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(en) US, Freedom/Libertad* #6 RADICAL POTENTIALS IN THE VERIZON STRIKE + What is Common Struggle?

Date Wed, 25 Jan 2012 09:11:24 +0200

Starting August 7, 45,000 Verizon employees were on strike for nearly three weeks over the company’s demands that employees contribute to healthcare premiums, the company be allowed to more easily fire workers, wages be tied to job performance, and pension accruals be halted for the year. Two unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), took to the picket line to defend wages and benefits. In Rhode Island there were 800 workers represented by IBEW. Wearing their red IBEW shirts and picket signs around their necks, they began the strike with twenty-four hour picket lines.-- Picketing, however, was not all that was happening. Some workers attacked the company through clandestine direct action. Verizon reported dozens of cases of sabotage. Workers were damaging and destroying Verizon phone lines throughout the Northeast.

This was officially shunned by the union
bureaucracy. Community groups went to the
aid of Verizon was well, organizing events such
as “Wireless Wednesdays” when supporters
of the unions would go to Verizon stores and
picket to discourage people from financially
supporting the company.

After around three weeks, however, the
union called off the strike. The day after a
large rally in Providence, Rhode Island, to
which over 400 people in red shirts and union
signs attended, the workers were back to work
without a contract. What, then, were some
of the limitations to the union strategy that
caused the leadership to call off the largely-
successful and popular strike without winning
the contract first?

One of the biggest worries was the financial
security of the union members themselves.
Neither the CWA nor the IBEW had a strike
fund prepared to ease the burden. Only part
of the Verizon workforce is in the union – the
landline part of the company. Wireless and
retail are left without a union. With a larger
part of the company organized, the unions
would have been in better positions. Their
strategy of picketing did not inflict enough
financial damage onto the company and direct
action measures were denounced by the union
leadership and thus were not widespread

The lack of a strike fund and narrowed
strategy of picketing are typical of business
unions, alongside their bureaucracy and
undemocratic structure. It appeared as though
the leadership mainly wanted to remain
managers of labor, somewhere in between the
workers and the companies management – the
result being the rank and file were kept from
creating a winning strategy. Unfortunately due
to the shortness of the strike, it was difficult
for radicals to really intervene and engage
with the rank and file to the point there some
action could be taken, but still there were ideas
floating around on how to aid workers who felt
powerless in a business union.

Members of Common Struggle all across
the Northeast participated in the picket lines
to support and build relationships with the
striking Verizon workers. We listened and
agitated for a winning strategy with some of
the most militant workers, and saw radical
possibilities in potential reform caucuses,
sabotage, occupations, and sit downs. With the
strike over, the best way to go forward for any
radical is to get more workers organized – to
do what the business unions will not or cannot


What is Common Struggle?

We’ve all had individual problems with bosses, landlords,
bureaucrats, politicians, or police, and from these every-
day experiences we’ve realized that it is through collective
struggle against them that our interests can be won. Hav- ing a specific vision for accomplishing our desires we have joined together to reflect on our struggles, strategize, share resources and ideas, and to educate ourselves. Common Struggle - Libertarian Communist Federation is an organization of revolutionaries primarily in the northeast- ern region of North America, fighting for a world without exploitation or oppression. In order to bring about radical change, we take action - organizing in our neighborhoods, workplaces and communities - to help build movements with the power to demand and create the new world in our hearts. By working together in Common Struggle, we are able to broaden our perspectives, coordinate activity and amplify our voice. As anarchists, we struggle for a world without classes, states or domination, whether they be based on race, eth- nicity, gender or economics. We envision a world where all have what they need, including the power to make decisions that affect us. We also understand that our individual free- dom is bound with the freedom of all. If you want to get involved, or just want more info, please get in touch!
* Anarchist Common Struggle journal
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