AT&T looks to be shooting for a double-bad award right now. They’re backing the hyper-partisan ALEC, and they’re trying to get their workers to take cuts while they shower cash on a few at the top. More and more, people are reacting to these kinds of attacks on We, the People — look at what happened to the Komen Foundation! So will AT&T do the right thing or will they risk destroying their brand like the Komen Foundation did to theirs?
For decades big corporations have been getting away with all kinds of anti-public, anti-worker stuff — blasting us with propaganda, pushing a right-wing agenda, paying little-or-no taxes, cutting regulations, and passing all the gains to a few at the top (the 1%). But people (the 99%) have been waking up to this stuff, and are fighting back against this alliance of big corporations and the right wingers. And when people react, it can work.
In Corporations Supporting ALEC Are Risking Damage To Their Brands I wrote about the “brand-equity” damage that companies are risking when they associate with hyper-partisan, right-wing outfits like ALEC. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation got in bed with right-wingers and completely ruined their brand:
A few months ago, in a move to please the conservative right, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. How’d that work out for them? Komen’s “brand equity” dropped 21 percent, one of the most dramatic plummets in brand-equity ever.
How far a drop was this? Komen was ranked among the top two. This year it ranked No. 56. That’s a drop of 54 spots. The value of the Komen brand is ruined. The Komen executives behind the Planned Parenthood decision were forced out.
You don’t want to hear the phrase “most dramatic plummets in brand-equity ever” when you’re in charge of a brand with recognition like AT&T has. And if even that doesn’t worry you the phrase “executives behind the … decision were forced out” might.
Last year I wrote about workers at Verizon, the wealth of the company, the demands that workers give up more of a middle-class existence, and their strike:
Verizon, with $108 billion in revenue and huge profits, is not paying taxes. Citizens for Tax Justice, in Verizon Pushes for $1 Billion in Concessions from Workers, While Receiving Nearly $1 Billion in Subsidies from Uncle Sam, explains, (emphasis added below because I got mad when I read it.)
Despite earning over $32.5 billion over the last 3 years, Verizon not only paid nothing in corporate income taxes, it actually received nearly $1 billion (the same amount as the concessions they are seeking) in tax benefits from the federal government during that time.
… In fact, if Verizon paid its corporate income tax at the official rate of 35 percent, it would have owed more than $11 billion (rather than negative $1 billion). This alone is enough to avoid the recent cuts in the debt deal to student loan programs.
CTJ also points out that, “…the top 5 executives at Verizon received more than a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation over the last 4 years.”
There is a link between what the workers at ATT and Verizon are fighting, the right-wing, anti-union agenda that the big corporations are pushing, and what is happening to your own pay and benefits, and the fight to keep from being laid off or getting a job if you have been or get laid off. There is also a link to the fight over minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare cuts and other things that are a “safety net” that keep you from being pitted against other desperate people, fighting for just a scrap of a life instead of a secure place in the middle class.
There is a link between these things and the anti-government, anti-tax agenda that weakens the ability of We, the People to regulate and tax the corporations, and to use taxes to fight the aggregation of wealth and power to a few who then use that wealth and power to erode our democracy. Democracy is We, the People watching out for and taking care of each other, and part of that is keeping the power to tax and regulate and set limits on what the biggest can do. Democracy is one-person-one-vote not one-dollar-one-vote!
Democracy Requires Effort
Democracy takes work, and organization, and awareness, and information, and requires people to be eternally vigilant. Sounds corny, but look what happens when the public gets apathetic or we let ourselves be persuaded that “job creators” deserve special favors, etc… Look what happened to our country and economy since the Bush v Gore Supreme Court ruling that gave us tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and war. Look what has happened since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that lets big corporations and billionaires spend unlimited amounts to influence our elections.
AT&T Strike Coming?
Right now the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and AT&T (AT&T) are negotiating contracts affecting a total of 40,000 workers. On March 31, union members voted to authorize CWA to call strikes if agreements on new contracts weren’t be reached. CWA workers are engaged in a “mobilization” preparing for the possibility of a strike to support their negotiators in “the fight to hold on to the American Dream.” A strike is a big deal and a major sacrifice by the workers involved.
AT&T had more than $31 billion in profits in the last 2 years! Now, in negotiations with their workers they are trying to squeeze even higher profits, asking for givebacks in health care and other areas. CWA is asking them to “take the high road” in negotiations, and not work to help kill off the middle class:
As we approach the end of several AT&T contracts, CWA members have a choice: help make sure AT&T stays on the high road, providing good, middle-class jobs — the path to the American Dream — or risk that they join competitors on the low road with layoffs, cost shifts and outsourcing.
AT&T thinks it can just hit the union, squeeze the workers, get some more bucks for those at the top. But we’re in a different environment now, and plenty of people are coming to understand that things like this are not just between a company and its own workers – people are starting to see the connections between a company doing this to their workers and their own job situation! They are starting to understand the way things get harder and the pay and benefits get more scarce for others means the same will happen to them.
CWA’s newsletter: Mobilization In High Gear At AT&T,
As AT&T contract negotiations go into overtime, so has mobilization by CWA members.
CWA members have a lot of creative mobilization actions underway to support their bargaining teams and to stand up for the American Dream of good jobs and good benefits.
More Than Just AT&T’s Workers
Even if you do not work at AT&T this is about you, too. If AT&T can beat down their own workers, other companies will have it easier beating down their workers. If workers can be beaten down like this, then minimum wage cuts and cuts in Social Security and Medicare and the rest of what We, the People do for each other can’t be far behind.
BUT we can fight back. What happened to the omen Foundation shows that we can have an effect. The companies leaving ALEC behind now show that we can have an effect. Support CWA’s workers. Support the organizations fighting ALEC. Let companies like AT&T know that you are aware of their game now, you are ready to stand up for other people in this fight to keep the middle class, and the paths to the middle class for poor people, and the democracy that enabled that middle class.
ColorOfChange.org members began making phone calls to AT&T headquarters to demand that the company stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of the group’s role in the spread of discriminatory voter ID laws, and “stand your ground” laws like the one that has prevented justice for Trayvon Martin in Florida. News broke last week that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Intuit have ended their relationship with ALEC. Today ColorOfChange.org called on AT&T to follow suit.
“After hearing from us about ALEC’s involvement in voter suppression, major corporations like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kraft have done the right thing and decided to stop funding the group,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. “But despite numerous letters, emails and telephone calls from ColorOfChange, AT&T seems unconcerned their dollars are helping to suppress the black vote, support shoot first laws and undermine our democracy. It’s time that AT&T hears the voices of people all across the country who expect better.”
Nation Action:Tell AT&T to Stop Funding ALEC
The Nation is asking readers to join the CMD’s call and implore one of the ALEC corporations with which many Nation readers may do business, AT&T, to refrain from giving the organization any more money. Email senior executives in charge of “Corporate Citizenship” Channing Barringer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mark Siegel (email@example.com) and call the executive charged with legislative and regulatory issues Walt Sharp (210-821-4105) and politely tell them that it’s not helpful to their business to fund a group that has worked to suppress voter turnout, privatize public schools, Medicare and Social Security, hand out tax breaks for new tobacco products, promote concealed gun laws, harass immigrants and gut minimum wage laws. After making your voice heard, share this info with friends, family, Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.
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