Verizon unions launch iWon’t Campaign

Unions representing 45,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast from Virginia to New England announced a partnership with progressive organizations designed to pressure Verizon into signing a fair contract that protects good middle-class jobs. The CWA and IBEW will work with MoveOn.org, Jobs with Justice, US Action, the AFL-CIO, and the National People’s Alliance to spread the word about the iWon’t Campaign that urges people to delay upgrading to the new iPhone on Verizon until the company agrees to a fair contract.

The iWon’t campaign will also publicize the tax loopholes that Verizon uses to avoid paying taxes and will urge tax reform to close the loopholes and make corporations like Verizon to pay their fair share of taxes.

CWA and IBEW went on a two-week strike in August to protect their health care and pension benefits from big cuts demanded by Verizon. The company, which paid its executives millions in bonuses and perks, stonewalled negotiations to force the strike, but when public support for the strike grew and union members demonstrated their resolve to win a good contract, Verizon agreed to a negotiating framework to restart serious negotiations. Union members subsequently returned to work.

However, it has been six weeks since negotiations resumed, and the unions are growing impatient with Verizon. The unions are hoping that the public support that the unions received during the strike can be harnessed to make Verizon sign a fair contract.

“Throughout the strike, we heard messages of support from literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who are sick and tired of profitable companies like Verizon and Verizon Wireless showering millions on their CEOs while taking away good jobs,” said Chris Shelton, vice-president of CWA District 6. “We are asking everyone who cares about the future of the middle class to help us
fight back. Upgrade to the new iPhone on Verizon Wireless only when the Verizon companies stop trying to downgrade their workers and give them a fair contract.”

MoveOn.org joined the campaign and will be using its resources to reach as many as 5 million people urging them to oppose corporate greed like Verizon’s that is “crushing the American Dream.”

”Verizon and Verizon Wireless jump through hoops to avoid paying federal taxes, dole out millions to their top executives, and then have the audacity to cut back and ask their workers to pay the price,” said Justin Reuben, MoveOn executive director. “We are joining the iWon’t Campaign and asking consumers to get the new iPhone on Verizon only when Verizon and Verizon Wireless treat their employees with the respect and fairness they deserve.”

The unions and their progressive partners also will join together to expose what they call “Verizon Tax Loopholes,” which allow Verizon and other large companies to shirk paying their fair share of taxes.

“Why should Verizon and Verizon Wireless – which make billions of dollar a year – pay less in taxes than America’s small businesses and working families?” said Ed Mooney, CWA District 13 vice-president. “As Congress considers drastic cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and hundreds of programs that the country depends on, we think Verizon and Verizon Wireless’ tax breaks should get a second look.”

Bloomberg.com reported on Tuesday that CWA and IBEW have proposed that the comprehensive health care plans that union workers at Verizon enjoy be consolidated, which would save the company money and protect the benefit from cuts.

While hopeful that the unions’ proposal will break the negotiating stalemate, union leaders are reluctant to be overly optimistic. “We have no illusions that just because we’re going to put a new proposal on the table they’ll say, ‘Great, accept it.'” said Bob Master, political director for the Communications Workers of America. “This is a big step up to intensify pressure on the company. We’ll use every tactic at our disposal.”

CWA, IBEW, and their supporters will spreading out to Verizon and Apple stores as the launch of the new iPhone approaches urging people to join the iWon’t Campaign.

Shelton told Crane’s New York Business.com that another strike is possible. ” It’s up to (Verizon),” Shelton said. “If they want to move things along, they can move  things along by stop attacking our middle class jobs.”

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