By Joe Atkins, Labor South
Time for another Labor South round-up:
Verizon workers in Virginia join walkout
Virginia workers are among the 45,000 employees of Verizon Communication who have staged a walkout stretching from the mid-Atlantic states to Maine to protest a company that pays its chief executive officer 300 times what they earn, a company that reported $6.9 billion in net income during the first six months of 2011, yet wants to cut wages and benefits amounting to $20,000 per employee.
Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) decided their livelihood was on the line and that corporate crocodile tears about a decline in revenue were essentially a Verizon song-and-dance that's at odds with the facts.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Verizon "isn't under any financial stress."
FedEx wins a round with the Teamsters
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters this month withdrew a petition for an election at a FedEx facility in Brockton, Mass.
The union has been eyeing Memphis-based FedEx for some time and saw the Brockton ground facility as a place with potential for success. Earlier this month, however, union leaders decided they would wait and fight another day.
Professors unite in Florida
Faced with a governor every bit as anti-union as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, teachers in Florida's higher education system have wasted no time organizing.
According to Labor Notes, unionized faculty members at the University of Florida have seen their numbers rise from just 20 percent density last year to more than 40 percent today. At the state's unionized community colleges, union density has reached 70 percent and even higher. Florida State University professors are also organizing rapidly.
And among those fighting the good fight for laid-off faculty is the United Faculty of Florida organization.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans have pushed legislation to ease the decertification of public employee unions as well as make voting for the general population more difficult.
Unions remain strong on the Gulf Coast
On Mississippi's Gulf Coast, Jim Couch, business manager of the 1,800-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 733, says organized labor remains strong despite layoffs, Northrop Grumman's spinoff into a much leaner Huntington Ingalls Industries, and the U.S. Navy's planned trimming of its fleet from 600 to just over 300 ships.
"We're holding our own," Couch says. "Even though we have a new company, we all know each other. We have a very cordial relationship. We do sit down and talk to each other, and we agree to disagree at times."
The IBEW is just one of several unions that together represent more than 75 percent of the company's 9,000-member workforce on the Gulf Coast. These include electricians, carpenters, boilermakers, and other skilled craft trades. In 2007, thousands of Northrop Grumman workers went on strike for better wages and benefits, and a contract was eventually approved.
By Joe Atkins, Labor South
Joe Atkins is a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and author of "Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press." A veteran journalist, Atkins previously worked as the congressional correspondent with Gannett New Service's Washington bureau and with newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi.