Between the Verizon strike and the Fight for $15 campaign, the United States is seeing something resembling an old-fashioned labor movement. It's about time.
Verizon is responding to the 40,000 employees who walked off the job last week by pointing out that the average employee makes $130,000 in wages and benefits — which strikers are happy to acknowledge. Their point is that they worked hard to make the company successful, deserve to be rewarded for it, and don't want to see their jobs outsourced or downsized so profits can be kept artificially high for stockholders.
Anyone with a television has seen Verizon's "A better network as explained by colorful balls" commercials many times Verizon is quite successful, and while CEO Lowell McAdam has surely played a key role in that success, at $18 million a year he is probably overpaid. Much of that compensation is in stocks, as is customary for top executives, which provides an incentive for them to push stocks high by in part keeping salaries and benefits as low as possible. Yes, corporate executives do have the much-touted "fiduciary responsibility" to stockholders, but they also have a responsibility to the workers who are making them and stockholders wealthy.
The Fight for $15 campaign pursuing a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour has been joining Verizon on the picket lines. When the economy was floundering, low-wage workers, largely employed by major chains, were told, "You can't have a raise, the economy is in the tank!" With the economy improving, low-wage workers are being told, "You can't have a raise, you'll tank the economy!" Workers aren't buying into this Catch-22 logic, nor should they.
When union-busting pols like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker slander and smear unions they are trashing America's workers. Unions have for decades fought for wage and benefit gains that then made their way through the non-union workforce to boost the nation's workers and their families as a whole.
At Verizon, employees are asking for their fair share of the success the company is enjoying, along with some assurance that their jobs won't be sent overseas — an action that cripples communities, as Berkshire County and southern Vermont know all too well. That is not too much to ask.