Category Archives: Outsourcing

Retail Rebellion

Reinventing Organized Labor in the Walmart Economy

January 15, 2013

First published at The Neoprogressive. Also published at Counterpunch and Common Dreams.

In 1962, Arkansas businessman Sam Walton opened the first Walmart discount store, setting in motion the rapid ascendance of a corporate giant that would redefine markets around the world. With its focus on competitive prices and vast distribution networks that revolutionized the industry, Walmart grew over the course of the 20th century to become the world’s largest company.

Today, its retail empire covers 15 countries with over 8,900 stores employing 2.2 million people. Like all empires, its success is built on contradictions and exploitation. Read the rest of this entry

Labor Needs a Different Kind of “Ground Game”

November 20, 2012

Published at Common Dreams and CounterPunch.

After suffering almost two years of ramped up union-busting, the labor movement came out swinging in the recent elections. It swung its hardest in swing states like Ohio, delivering the 2012 presidential election to President Obama and propelling other labor-endorsed candidates to office.

Labor’s decisive role in reelecting Obama and boosting dozens of other Democrats in key races was acknowledged in the national press. And it was acknowledged by labor. Read the rest of this entry

Unionizing the New Jim Crow?

May 28, 2012

Published at Common Dreams and Counterpunch.

Dozens of people recently gathered outside of a supermax prison in Illinois demanding that the facility be shut down. They held signs that read “I am a mom,” a spin on the iconic “I am a man” signs held by striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968.

But these protesters – many of them mothers of incarcerated men at the prison – were directing the repurposed slogan in part against the very same union that represented those African-American strikers as they marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King more than 40 years ago. Read the rest of this entry

Labor Politics and the Captive Electorate of 2012

March 14, 2012 

Published at Common Dreams and CounterPunch.

Back in 2010, Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), lashed out at President Obama who she said was part of the “blame the teacher crowd” of education reform.

“I never thought I’d see a Democratic president, whom we helped elect, and his education secretary applaud the mass firing of 89 teachers and staff,” she said – referring to the firing of all teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island earlier that year.

Last month, the AFT executive council unanimously voted to endorse Obama for reelection. Read the rest of this entry

Unions End the Biggest Strike in Years – But the Battle for Verizon Workers Continues

August 21, 2011

First published at The Nation. Also published at Common Dreams.

The nation’s longest and largest strike in the age of austerity ended this weekend. But the labor standoff continues as 45,000 Verizon landline technicians and customer service employees on the east coast will return to work on Tuesday without a new contract.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing thousands of workers striking the nation’s largest wireless carrier, announced an end to the biggest walkout in recent labor history and the resumption of contract negotiations. However, at the present time, this is not a victory for the workers by any means.

After two dynamic, energetic weeks of walking picket lines and receiving no paychecks, Verizon workers are returning to work under the previous contract while revived negotiations with an obstinate standard-bearer of corporate greed make the prospect of a prolonged contract battle almost certain. Union leaders say they decided to end the strike after the company agreed to bargain seriously on contentious issues that Verizon had refused to budge on until now.

Larry Cohen, president of CWA, said the unions and the company had reached a deal “to restructure bargaining in a way that represents progress for everyone.” But the details of that agreement remain vague. Read the rest of this entry

From Landlines to Picket Lines: Verizon Workers Strike

August 11, 2011

Published at Counterpunch.
Modified version published at and cross-posted at ZNet.

The first mass labor strike in the age of austerity has hit the United States.  

When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, 45,000 Verizon landline workers from Massachusetts to Virginia struck the nation’s largest wireless carrier, beginning the biggest worker strike in several years.

Since contract negotiations began on June 22, Verizon has been demanding up to 100 concessions from thousands of technicians and customer support employees in its wire lines division. The workers – who are represented by Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) – voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in the event that a settlement was not reached by Saturday night when the previous contract expired.

Workers geared up for the possible strike a week before with a 20,000-strong rally in Manhattan outside of Verizon’s corporate headquarters. As soon as the midnight deadline passed on Saturday night, the picket lines were set into motion and workers were mobilized to stop the company from rolling back decades of collective bargaining gains. Read the rest of this entry