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August 13, 2003

Brilliant Non-strike by Verizon Union

This Village Voice article outlines how Verizon is being outmaneuvered in its goals of undermining labor standards for its workers. The union made noises that it was ready to strike, management spent millions bringing in strike-breakers, then, on the night the strike was to start--- the union kept negotiating.

For the first time in years, the Communications Workers of America, the largest of Verizon's unions, broke with its policy of no contract, no work, a posture of militancy designed to bring management to heel and win last-minute concessions. But different times breed new and different tactics.

Instead of walking out, the phone company unions went into a labor version of rope-a-dope, the brilliant Muhammad Ali boxing tactic of covering up and burrowing down while your opponent uselessly flails about, unable to land a solid blow. Replacement workers remained holed up in their hotels, representing a hefty added payroll as regular union workers went about their normal routines.

"We didn't stay at the table because we thought we were close to a deal," said one union leader last week. "We chose to stay because the company was totally geared up for a strike and had expended millions. There were tens of thousands of management people flown in, most of them from Verizon West. This totally shocked them."

"We knew that they were dying to shift our work out of town: the customer-service reps, the network-monitoring functions," the official said. For those and other reasons, the tactic of the CWA, along with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the other key union in the company's 78,000-member workforce, became one of guerrilla war: members staying on the job while carrying out mini-actions, demonstrations, and rallies designed to keep the pressure on management.

Having set-up the employer to waste money keeping strike-breakers in reserve, the union is looking for other ways besides a strike to pressure the company. They are asking current Verizon members to sign-up on a list of people willing to switch to AT&T in case of a strike.

Click here to join the campaign to assist Verizon workers.

Posted by Nathan at August 13, 2003 11:02 AM