99% Spring Disrupts Verizon Shareholder Meeting Six Times

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of corporate greed than Verizon, a company making billions and tripling its CEO’s pay while demanding givebacks from its workers. Today the 99% Spring movement let Verizon know that 99% of us are trying to bring big corporations back under democracy’s control. Today’s Verizon shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama was disrupted six separate times by members of the 99% Power coalition, part of the 99% Spring movement.
The Verizon shareholder meeting comes as the company is in negotiations with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The highly-profitable company — the 16th largest corporation in America — is asking its workers for givebacks amounting to as much as $20,000 each, while tripling the compensation of CEO Lowell McAdam from $7.2 million to $23.1 million. The company made $22.5 billion in profits over the past four years while paying its top five executives $283 million over that period. Because of this the company has earned the nickname “Verigreedy.”

After today’s meeting was opened by McAdam, and as he was introducing Verizon’s Board of Directors, a group of people stood up with one shouting “Mic Check” three times. Then the leader continued, with the rest of the group repeating, “Verizon wants to … slash worker benefits … 20,000 dollars … per worker … per year! … We say … SHAME on you! … Meanwhile … Verizon CEO … Lowell McAdam … got a … 220% raise … up to 23 million dollars … Shame Shame Shame on you …” The last line was repeated as the group was led out of the meeting by security, with many in the audience applauding them. There were no arrests.
After several minutes another group disrupted the meeting, and was led out by security as many in attendance applauded and chanted with them. Then the same sequence again, and again, for a total of 6 times.
The Rally
At a rain-soaked rally before the shareholder meeting Al Henley, President of the Alabama AFL-CIO demanded that Verizon be a better corporate citizen. “Verizon is on the run from their own workers, and thought that by taking the meeting to Alabama, a “right-to-work” state, but they misjudged our sense of solidarity here in the South.”
Here are some photos from the rally:

Also at the rally, Ron Collins, CWA Chief of Staff, said, “Enough of the attacks on idle-class jobs while paying executives obscene salaraies and dodging taxes.”
Scott Douglas, Executive Director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, said, “We may be down South, but we are not offshore. Today we say with new meaning the Alabama state motto, we dare defend our rights. … Now more than ever, it is important for people of conscience to join together to recognize our common struggle against injustice and to fight back united.”
Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice said, “Verizon’s CEO makes $23 million per year. That’s over 600 times more than an average frontline worker makes. This is fundamentally an issue of fairness.”
Patrick Welsh, a Verizon retiree, talked about the promises made that if you work hard, follow the rules and pay your taxes then you’ll have a good retirement, and Verizon has broken that promise.
Also speaking were Jasmine Salas of the Student Labor Action Project and Jennifer Travis, a worker fired by Verizon.
People arrived at the rally in 12 buses and several vans from Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, Birmingham, Knoxville, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbia, Chattanooga, and other cities throughout the region. They represented several groups, including CWA, Jobs with Justice, Occupy Huntsville, Occupy Birmingham and the Student Labor Action Project. Students from Orlando and Tallahassee took a 14 hour bus trip and slept in the local Plumbers Union hall.
There were also rallies supporting Verizon workers in 15 cities including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, Miami and Orlando.
Donation In Lieu Of Taxes?
In a PR move before the meeting Verizon yesterday donated $100K to the Alabama Governor’s office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the United Way of Alabama, for disaster relief to help recovery from tornados that occurred just over a year ago. (This brings their total disaster-assistance giving to $400K) Gov. Robert Bentley said these funds are important because “government dollars aren’t available.” The Governor could have added, “Because Verizon doesn’t pay taxes.”
Signs, Moving Billboard, Totally Unrelated Cow
Burma Shave-style signs with poems, all ending with, “Verizon is Verigreedy” appeared around town overnight on roadsides and elsewhere, placed by “a team of elves.” Large signs condemning Verizon’s greed were placed in strategic locations around the meeting site. Also, a large moving billboard vehicle, reading, “Verizon Is Verigreedy” was circling the location of the shareholder meeting.
In other, unrelated news, a cow got loose in the middle of the night, keeping police occupied, which had nothing to do with the rest of this. Meanwhile, Huntsville’s fried catfish and hush puppies are worth the trip, even though you can’t really tell the air from the rain because of the humidity, and it’s only the beginning of May.

Verizon is outsourcing U.S. jobs, cutting worker pensions and gutting them for new hires, charging current and retired employees thousands of dollars more for health benefits, and cutting disability coverage. This is how the middle class in the US is being hollowed out. Pushback began last year with Occupy, and has now been expanded by the 99% Spring movement. People are finally fighting back.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Crucial Senate Labor Vote Today – Actions You Can Take

The Senate votes today on restricting labor rights, in the FAA bill. Committee Dems caved and gave away union election rights. At least 18 unions including CWA,SEIU have voiced opposition. Here are some actions you can take right now.
Last week, in FAA Bill Still Anti-Labor! Call Your Senators!:

Why This Fight?
The reason there is a fight over labor rules in an FAA bill at all is that Delta Airlines is trying to keep unions out, so the 1% can keep from paying good wages and benefits to the 99%. And, as usually happens, they are offering the Republican Party a share of the take if they can just make it happen for them. Such is our present-day political system. It seems to come down to who is giving the most money to the Republican Party gets priority in legislation. (“Drill, baby, drill!”)
If you start with a bill that says, “kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions, kill all the unions” and take out one “kill all the unions” is that a compromise? The unions are still killed three times over.
The FAA bill contains a number of provisions that make it nearly impossible to establish a union, including but not limited to:

  • the percentage of workers that say they wan a vote on unionization increases from 35 to 50 percent
  • tricky election run-off rules open up elections to even more company interference
  • a procedure allowing for the wholesale decertification of a whole host of unions through mergers

CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW! Click here for help.
CWA’s action: Will Senate Democrats Stand Up to the GOP?
CREDO has an action out, please click this.

Tell Senate Democrats: Stand with unions. Don’t cave to Republicans.
For months, House Republicans have been trying to use the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a way to attack labor unions.
And until recently, Senate Democrats along with their colleagues from the House and the White House have been standing strong and fighting back.
But now, Senate Democratic leadership is poised to cave to the rightwing and anti-worker Republicans in the House, and allow what should be a bill about aviation safety and security to become one that unilaterally changes labor law to the detriment of working people.
Tell Senate Democrats: Stand with unions. Don’t cave to Republicans.

Tweet This:
Call your Senators today and let them know that FAA Bill is a “No Compromise” http://bit.ly/yWAkMA @CWAUnion #1u #p2

End Secret Corporate Campaign Cash
While you are at it, join us going after the source of the problem. Click here to End Secret Campaign Cash:

End Secret Corporate Campaign Cash
It has been two years since the Supreme Court decided in the infamous Citizens United case that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Since then, our democracy has been drowning in a tsunami of corporate special interest money. Our government is under the thumb of the Koch brothers instead of the hands of the people.
We cannot ultimately right this wrong until we can organize the states to pass a constitutional amendment that declares what everyone except Mitt Romney seems to understand: corporations are not people and money is not speech.
But until then, we can take action right now to force corporations to make their campaign spending public. Sign the petition below and tell the SEC: No more secret political money. Make all publicly traded corporations disclose their campaign spending to the public.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans

Last week Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, a bipartisan bill to both help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. This proposed legislation would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. The bill should also give us the right to get a person on the phone at all, within a few minutes, and not requiring a long phone tree of choices first, but I guess that’s for another day…
Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:

  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

At the Huffington Post, David Jamieson writes more about this bill, in, Overseas Call Centers Target Of Anti-Outsourcing Bill,

Although some call-center jobs have trickled back into the U.S. in recent years, the long-term trend has shown thousands of American-based customer service positions being outsourced to India and the Philippines, where workers come considerably cheaper. The Philippines’ call-center industry recently surpassed India’s as the largest in the world, according to a report in USA Today.
… In addition to scuttling any grants or guaranteed loans for a period of five years, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would require that companies that are about to offshore call-center jobs notify the Labor Department 120 days before they do so. The companies would then be put on a public list. Bishop said the law would apply to businesses in all industries.
Such a bill is unlikely to garner strong support from anti-protectionist, free-trade GOP members of Congress, but the inclusion of the call-center rules adds an interesting wrinkle. Given the widespread frustration of customers who end up on long calls with agents overseas, plenty of constituents, Republican and Democrat alike, would probably appreciate the option of dealing more regularly with customer service reps based in America.

In a press release, the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents call-center employees, writes,

The Communications Workers of America is strongly backing new, bi-partisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives today that would ban federal grants and loans to corporations who move U.S. call center jobs overseas. CWA represents 700,000 workers in telecommunications and other sectors; more than 150,000 are customer service professionals.
.. “Americans are fed up with good-paying family supporting call center jobs here in the United States being shipped overseas so the one percent can make a little extra money,” said CWA Chief of Staff Ron Collins. This legislation does not prevent them from moving if they want, but it prevents them from gaining access to our tax dollars while they do so.”
Collins, who began his career in a U.S.-based Verizon call center, said CWA members across the country will be mobilizing support for the legislation in individual states and Congressional Districts.
“We will go door to door to reinforce to members of Congress that this is a bill their constituents want and need,” Collins said. “We appreciate Representatives Bishop, McKinley and all the members of Congress who are supporting this important legislation.”

The full text of the bill is available here:

H.R.3596 – To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Help Verizon’s Workers Try To Save The Middle Class

Here is a practical application of the ideas and energy of #Occupy Wall Street. Verizon’s workers are in a struggle against a giant corporation. They need your help leafleting at Verizon stores, reaching people to explain what is going on.
Verizon is a huge, very profitable company. But Verizon is trying to make its workers take pay and benefit cuts, so that a few at the top can make even more money. If this sounds familiar it is because this is what is happening to our economy across the board. Big companies are using the fear caused by the unemployment crisis to take away more and more benefits, cut back wages, make people work longer hours, and basically shred the middle class. 99% of us are finding it harder and harder to get by while a few at the top are getting more and more.
Fighting Back
Verizon’s workers are fighting back. In August they went on strike, and with the help of volunteers joining the picket lines they were able to get the company to back off some of their outrageous demands, and back to the bargaining table. But they are still at that table and are asking for people to help out again. One thing they are doinbg is asking iPhone users not to upgrade to the new iPhone on Verizon until this is settled. They are calling this action the iWon’t Campaign.
Companies that take away middle-class jobs should not be rewarded. Verizon’s workers are asking people to buy or upgrade Verizon iPhones only when Verizon gives workers a fair deal and stops downgrading the middle class.
The iWon’t Campaign:

The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, joined by allies including MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, US Action, Jobs with Justice, and the National People’s Alliance announced today the next stage in the fight for middle-class jobs at Verizon and Verizon Wireless.
The groups are launching the nationwide iWon’t Campaign, asking Americans to delay upgrading to the new iPhone on Verizon Wireless until the company agrees to a fair contract with its workers. The campaign, which includes online outreach by MoveOn.org and other groups, advertising, grassroots outreach and leafleting at hundreds of Verizon Wireless stores, is timed around the launch of Apple’s new iPhone expected on Tuesday, October 4th.

Click here to find a local store where you can join Verizon’s workers, and help fight to save the middle class.

Leaflet at a Verizon Wireless store:
45,000 Verizon workers are fighting for a fair contract and to preserve the middle class and the American Dream in the Northeast.
If wealthy corporations like Verizon continue to outsource jobs and hold down worker wages, there is no hope for an economic recovery. This is why our fight is your fight and why your support is so important.
Join us as we leaflet at Verizon Wireless stores to get our message out: Stand with Workers, Not Rich CEOs.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Verizon Strike: Picketing Can Be Done By Anyone

Do you want a path out of this recession? Then help the Verizon workers by joining a picket line at your local Verizon store. (Click to learn how.) Verizon has billions in profits. They pay their executives huge salaries. But they are asking their workers and even retirees to take cuts, so the workers are on strike. They just want what you want – a decent job with decent pay and maybe some benefits. So join them.

Path Out Of Recession
Larry Cohen, president of Communication Workers of America (CWA), said on a call today said, “If a company with profits like this, and paying their top executives more than $50,000 a day, can demand these kind of cuts from its workers, there literally will never be a path out of recession in this country.
Cohen also said,

“The collapse of the standard if living across the country, we need to convince people of the larger issues here. The economics lesson here … the human rights issues here are enormous. We are attempting to picket every Verizon Wireless store in the country and this can be done by anyone carrying our sign. …
Are people like us going to have any rights in this country, do we have any rights in this country, do we have anything to look forward to?”

Join Them
Last week I wrote, in Verizon’s Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed — You Can Join Them!:

The reason you see so many cellphone stores and ads everywhere is because wireless is a very lucrative business. Wireless companies are pulling in billions and their executives are raking in the bucks. But they are also squeezing their workers, their customers and our government.

Right now Verizon is greedily trying to put the squeeze on its workers, cutting pensions, sick pay, health insurance, even disability for employees injured on the job. If this story sounds all too familiar, this part won’t: Their workers are fighting back with a strike! And you can join them!

Verizon’s demands include:
• Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
• Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
• Elimination of all job security provisions.
• Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
• Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
• Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.

The Is About You

This is about you because this is happening to everyone. These Verizon workers are putting everything on the line for you — trying to do something about it. They going on strike to try to get your wages and pension and health care back, or keep those things from being taken away from you. Don’t forget that when you hear the corporate propaganda from FOX News and the rest of the corporate media, telling you about “union thugs” and “union bosses.” This is about you and if you are anywhere near a Verizon worker picket line you should go join them.

What You Can Do

Click here to learn ways that you can support the strike.

Easy: Click to Tell Verizon: Stop Attacking the Middle Class. From the petition:

Over the last four years, Verizon has made $19 billion in profits while paying its top five executives $250 million in compensation and bonuses .
With middle-class families already struggling, it’s time for Verizon to share its success with the hardworking Americans who made it possible. This is not a time for corporate greed. It is time to do the right thing.
Verizon made dramatic concessionary demands to kick off bargaining and never moved. Now you are refusing to bargain with the CWA & the IBEW.

Socially: “Like” them on Facebook.
Techy: Download their iPhone app.
Read strike coverage.
Have Fun, Meet People, Join A Local Picket Line

Much more fun: Join them! Click here for a map of local picket lines that you can join. I especially like this one: Adopt Verizon Wireless a store to picket and leaflet.

You can find more info here including signing up to receive updates.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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