While the President of the United States is largely discouraged from commenting on labor issues (except in cases where national security is at stake), a small number of politicians have expressed their support for workers who are striking against Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ).
Some congressmen from Massachusetts recently joined the picket line
Democrat Congressman Michael Capuano (Somerville) appeared at a strike rally in Boston and told the crowd: “If you don’t fight, no one else will. I know the economy’s tough. It’s tough for us, it’s tough for everybody. But in this particular case, this company’s making billions of dollars. And I don’t have a problem with that. I’m a customer. I’m happy to contribute to their profits. But, when they make a profit they have to share it.”
Another Democrat congressman Stephen Lynch (South Boston) has a personal stake in the strike – his sister Donna Bohan is a Verizon technician and he joined her in a demonstration.
“On behalf of the members of Congress -- I can at least speak for the Democrats -- we’re with you one hundred percent,” Lynch told workers. “You’re standing out here for every American worker that wants to be treated with respect.”
Lynch criticized Verizon for sending jobs overseas and asking retirees to pay $300 a month for health care, compared to an average monthly pension of $800.
According to union officials, about 7,000 workers in The Bay State have gone on strike against Verizon.
Meanwhile, a Verizon union official in Washington D.C. recently lamented that Obama did not express any support for the strike
During a picket not far from the White House, Mike Harris, president of D.C.-based Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 2336, told a reporter: “I know the president is a very busy man, but he should be here. This is a fight about saving the middle class and saving our union. ”
Harris added: “Obama is welcome to come down to our picket line any day he wants. We would love to have him. We think he needs to be on this picket line standing up for the middle class.”
In fact, during his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama reportedly stated: "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain, when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States because Americans deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”
Another Verizon union member, Eddie Blackburn of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2323, told a reporter: “I think if Obama walked on a picket line with us, it would show he was trying to stand with workers. I think it would be more than a photo op. Obama has been a big letdown. A lot of things we want he has let fall by the wayside. Where are the jobs? Where are the things that are going to help the labor movement?"
Historically, Presidents have mediated in strikes by private companies only in the interests of national security.
For example, when steelworkers engaged in a lengthy national strike over pay in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened due to the crucial importance of steel to the economy, particularly the auto industry and the military.