How Taking Action Saved My Job

Sisters and Brothers,

My name is David Tolbert, I am a steward for Local 2106 and I work for Verizon Communications.

The Customer Service Week of Action is here! This is a week where we as customer service workers and as CWA members can use our voice, get informed, unite, and take action. We take action for many reasons: better pay, better benefits, equal opportunity, safe working conditions etc. And this year’s week of action, we are taking action to stop the outsourcing and offshoring of good jobs.

To me, taking action means standing together with people who want to make a difference. Because through collective action, we can achieve more than if we stand apart. Whether I stand with my union brothers and sisters fighting for better pay and working conditions or with community members for equitable representation on the school board and removing the marker of confederate general John Winder in front our courthouse. I know that when we stand united, we win. An example of this is when last year I and thousands of other CWA members took action to keep our good union jobs at Verizon.

In April 2016, we received notice that we would be going on strike. I was part of the nearly 40,000 workers who were fighting to keep our good union jobs in our communities and to bring more in. We were also fighting against proposed cuts to benefits, outsourcing and offshoring, and call center closures. It was time to take action!

During negotiations, we knew we had to send a message to the company that our voices needed to be heard. We took action a number of ways, beginning with informational picketing. My coworkers and I stood in front of our call center with signs saying “Striking families say STOP outsourcing or middle class JOBS.” “Fight Corporate Greed,” to “Hey Verizon More Good Jobs, Not Executive Pay.” Inside our call center, we would stomp our feet which we call “Rolling Thunder” to send a message to management that we’re unified in our efforts. We continued to show our unity by literally standing together at certain times during the day, wearing red on Thursday and much more.

Once the strike was called we moved to picketing in front of our call center, Verizon Wireless stores, technician shops and central offices. We wore our signs and passed out leaflets to the public. We were also joined by local political officials and word of our strike hit local news station and newspapers. It meant so much to have not only workers but also our families and communities take action with us.

And the solidarity didn’t stop there. During the strike, CWA received word from unionists in the Philippines that Verizon had offshored our struck work there. The workers reached out to us to join our strike efforts. In response, some of our Verizon strikers even went abroad to meet these brave workers in the Philippines. There, they saw and heard first hand that Verizon was exploiting these workers with low wages and inhumane working conditions. To me, what these Filipino workers did is true solidarity.  

After 45 days of striking and even longer adversity, the strength of the union rose and we won. We came to an agreement with the company that preserved the centers and won back more than a thousand call center jobs. We have so many ways to let our voices be heard and taking action is one of the most effective ways to make change. Whether it’s at the ballot box or marching in the street, it’s important that we rise up, unite and take action. This year’s, CWA Customer Service Week of Action is the perfect opportunity to do so. This week, CWA local unions across the country are  participating in the week of action to speak out against the offshoring and outsourcing of good jobs. Click here to learn more about the week of action and how to participate. We’re calling it CEO Hocus Pocus. It’s how CEOs turn good jobs into fat raises for themselves. Join us now and throughout the year to speak out for good jobs and workers’ rights.

It’s time to take action! It’s time to secure our jobs! When we unite we win!

David Tolbert