Militant Journalism

Interview with striking Verizon workers in Pittsburgh

The Verizon workers’ strike with the participation of about 39000 workers is continuing strong into its fifth week since its start on April 13 as Verizon has refused to budge on demanding cut-throat concessions of its employees despite making billions of dollars in profit.The striking workers are members of Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Liberation News spoke to some of the workers in the picket line in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa.,  members of CWA, locals 13000 and 13500. We asked the workers the main reasons behind the strike and as a response, one of the workers in the picket line explained the details of the concessions Verizon is demanding from the workers: “We are on strike so that we can keep our jobs. Verizon has already off-shored about five thousands jobs to Mexico, Philippines and India.”

In addition to plans for outsourcing jobs, the same worker said that Verizon is forcing workers to concede to out of town assignments up-to two months at a time and 6 times a year. She added: “The company is demanding that the workers drive up-to 100 miles away from their home and back for maintenance assignments. 100 miles back and forth means four hours of driving and the company is refusing to pay its workers for that time.”

Another concession Verizon is pushing on the workers is an 11.5  percent increase in healthcare costs, out of workers’ pockets while reducing the coverage. One of the other workers in the picket line said: “At a time when the Verizon CEO is making over $18.3 million a year with the company making over $1.5 billion a month in profits, Verizon is trying to make it look like it is offering the workers a fair wage increase, a mere 7.5 percent over three years while at the same time they are pushing higher healthcare costs on the workers while reducing coverage. They want to raise our co-pay and ‘out of pocket maximums’, and they are pushing for these concessions .”

It is worth noting that the healthcare costs were pushed onto the workers by Verizon in 2011, a reminder that once a concession is made, the corporations driven by more and more profit will continue to ask for more and more out of their workers in exchange for less.

Ira Madison, another worker in the picket line joined the conversation to say: “It is not fair that the CEO is getting paid $18.3 million. It is not the CEO that is doing the real work and it is not his company. For us workers, the only way forward is by getting organized  and joining other workers in the fight. We can not fight this system on our own.”

The Verizon workers’ struggle is part of the bigger class struggle raging throughout the United States, including the fast-food workers and the Fight for 15 movement. The words of one of the workers in the picket line reflect this clearly:

“I believe this is going to be an opening for the working class. We need to stand our ground and keep fighting. Our action here at Verizon is not just for Verizon workers but it is for the whole working class.”

As the capitalist crisis deepens, more and more workers are gaining higher levels of class consciousness as they realize that as the working class, their interests are diametrically opposed to the capitalist class, with the capitalists’ incessant drive for more and more profits based on the exploitation and suffering of the workers. That the Verizon bosses continue to push more and more cut-throat concessions on its workers while raking billions of dollars in profits, filling their pockets with millions in salaries is a clear indication of this irreconcilable class conflict and that socialism is the only way forward for the working class.

As socialists, we stand in full solidarity with the striking Verizon workers as we also continue to advance the fight for socialism, a society where the workers are in power and where all working people are guaranteed health care, education, housing and a right to job.

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