This week, I’m going to stand on a picket line with striking Communications Workers of America (CWA) workers to stand up against Verizon’s corporate greed. Here’s why.
I believe that working people have a right to earn a fair wage for a day’s work, and that we deserve to belong to a union that will stand up for us and make sure that we get what we deserve. For the past few weeks, 39,000 Verizon employees have been on strike because the company refuses to provide them with a fair contract that meets that standard. These hard-working people, who just want to put food on their families’ tables, have been calling for a fair deal, even offering millions of dollars in health care concessions.
Instead of meeting these workers halfway, Verizon has kept lining the pockets of its executives, who have earned more than $230 million over the past five years, while trying to force cuts on their workers. It’s horrible to watch a company that is earning $1.5 billion in profits every month giving its workers the squeeze. And it’s time that we all, whether we’re Verizon workers, customers, or just ordinary New Yorkers who believe in workers’ rights, say: That’s just not right.
New York is one of our nation’s most prosperous states, but it’s also one of our most unequal. A big reason for that: Large corporations like Verizon do whatever they can to pad their bottom line, while taking as much as they can from workers. In this case, Verizon is trying to reduce job security protections and, for retail workers at wireless stores who joined CWA in 2014, refusing to agree to any improvements in wages, benefits, or working conditions.
I’ve seen worker exploitation up close and personal in New York—in my immigrant community, working-class people like me all too often get paid too little for their hard work, leaving us without the resources to meet our family’s needs or spend time with our kids, while employers earn record profits.
In recent years, working-class New Yorkers like me have stood up against this type of corporate greed. Fast-food workers have demanded a long-overdue raise, and, when they won, low-wage workers from all sectors stood together and won a minimum raise increase. The lesson is simple: When we organize, we win.
That’s why I know how important it is that CWA members are taking action against Verizon’s greedy practices and failure to negotiate in good faith. And it’s why, this week, I’m going with other members of Make the Road New York to “adopt” a picket line and show our solidarity with striking workers in Astoria. CWA members have stood with low-wage workers in the fight to raise the minimum wage, the struggle against wage theft, and more, and I’m proud to show solidarity with them in this critical moment.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We will not stand silent while a large, profitable corporation tries to take advantage of our working brothers and sisters. It’s time to join with CWA workers and demand a fair contract for Verizon employees and their families.
Luis Gil is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. Follow their work: @maketheroadny