Communication Workers of America held one of the largest retail worker strikes in US history. Cleveland DSA was there to stand in solidarity with the striking workers.
On Friday, May 19th members of CWA Local 4320 and approximately 40,000 employees of AT&T Mobility walked off the job in a 3-day strike that stretched across the country. DSA members across the country came out in support of the picket lines. Cleveland DSA members joined them on the picket lines at Independence and Avon with signs, comaraderie, and working class solidarity. Our comrades in Akron DSA were a visible presence in North Canton and helped reinforced the pickets with us in Independence. AT&T reports the strike severely hampered their weekend operations, indicating the labor action was effective.
CWA Local 4320 were also joined by Utility Workers Union of America Local 270 and Gas Workers Union Local G-555 with a picket line totaling approximately 20 at the Independence AT&T Store. Heather Frishkorn, a 7 year member of CWA Local 4320, stated: “This strike is due to AT&T’s refusal to bargain in good faith. CWA’s demands are clear: AT&T is to stop outsourcing call center jobs overseas or non-union workers, halt the transition of corporate stores to non-union franchises, and to raise sales commission caps.”
“It’s easy to see what a union can do for you. Look at
what you get when you don’t have one. Low wages, no
benefits.” – Mike Roberts, UWUA Local 270
AT&T put out an overly self-congratulatory press statement claiming their union workers made “$115K – $148k per year” already. (Corporations often include the cost of benefits, such as 401K and health care contributions, to artificially inflate their reports about worker wages.) AT&T claimed they had a “substantial contingency workforce of well-trained managers and vendors in place” (aka scabs). The store we picketed at was closed tight, paper sign hastily plastered to the door, “contingents” nowhere to be found.
The response from the local public was encouraging. Several drivers honked their horns, waved at us, and people regularly stopped to talk to strikers and offer their support. It is also worth noting that no elected official in Northeast Ohio put out a formal statement of support, visited a picket line, or even placed the strike on their
publicly available calendars. Cleveland DSA was the only political organization at the NEO picket lines.
Words of Wisdom
Mary Jo Herman and Mike Roberts of UWUA Local 270, both multi-generational union workers, had wise words for young people. Roberts, a union member and First Energy worker since the 1970’s, had the following to say: “It’s easy to see what a union can do for you. Look at what you get when you don’t have one. Low wages, no benefits. I put 2 kids through college,” then said with a chuckle, “And paid for 1 good divorce.”
Paul Talboo, 17 year member of Gas Workers Union Local G-555, said: “It’s an embarrassment that a massive corporation can’t pay its workers fairly.”
As of 5/31, CWA and AT&T are at a stalemate, with no headway on negotiations on the other side. If CWA returns to the picket line, Cleveland DSA will be right there alongside them.