Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another example disproving the myth of the "selfish" public worker

Today's post is from our student intern, Zoe Cina-Sklar.

On the 5th of January, members of the teachers' union in Chester Upland School District voted to work for no pay because of their district's payroll deficit. They had already had a tough job: the area's graduation rate was only 44.8 percent in 2010, the average class size was over over 40 students, and student body was impoverished. The loss of $900 million dollars in federal funding last August further worsened the district's situation as 40 percent of professional staff and nearly 50 percent of support staff were laid off. Yet, even when they had far too few resources, they continued to work. And they plan to continue now, forgoing any monetary compensation for the sake of their students' continued education.

"I am not going to make any commitments to the teachers union to do anything until they do something that's other than in their own self- interest. And everything they have done so far is in their self-interests, and that's it." -Governor Chris Christie

Are these the unionized teachers who Christie claims act only in their self-interest? The ones who take from the state? Certainly not.

Across Pennsylvania and the entire United States, these public sector employees face increased class sizes, furlough days, pay freezes, lay offs, and, as in the case of Chester Upland School District, even a lack of pay all together. Yet, they continue their work (unless the have already been forced from their jobs). This is unfair and unsustainable. Soon, if no federal stimulus arrives in places like Chester Upland, the teachers will leave out of necessity in order to support their own families. And without these teachers, how will children get the education they need to be successful and a force of change for the better in this inequality-ridden world?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Verizon's Message to Workers

So, the struggle against Verizon's efforts to cut their employees' family healthcare continues. Verizon workers just received this video, shipped to their homes by the company.

I'm floored, mostly by how transparently awful this company is. Most corporations try and sell workers on cuts will at least fake the pretense of socially positive messaging (Walmart's "we're one big family, take one for the team" narrative, charter school corporations "can't you see that exercising your bargaining rights hurt the kids?" nonsense). In no way am I saying that messaging marks those corporations' true intentions, but they're a savvy marketing ruse.

What's fascinating about this video is how brazen Verizon is about its attack on family healthcare--not just plans for for Verizon workers, but workers in general. To say that other Americans pay over $4,000 per year while wireline Verizon workers receive healthcare from their company reads to me like an indictment of the failure of American employers, and a testament to the importance of unions like CWA in protecting workers' rights.

And by far the funniest part: long tirades and powerpoints followed by an earnest executive announcing, "you've recently worked through a hurricane, floods, even an earthquake"--I mean, if you were a worker who had dealt with those conditions, wouldn't your immediate response be, "yeah, I did all that, and now you want to take away my kids' healthcare coverage?"

Maybe my ideology is getting in the way, but I simply do not understand how the company would think this was an effective appeal to its employees. I could imagine this as a ploy to turn the public against unions by describing hard-won decent healthcare as "cadillac," but the company didn't put this up on Youtube--it shipped this out to workers' households.

I guess the best way to view this is as an object lesson in corporate smugness and the total disconnect between executives and the reality of working people on the ground. The idea that hearing that slashing healthcare could be justified because it allows Verizon to invest in speedy customer service through decentralization (read: moving call centers overseas) could only seem like a valid argument to an executive or cynical executive.

How the hell does cutting healthcare and shipping jobs to underpaid folks in India improve the lives of workers (East Coast Verizon workers, American workers who pay for Verizon's services, or for that matter, exploited Indian workers)?

Anyway, I'll close with a treat---CWA's parody of the video above.