The Short Version: Verizon Strike & Future of Labor

The Short Version: Verizon Strike & Future of Labor

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story. Last week in The Short Version, Cleo Abram blogged about equal pay for women. This week, the topic is the strike by Verizon workers, but the meta of it all is the future of labor and unions in this and other technologically advanced countries.

 If you missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, the stories appear.

Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

Cleo Constantine Abram of the “The Short Version,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

 What’s happening?

We’re entering the second week of the largest strike in recent U.S. history. More than 40,000 Verizon employees walked off the job last Thursday, joined by thousands of low-wage workers from other companies. After contract negotiations between Verizon and their labor union stalled, these workers took to the streets for assurances that their jobs will not be outsourced or automated in the near future. The dispute was a long time coming.

In the 1960s, nearly one-third of U.S. workers belonged to a union. Now it’s one-tenth. This decreasing union membership is partly caused by anti-union political campaigns and resulting right-to-work laws, which ensure workers reap the benefits of union negotiations without becoming a member. Unions are also affected by the decline in traditionally unionized industries like manufacturing.

At the same time, the trend towards automating and outsourcing jobs is becoming a greater concern for low wage workers. Though experts disagree on the long-term effects of automation technologies, employees in surprisingly varied industries are finding themselves vulnerable—from retail workers to anesthesiologists.

Verizon, for example, has not only demanded a series of cuts in traditional employee benefits like healthcare and pension plans; it has also called for work concessions that would permit it to move jobs to Mexico and the Philippines, transfer workers away from home for lengthy periods, and close call centers.

Why is it important?

The stakes are high. Many are calling this strike a fight for labor-union survival in advanced, technology-driven industries.

With labor unions losing influence, automation on the rise, and wages remaining stagnant since 2007, many workers are worried about the future and disenchanted with the status quo. Meanwhile, technological advances create pressure on  companies to change the way they do business in order to stay competitive, and the changes often mean fewer jobs and less work, even for traditionally higher-wage workers. The issue has become a prominent political debate, with prominent Senators like Elizabeth Warren supporting the union and a public back-and-forth between Bernie Sanders and Verizon’s CEO.

Debate it!

Should Verizon—and companies in similar situations—be free to automate and outsource jobs?

Continue reading here for the pros and cons.

Why “The Short Version” on TIO:

Eight+ years ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this new weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance. (Though we won’t go political, or rather we won’t show bias in the upcoming election.)

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist at Precision Strategies, a political consulting firm.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist at Precision Strategies, a political consulting firm born of the Obama 2012 presidential campaign.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski!

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