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AFL-CIO Now

Workers and Allies Barnstorm Verizon Shareholder Meeting

Lorenzo Scott

Members of the 99% Power coalition disrupted Verizon's annual shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Ala., six separate times today. In each instance, a group of protesters interrupted the proceedings using “Mic Check” tactics, followed by chants such as “Shame on you!” “Verigreedy!” and “People over profit!”  After each occurrence, the chanting group was led out by security people, with many in the audience applauding them. There were no arrests. 

The Verizon shareholder meeting comes as the corporation is in negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW). The corporation—which made $100 billion in profits last year—is asking its workers for givebacks amounting to as much as $20,000 per worker, while tripling the compensation of its CEO, Lowell McAdam, from $7.2 million to $23.1 million. Verizon is the 16th largest corporation in America and made $22.5 billion in profits over the past four years, while paying its top five executives $283 million during that period, giving the company the nickname “Verigreedy." As Patrick Welsh, a Verizon retiree, said today, Verizon has broken the promises made that if you work hard, follow the rules and pay your taxes, then you’ll have a good retirement.

At a rally before the shareholder meeting, Alabama AFL-CIO President Al Henley demanded that Verizon be a better corporate citizen. 

Verizon is on the run from their own workers, and thought that by taking the meeting to Alabama, a “right-to-work” state, but they misjudged our sense of solidarity here in the South.

Speaking to the thousands rallying outside the Verizon shareholder meeting, Ron Collins, CWA chief of staff, said, "Enough of the attacks on middle-class jobs while paying executives obscene salaries and dodging taxes.” 

Also at the rally, Scott Douglas, executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, said, “We may be down South, but we are not offshore."

Today we say with new meaning the Alabama state motto, we dare defend our rights.…Now more than ever, it is important for people of conscience to join together to recognize our common struggle against injustice and to fight back united.

The issue is one of fairness, said Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice, noting that with $23 million per year in compensation, Verizon's CEO makes "600 times more than an average frontline worker makes."

People arrived at the rally in 12 buses and several vans from Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, Birmingham, Knoxville, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbia, Chattanooga and other cities throughout the region. They represent many unions and allied groups, including Jobs with Justice, Occupy Huntsville, Occupy Birmingham and the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP).Students from Orlando and Tallahassee took a 14-hour bus trip and slept in the local Plumbers and Pipe Fitters union hall.

Rallies supporting Verizon workers took place in 15 cities, including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, Miami and Orlando.

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