the wider working class. Their interests are
diametrically opposed to those of the union tops, and can only be defended
by a total break from their control.

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