John Mudie is right on the frontlines of one of the largest strikes in recent U.S. history. On April 13, he and tens of thousands of other Verizon employees walked off the job to protest a corporate giant that has registered massive profits and lavished extravagant pay on executives while shortchanging workers and customers.
A Verizon field technician with 18 years of experience, Mudie also serves as the executive vice president of Communications Workers of America Local 1122 in Buffalo, New York. He and his fellow strikers are taking a stand against Verizon proposals to increase outsourcing to low-wage contractors and cut worker health care, pension, and other benefits.
Inequality.org staff Sarah Anderson and Marc Priester talked to Mudie about the strike and the broader ongoing struggle against corporate greed.
Inequality.org: What led to Verizon workers going out on strike?
Mudie: We argued with them for a year before pulling the trigger. We’ve been under attack by the company. They’ve been sending jobs overseas, subcontracting labor to lower-paid, lower-skilled workers, and lowering standards.
Inequality.org: We understand that, for your local, the company’s refusal to bring high-speed FiOS services and related jobs to Buffalo has also become an issue. Can you explain that?
Mudie: I live in the city of Buffalo, and I can’t get FiOS. My sister lives four blocks away in a suburb and she can. Verizon is ignoring parts of the city that have more people of color and more poor people. Verizon wants instant investment returns, so they go to the more affluent suburbs.
Verizon doesn’t think kids going to Buffalo public schools need access to high-speed broadband. But internet is an essential service. Utilities don’t get to decide who’s on the grid and who’s not. Everyone should have access to high-speed broadband.
Inequality.org: The CEO of Verizon, Lowell McAdam, made $18 million last year. If you could speak to him directly, what would you say?
Mudie: I would ask him “What do you do with $25,000 per day?”
He’s completely disconnected from the people on the shop floor, and he has no right to dictate that they have to take a cut in pay.
It’s a good thing I’m sitting down. No, actually, maybe I’ll stand up and pace around while I’m talking about this. No one is worth $18 million dollars a year.
And you know what? We all pay for that. The workers pay — and the customers pay. Once McAdam became Verizon CEO, investment stopped. They want to get out of the landline business because it’s more expensive.
Under the previous CEO, when cables failed, we replaced them. Now we just do the bare minimum to patch the cables up. What many people don’t understand is that wireless phones need a landline connection as a backbone. The company doesn’t understand that. They’re taking ever nickel and investing it in wireless.
Inequality.org: How has the strike affected you and other members of CWA Local 1122?
Mudie: My kids are grown, but the long days on the picket line and the frustration with the company do put stress on me and my wife. The workers are holding up very well, though. We’ve got 100 percent participation on the picket line. We have a small strike fund, and for people who were living paycheck to paycheck, we’re referring them to charities for help.
Inequality.org: Has the broader community been supportive?
Mudie: Faith groups and others organized a prayer vigil outside a Verizon store in Buffalo, and St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral, which is near the picket line, has opened its doors to us.
People get it. They’re tired of corporations like Verizon trying to cut wages to increase their profits to satisfy Wall Street.
Inequality.org: What would you like other people to do to show solidarity?
Mudie: Show up at a picket line and walk with us for awhile. When UAW and Steelworkers members show up and walk with us, it’s a huge morale boost. Our workers feel much better when they can get their stories out. And when we win this, we’ll thank you.
To find local solidarity events around the Verizon walkout, check out standuptoverizon.com.