ST. LOUIS - "We're here today to support workers' rights, to do something about corporate greed that is taking over the country," John Ebeling, first vice president of the St. Louis Central Labor Council, said in an interview as CWA members, union supporters and community activists rallied outside of a local Verizon store here Aug. 15.
Forty-five thousand Communication Workers Union of America members are on strike against Verizon. According to the union, Verizon is demanding $1 billion in concessions from the workers.
"This strike involves pensions. It involves wages. And it involves and health and welfare benefits. It involves all of the sections of the contract that have been bargained for over many, many years," Ebeling said. "Now the company wants to take it all away in one fell swoop."
"And it has to stop," he concluded.
CWA Local 6300 President Mike Mehringer said, "We mean business. We're not going to stand here and let corporate greed ruin our country."
"It never stops. We try to work with these corporations, and then the next one comes in and tries to take more," Mehringer said.
"They're not doing anything to help build this country. They want us to work for less, because they can make more," Mehringer concluded. "This company is making billions of dollars a year."
CWA Local 6300 represents about 6,000 AT&T employees in the greater St. Louis area. If Verizon is allowed to cut employee wages, pensions and benefits, AT&T and other telecommunications companies will do the same, Mehringer added.
Jim Kolve, CWA Local 6300 executive vice president, said, "Verizon is worth $100 billion in revenue. They made $7 billion in profits, and they want to cut their pensions, they want to cut their health care, they want to cut sick leave, they want to be able to lay off people and not pay them termination pay."
"So we are out here demonstrating to let them know that when they start trying to bring this stuff here, we're not going to stand for it," Kolve added.
Lew Moye, president of the St. Louis chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, said, "This is a corporate agenda. They have an agenda to destroy unions, to destroy the middle class, the working class. So we have to stand together."
Photo: Tony Pecinovsky/PW