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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Verizon Fires 40 Workers From Strike

Verizon has fired 40 workers who took part in the strike this summer, saying they engaged in misconduct. Union leaders say this is a “heavy-handed” negotiating tactic to push for concessions at the bargaining table.
At the AFL-CIO Blog, Unions Fight Verizon’s Firings of Striking Workers,

IBEW Local 2222 Legislative Director Paul Feeney told the Boston Globe:

We think this is a heavy-handed technique that Verizon is using to pressure us at the negotiating table. The union is going to fight this through the court. The company couldn’t prove to us that they did anything wrong.

Investment blog Seeking Alpha describes this as part of Verizon’s revenue strategy, saying this is one example of phone companies that “act like monsters,” and “Verizon is playing hardball with its workers, firing strike leaders in an attempt to weaken workers’ positions in future negotiations” and “squeeze more from workers.”
Visit the CWA Stop Verizon Green page to learn how to help Verizon workers in their struggle to remain in the middle class.
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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How Wealthy Companies Like Verizon Avoid Taxes

Verizon needs to open a call center, which means a few new low-paying jobs. They get local governments bidding against each other, offering all kinds of tax breaks if only they’ll bring those jobs there. Before the bidding war these jobs will be in the economy somewhere, but local schools, police, etc. will be funded. After the bidding war the same number of jobs open up but schools, police, etc. are not funded — and the 1% are that much richer. Company after company does this. Community after community, desperate for jobs, loses. Schools, police, infrastructure go unfunded. Just who does this help? The 1%.
Earlier this month, the organization Citizens for Tax Justice joined with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to release a report, “Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.” The report looked at 280 corporations, finding that 78 did not pay federal taxes in at least one of the past three years and 30 averaged a less-than-zero tax bill in the last three years. Yes, less-than-zero, meaning they got money from the government instead of paying taxes to the government.
Verizon In Focus
Now a report by Citizens for Tax Justice and Good Jobs First, ““Unpaid Bills: How Verizon Shortchanges Government Through Tax Dodging and Subsidies,” looks at one company in particular. I’ve been writing about how Verizon is very, very profitable, but is trying to force its workers to give up ever more pay, benefits, job security and dignity. The company’s workers are engaged in an effort to preserve a middle-class existence.
Yesterday I joined a press call that hilited this Verizon report. The company aggressively manipulated state tax rules, demanded subsidies, and used other methods to end up with a negative federal income tax rate, and receiving state and local tax subsidies in at least 13 states. When setting up call centers, for example, they offer localities the prospect of jobs that that will be created somewhere in US, where the company would have paid taxes to fund schools and infrastructure, but get the localities bidding against each other until they end up making a profit instead of paying taxes.
From the report,

With more than $100 billion in annual revenues and nearly $15 billion in operating profits, Verizon
Communications is a large and prosperous company that should pay a substantial amount in taxes to
federal, state and local governments.

  • Verizon enjoyed some $14 billion in federal and state corporate income tax subsidies in the 2008-2010 period even though it earned $33.4 billion in pre-tax U.S. income during that time.
  • At the federal level, Verizon should have paid about $11.4 billion at the statutory rate of 35 percent during the three-year period. Instead, it got $951 million in rebates, putting its federal tax subsidies at $12.3 billion. Its effective federal tax rate was -2.9 percent.
  • At the state level, Verizon should have paid about $2.3 billion in corporate income taxes during the period but it handed over only $866 million. Its aggregate state rate was only 2.6 percent, far below the weighted state average rate of 6.8 percent. This gave it state tax subsidies of about $1.4 billion.
  • Verizon also used a special tax loophole called the ReverseMorrisTrust to avoid paying about $1.5 billion in federal and state and local taxes on the sale of its landline assets in various states.
  • Verizon also aggressively seeks state and local tax subsidies through credits, abatements and exemptions. There is no centralized reporting on these subsidies but in this report we document $180 million in special tax breaks and grants Verizon and VerizonWireless received in 13 states.

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.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Verizon’s Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed — You Can Join Them!

The reason you see so many cell phone stores and ads everywhere is because this is a very lucrative businesses. They 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!

Consumed By Greed

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