By Steve Early and Rand Wilson
The mad scramble among cell-phone companies for increased market share has created plenty of consumer confusion about the merits of various “calling plans.” Now, thanks to a re-seller of mobile phone minutes called CREDO Mobile, the politics of which provider to choose has gotten muddled as well, for supporters of progressive causes.
CREDO markets itself as the cellular company with a conscience. Sign up today, say CREDO ads in publications like The Nation, so you can “support the values you believe in.” Every call you make generates a small part of the millions of dollars the company gives to Wellstone Action, Human Rights Watch, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Greenpeace.
In West Virginia this weekend – to its credit – the company has been leading the PR charge against a cleverly packaged “Friends of America Rally” down in Logan County. It’s a Labor Day fest for the Right, featuring appearances by Sean Hannity and over-the-hill rocker Ted “Cat Scrath Fever” Nugent, plus a speech against global warming by one of its leading deniers, Lord Christopher Moncton.
Not surprisingly, the most enthusiastic local sponsor is Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy. Big Don has posted a YouTube video inviting all West Virginians (including the 10% currently unemployed) to attend the rally so they can “learn how environmental extremists…are trying to destroy jobs.”
Massey is, as CREDO points out, “the most egregious violator of the Clean Water Act in history,” not to mention a notorious union-buster and arch foe of the United Mine Workers.
The UMW is sponsoring its own competing event in West Virginia. But without Hank Williams, Jr. as a headliner, the union is unlikely to attract a crowd anywhere near the 25,000 expected at the sold-out “Friends of America” event.
And this is where CREDO comes in. It has developed a sophisticated “Mobile Action” network of customers who want to use their cell phones for social change. CREDO, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is rallying them against the other major corporate sponsor of the event: Verizon Wireless (VZW).
In e‑mail messages and ads, CREDO network members are being exhorted to contact VZW president and CEO Lowell McAdam and demand that he “issue a public apology and immediately withdraw all support from this extremist, anti-environmental rally.”
Like Massey Energy, Verizon Wireless has been rampantly anti-union (only 50 out of VZW’s 50,000 workers are organized and management has been repeatedly cited for unfair labor practices).
But there’s no small irony in CREDO “calling out” Verizon Wireless. CREDO itself is also completely non-union! And not only does it knock, with good reason, VZW, it also takes regular aim at AT&T Mobility, the one wireless company that is unionized.
CREDO got its start as Working Assets, re-selling long-distance service by the notoriously anti-union Sprint. Now it’s doing the same thing with wireless, marketing itself as a bankroller of every kind of rights movement – except the workers’ rights one.
Meanwhile, it tries to get progressive customers to switch, not just from VZW (a move long recommended by labor) but from AT&T as well, where more than 35,000 technicians, customer service reps, and retail store personnel belong to the Communications Workers of America.
So, on Labor Day, if you want to use your cell phone for a cause-oriented call, by all means dial Lowell McAdam and give him a piece of your mind about VZW’s strange bedfellows down in West Virginia.
But, if you want to do a mitzvah for the cause of labor, sign up for AT&T Mobility and show your support for its unionized workforce.
Steve Early worked for 27 years as CWA organizer in the northeast and was involved in strikes and organizing campaigns at AT&T. Rand Wilson works for the AFL-CIO on a joint CWA and IBEW organizing initiative with Verizon workers.
Rand Wilson is an organizer and chief of staff at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.