Naming the 1%. Verizon Workers and Restaurant Workers Unite!

by Roger Sikes

Friday June 22nd marked the one year anniversary for 45,000 Verizon workers who have been bargaining for a fair contract at Verizon. Verizon made 10 billion in profits last year yet continues to try to strip away benefits from its employees at the bargaining table.

Members of Verizon’s Board of Directors help to run the company and therefore play a key role in settling this dispute.  Each board member earns about $230,000 a year for their work as a Verizon director.

Clarence Otis is a key Verizon board member and he also happens to be the CEO of Darden Restaurants, the largest company-owned and operated full service restaurant company in the world.  The Darden brand includes restaurants like Capital Grille, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and more.  There are more than 1900 Darden restaurants in the US.

Not only has Clarence Otis been complicit in stripping away dignity from Verizon workers, but workers at Darden owned restaurants are typically treated poorly through a lack of paid sick days, unsustainable wages, discrimination in the workplace and little chance of advancement at work.  A recent “Diners Guide” report highlights Darden restaurants as some of the low road players in the restaurant industry.  The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) recently launched a “Dignity at Darden” campaign to improve working conditions for workers at Darden locations.
Atlanta Jobs with Justice along with interns from the UAW Global Organizing Institute and the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council went into the Capital Grille in Buckhead and delivered a letter and message to the manager to be sent to Clarence Otis.  We were able to engage with servers about the issues going on across the country at Darden restaurants including Capital Grille and with customers about the anti-worker posture of the Darden CEO and Verizon board member Clarence Otis. Workers at Darden restaurants make as little at 2.13 per hour while Clarence brings in $8.5 million per year.

It is great to see Verizon workers linking up with restaurant workers (Restaurant Opportunities Center, ROC) fighting for a common cause: Dignity in the Workplace.  The unification of these struggles allowed us to amplify our reach and hit hundreds of Darden locations throughout the country.  Just in Atlanta, there were actions at Darden locations including Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster by the Communications Workers of America and allies.

Roger Sikes is an organizer with Atlanta Jobs with Justice. Follow Atlanta JwJ on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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