Verizon’s union employees are finally ending an ugly two-week strike after strong-arming the company into conceding…well, pretty much nothing. Verizon has agreed to extend the union workers’ current contracts indefinitely while it restarts negotiations with the union. But it didn’t agree to the demands that prompted the strike, such as taking an increase in health care costs off the table.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America tossed out some face-saving spin to their members:
CWA and IBEW leaders ended the strike after a 12-hour meeting where the company finally agreed to a bargaining process that will allow us to reach an agreement, not to put the same proposals back on the table over and over again or refuse to respond to union proposals.
The unions did not agree to any of the company’s concessionary demands to reach agreement. Instead, it was the solidarity we showed on the picket lines and the massive public support that lined up behind us that created the opportunity for progress. We have tough issues to bargain and will press our demands for good jobs aggressively.
Right – so the union leaders walked out of negotiations with Verizon and forced their members to picket for weeks without pay just so they could head right back to the negotiating table, with no guarantee any of their major demands will be fulfilled. Way to go, Team Labor!
The left isn’t trying to hide its disappointment. At the American Prospect, Josh Eidelson writes the strike showed IBEW and CWA still have the organizing power, but lack the influence they once did:
The strike was an impressive show of large-scale solidarity. At best, it may have tempered the company’s ambitions to undo 50 years of contract improvements in these negotiations, but it didn’t take the largest worker concessions—including increased health-care costs—off the table. The limits of this strike are a painful reminder that, even if workers can protect their current contracts, Verizon has been winning its 16-year war to reduce their relevance.
Since the majority of Verizon’s unionized employees work in an increasingly anachronistic sector of the company – and Verizon’s closest competitors don’t have to deal with unions – Eidelson is right. And by conducting fruitless strikes like this one, union leaders don’t help their cause. Members simply won’t want to take the time, energy and financial risks that come with walking the picket line if the results aren’t worth it.
Also, in related news, the repercussions of the strike can’t be making the White House happy.