“Byron was a trade unionist to his core. From his days as a steelworker in Radford, Virginia, to his central role in organizing the Newport News Shipyard to his advocacy for the labor movement’s agenda on Capitol Hill, particularly around federal employee issues, Byron’s service to our movement spanned half a century.”
He also served a stint as assistant to the executive director of the African American Labor Center. “His joyful presence will be deeply missed.” Read more here. An online service for Byron will be held this Saturday, January 9 at 1:30pm.
Scott will be remembered for his strong trade unionism, dedicating his career to the labor movement and spending twenty-four of those years with the AFL-CIO. But, for those of us that had the pleasure of working with Scott, we will miss him for his humor, his friendship and his stories of adventurous travel that brightened the workplace every day.
By Mark Gruenberg Press Associates Union News Service
MONTCLAIR, N.J. – As the strike that wealthy telecom Verizon forced on 40,000 workers neared the end of its fourth week, a rank-and-file Verizon worker, Amanda Poe, penned an open letter to the company’s CEO, telling him why he forced her to walk the picket line.
In so many words, said Poe, a single mother of two teenage daughters and a maintenance administrator in Verizon’s Wilmington, Del., office, she’s doing it for her kids. And especially for one daughter who needs extensive medical care.
Writing in the Montclair (N.J.) Patch, Poe explained – on Mother’s Day – that her youngest daughter, Halley, was born with a birth defect that has forced her to undergo five operations so far, with more to come. “I promise you there is nothing normal about handing your baby over for surgery every few years,” Poe wrote in her open letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.
“She has undergone five surgeries to date, and she requires a few more. My health coverage during her younger years covered her surgeries and the extensive hospital stay associated with each surgery. I have always been grateful for that coverage.
“Changes to the health coverages offered by Verizon could prevent us from getting the help Halley needs to complete her health care plan. I am currently paying out of pocket for orthodontics; I am now paying for her fifth set of braces. Affordable health care is not an option for me – it is a necessity. Is she worth it? Absolutely.
“I am not just a number, Mr. McAdam. I am someone’s mom … When making changes and negotiating this contract, please remember we all have lives and stories. Our stories are what make us human and real … Allow me to raise my kids in my community; provide me health care I can afford. I will always be their mother, but will I have a job that allows me to be a mom?”
Verizon’s health care demands are just one reason its unionized workers, members of the Communications Workers and the Electrical Workers, were forced to strike on April 13 after nine months of fruitless talks with a telecom that refused to budge from its giveback demands.
Though Verizon earned $39 billion in profits over the last three years, and spent $5 billion on a stock buyback last year, it demands workers take a 7.5 percent pay hike over five years in the latest contract proposal – and negates that by huge health care cost hikes.
A CWA fact sheet with details about Verizon’s latest offer notes that health care costs for workers would at least double.
In the managed care network, the deductible would go from zero now to $325 yearly in 2018. The out-of-pocket maximum the worker would have to pay would rise from $1,050 yearly to $1,700. Emergency room charges would almost double, as would individual workers’ and family premiums, from $660 and $1,320 yearly to $1,224 and $2,448.
There would be similar increases of workers’ costs in Verizon’s health maintenance organization and EPO options. Both are already more expensive than the managed care network.
Drug co-pays shouldered by workers would double, reaching $116.64 per mail order prescription for non-preferred brand drugs. Those mail order co-pays are now $56.18 each.
“Today we have an open formulary, meaning the plan covers medications your doctors deem necessary. The company proposes a closed formulary, meaning the plan will only provide medications the insurance company deems necessary based on costs for any particular condition,” the union bargainers’ update added.
All this led to nationwide protests on May 5, including a protest inside and outside Verizon’s shareholders meeting in Albuquerque, N.M. The two unions have coined a nickname for Verizon: VeriGreedy.
Inside, the unions and their allies presented shareholder resolutions challenging the corporation’s path and governance. Outside, demonstrators unfolded signs about its employee relations and staged a peaceful sit-in on a highway. Police arrested 15 of them.
Major investors, including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the California Public Employees Retirement System, have also told McAdam that Verizon’s decision to force its workers to strike has degraded service, harmed its reputation and would, as DiNapoli said, “undoubtedly affect the morale and productivity of Verizon employees.
“I am concerned that a disenfranchised workforce and the associated negative publicity may ultimately impact Verizon’s profitability,” DiNapoli added. Four investment firms, including ScotiaBank and Sanford Bernstein, recently downgraded their ratings of Verizon.
“All Verizon shareholders should be alarmed at the corporation’s penny-wise but pound foolish business strategy,” Mark Balsamo, a recent Verizon retiree from Baltimore, told CWA. “Verizon executives have consistently put short-term profits over the long term sustainability of the company, including the basic needs of its workforce.
“Instead of investing in good jobs and expanding service, Verizon is refusing to negotiate with workers in good faith and failing to keep its promises to meet consumer demand for its FIOS service. As Verizon employees, we want our customers to get the quality they deserve. As shareholders ourselves, we know it’s time to make some major changes to ensure that Verizon’s corporate leadership is accountable to all of us.”
For the first time in U.S. history, a committed union member will be on U.S. currency: Eleanor Roosevelt, who joined the American Newspaper Guild in 1936, will be on the back of the newly designed $5 bill.
Roosevelt will enter that pantheon when she joins Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson on the reverse side of the to-be-redesigned $5 bill, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on April 20. President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the bill.
“We have always taken great pride in the fact that Eleanor Roosevelt was a card-carrying member of our union,” said Bernie Lunzer, President of the News Guild sector of the Communications Workers of America. Roosevelt joined the American Newspaper Guild in 1936 and remained a member until her death in 1962.
“This an opportunity for Americans to learn more about that part of her life and her values, in addition to all the other reasons she deserves to be immortalized on U.S. currency,” Lunzer said of Roosevelt.
While serving as First Lady and for years afterwards, Roosevelt wrote a column, My Day, syndicated to more than 200 newspapers, with more than six million readers. She was a member of the Guild’s Washington-based local. The former Newspaper Guild Local 35 is now the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, CWA Local 30235.
“ER walked on picket lines, went into mines to inspect working conditions…and testified about what she saw,” Cornell University Professor Jo Freeman wrote in reviewing a Roosevelt biography in 2011. “Even during wartime” – World War II – “she supported the right of all workers to join unions.”
And Roosevelt used her column to argue for workers’ rights, women’s rights, African-American rights, and to chastise unions for excluding those groups from leadership positions, Freeman noted.
After the war, Roosevelt continued to support U.S. strikers and successfully argued for inserting the right to join unions into the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
The redesigned currency, which produced the decision to put Roosevelt on the $5 bill, occurred after a flood of comments came into the Treasury about its original plan to replace former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with an historic woman.
That led to thousands of nominations for new figures on the $5, $10 and especially on $20 bills, given controversy over the record of President Andrew Jackson, now on the front of the $20 bill. Abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman will replace Jackson on the front. Jackson will be relegated to the other side, Lew said.
Meanwhile, “The reverse of the new $5 will highlight historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial and will include images of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.,” Treasury said. Though Treasury did not say so, the Daughters of the American Revolution had barred Anderson from singing at nearby Constitution Hall. Roosevelt not only arranged for Anderson’s concert at the memorial, but quit the DAR, blasting its racism.
Treasury said writers submitted names of 274 women to be on currency. Other unionists among those nominees were Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and co-founder of American Federation of Teachers Local 1, miners’ and labor activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and socialist unionist Emma Goldman.
Florence Kelley, founder of the labor-backed National Consumers League, and Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member – as Secretary of Labor – and a strong advocate who lobbied FDR to enact both Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, were also among the nominees.
(Nov. 13, 2013) Faced with a continuing tide of red ink, no endowment, and constant turnover at the top, the National Labor College’s board voted Nov. 12 to close the college. No date was set, but the closure is expected soon.
“I am deeply saddened to report that yesterday the Board of Trustees directed me and the college’s officers to develop a plan to close the college,” the institution’s president, Paula Peinovich, said in a statement posted on the school’s Web site.
“The college has been facing significant financial difficulties and the board reluctantly decided to accept the inevitability of our closure,” she said. “We do not have a specific date for closure yet, but will provide information as soon as we can, detailing how the shutdown will proceed. This process will likely take many months.”
Peinovich said the remaining faculty and administrators would develop “a concrete timeline with multiple options” for current students to finish their course work and get their degrees. She was not specific.
“It’s a real tragedy. This is something the labor movement absolutely needs,” said a former high-ranking employee of the college.
The college’s closing is important because it is virtually the only entire institution in the U.S. that has labor studies – everything from history to organizing techniques to collective bargaining – at its center. Over the years, thousands of unionists came to the college to study those fields and others, from labor’s point of view.
By contrast, most major colleges and universities have business schools, teaching corporate techniques and schemes. Those schools tend to ignore workers or merely offer “efficiency” courses in how to “use” workers. And state universities with labor studies programs find their programs under political or financial fire, or both. The latest program to face serious fiscal problems is at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
The National Labor College grew out of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies. In 2012, trustees put the campus, in Silver Spring up for sale and planned to make the college an entirely online institution. A recent possible sale of the campus, which also includes a memorial to workers killed on the job, failed.
Meanwhile, red ink grew to some $30 million. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the federation’s executive council colleagues at a meeting at the college several years ago that the fed could not continue subsidizing the NLC. Trumka also chairs the college’s board.
Without an endowment, the AFL-CIO and individual unions are the college’s main financial support. The labor federation had provided bridge loans.
Turnover at the top hurt. Peinovich, who left retirement to run NLC after previously running a private for-profit online college – with plans to ally the two-is its fourth president in five years. There has also been constant turnover in other top administrative offices. Most of the full-time faculty (about a dozen workers are represented by WBNG) have taken buyouts when offered them.
The ex-employee of the school told Press Associates that NLC presidents did not devote much time to fund-raising, which is typically the top priority of college presidents, whether public or private.
Earlier this year, the college’s trustees approved a five-year master plan, which was posted at www.nlc.edu. The former employee said that nothing in it had been implemented.