In 1989, 60,000 telephone workers at NYNEX waged a militant 4-month strike to successfully resist company demands for givebacks on their hard-won benefits. Raising the slogan of “Health Care for All, not health cuts at NYNEX!” these workers electrified a labor movement that was just beginning to wake up to the concerted corporate assault on negotiated benefits. Their call for healthcare for all helped to revive a powerful grassroots movement for single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare for everyone in America.
These workers were able to maintain their benefits despite corporate reorganizations and downsizing. Now part of Verizon Corporation, these CWA and IBEW members struck again in 1998 and 2000 and fought tough corporate campaigns in 2003 and 2008. Today, they are part of the 1% of the working class who still receive full company-paid medical benefits. And they have never stopped fighting for healthcare for all.
On August 1, 45,000 Verizon workers were forced out on strike once again by a corporation intent on using the current economic and political crisis to gut their contract despite earning record profits. In a cynical ploy, Verizon has used the “Cadillac tax” provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as justification for its demand to reduce their contributions for medical benefits by nearly one half. As Steve Early points out this “poison pill” at the heart of Obamacare is a threat to every worker’s right to access to affordable, quality healthcare.
We need to stand in solidarity with the Verizon workers. Verizon is a lead corporate practitioner of the “low road” race-to-the-bottom approach that is devastating the lives of public and private workers around the country. They seek to cultivate resentment against those workers who have fought long and hard for healthcare justice.
The Labor Campaign stands for a high road solution to this crisis. We need to remove healthcare from the bargaining table and, as it is in every other industrialized country, make it a birthright for everyone in America. As a recent editorial in the St. Louis Post Dispatch points out, single payer healthcare could solve the entire deficit crisis while providing universal access to quality healthcare.
Workers everywhere are fighting back. In Wisconsin, Ohio and other heartland states, they are waging aggressive political fights to reverse the attacks on public workers’ rights to organize and bargain. On September 1, the National Nurses United will hold over 60 actions around the country in support of their Main Street Campaign to make Wall Street pay their fair share (you can view an inspiring video about the campaign here.
Verizon workers are refusing to swallow the “Satan’s Sandwich” being shoved down the throats of the working class. If you live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic, please join them on a picket line and, wherever you are, tell Verizon’s CEO that you stand with Verizon’s workers against corporate greed.
An injury to one is an injury to all!