Bernie Sanders Joins Picket Line With Verizon Workers in New York

So Bernie Sanders was on The View this morning and before you get any wild idea that he has went all “rockstar” on us with all the new attention from the mainstream, guess what else he did today? He stands in solidarity with hundreds of Verizon Workers at a Wireless retail store in Manhattan as 39,000 CWA and IBEW members battle for their contract and the organizing and bargaining rights of Verizon Wireless workers. Of course you’ll recall that Verizon isn’t exactly on Bernie’s Christmas Card List. They made his Top Ten List of Tax Avoiders in America.

From 2008 to 2013, while Verizon made over $42.4 billion in U.S. profits, it received a total tax refund of $732 million from the IRS. Verizon’s effective U.S. corporate income tax rate over this six-year period was -2 percent.

In 2012, Verizon stashed $1.8 billion in offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. Verizon would owe an estimated $630 million in federal income taxes if its use of offshore tax avoidance was eliminated. In 2013, Lowell McAdam, the CEO of Verizon made $15.8 million in total compensation. He wants to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security to 70, and make significant cuts to Social Security as a member of the Business Roundtable.

Bernie Sanders is clearly no fan of Verizon and the way the top brass operates so he fits in well on this picket line. Nearly 40,000 Verizon employees represented by CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are currently in a major contract battle with Verizon. CWA has also accused the telecom giant of retaliating against Verizon Wireless store employees who are union activists, charges that the company has denied.

“This is what we should demand of candidates who say they’re for working people — that they take a stand and that they’re proud to do it,” said Larry Cohen, a Sanders adviser. Cohen previously served as the longtime president of the Communications Workers of America union.

In a blog post at The Huffington Post on Monday, Cohen had this to say:

Few Senators or major candidates for President have ever sided with workers in these epic battles. We have come to accept neutrality from democrats as enough while Republicans openly side with management. Bernie said it clearly enough in a written message read to 12,000 Verizon members as they rallied on a Saturday in August right before the contract expired, “I am hopeful you will reach a fair contract. But if you run into roadblocks, as in years past, know that I will be there with you until a fair contract is negotiated.”

Today Bernie is delivering on that promise. And he is delivering with his feet as well as his words. He will stand with CWA leaders and members. He will stand with Bianca Cunningham, fired from her retail job at Verizon Wireless in Brooklyn after leading the effort of retail workers at seven Brooklyn stores to organize in 2014. Bianca’s story is too typical. Management like Verizon look for ways to make examples of amazing women and men who lead these all too heroic drives by firing them. But Bianca’s demand to get her job back, and a first contract for those retail workers is supported not only by her colleagues at the wireless stores but also by all the union members at the parent company.


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G.A. Casebeer

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