Saturday, May 12, 2012

99% Spring in Buffalo: Community Leaders Confront Verizon and National Fuel Greed

In the spirit of the 99% Spring, CEJ joined PUSH Buffalo, Citizen Action, SEIU 1199, the National Fuel Accountability Coalition and more than 100 grassroots, and community and faith leaders for non-violent direct actions confronting two 1% corporations - Verizon and National Fuel.   

One-hundred plus people poured out of two school buses that we drove to the Verizon Wireless store on Walden and into the building, where we delivered a statement to CEO Lowell McAdam that we aren't going to stand for Verizon's corporate greed any longer.

Once inside the store, Ina Ferguson-Downing, speaking into a bullhorn, highlighted Verizon’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract with its union workforce and the company’s push to outsource jobs overseas, and cut employee healthcare, retirement, and disability benefits, despite making more than $19 billion in profits and paying its top executives $283 million over the past four years.

After clergy delivered a letter to CEO Lowell McAdam calling on him to end Verizon's practice of destroying good jobs, we boarded the bus for our next destination - National Fuel, where we were met by dozens of CWA leaders, who greeted us in solidarity against corporate greed.

During a demonstration at National Fuel’s headquarters in Williamsville, four area ministers joined with the twelve organizations that comprise the National Fuel Accountability Coalition to call for a community dialogue about the company’s practices that heighten the crisis of heating costs in neighborhoods across WNY by misallocating customer funded conservation monies.

“As people of faith and community leaders, we are troubled by the anti-community and anti-worker decisions of corporations like Verizon and National Fuel,” said Reverend Merle Showers, a minister at Niagara Frontier City Ministries.  “If these companies are to remain fixtures in our communities, they must be good corporate citizens and put people first instead of putting profits over people.”

For the past 5 years, National Fuel has charged all customers a fee to fund a $10 million a year Conservation Incentive Program, or CIP. Instead of investing in weatherization, National Fuel spent CIP funds on a bloated corporate advertising campaign.  Last year National Fuel ran over 2,000 commercials with public conservation monies.

“The National Fuel Accountability Coalition believes a community partnership is necessary to ensure that programs like CIP put people first, not corporate profits,” said Jen Mecozzi, PUSH Buffalo organizing director. 



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Calling Out Verizon's Corporate Greed

On May 3, CEJ, Occupy Buffalo, and community and labor partners occupied and mic checked a Verizon Wireless store in Amherst, NY. As part of the growing movement to confront corporate power and greed, we engaged in a non-violent direct action against a very greedy corporation - Verizon.  

While Verizon was holding its shareholders’ meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, workers, people of faith, and community and labor leaders were there, and in cities across the country, including Buffalo, to tell CEO Lowell McAdam to end Verizon’s corporate greed and negotiate a fair contract with union workers. 

Verizon makes billions in profits every year, dodges paying federal income taxes, receiving nearly $1 billion back from the federal government from 2008-2010, and increased CEO Lowell McAdam’s pay from $7 million to over $23 million last year.  In less than a day, McAdam is paid more than the average union worker earns at Verizon in a year.  Despite making record profits and excessive compensation for its executives, when it comes to the 45,000 workers who make Verizon’s success possible, the company cries broke. 

While Verizon has tripled CEO McAdam’s pay to $23.1 million, the company has made excessive demands that would each cost each union worker $20,000 a year.  Verizon wants to cut healthcare benefits, eliminate or freeze pensions, and cut disability benefits for workers injured on the job.  In addition, Verizon wants to eliminate all job security protections and to continue to outsource jobs overseas. 

Call Verizon’s corporate greed out and tell McAdam to negotiate a fair contract with workers by calling 800-229-9460 to record a message that will be delivered directly to Verizon executives.  Tell them to end their corporate greed and treat workers, customers, and communities with respect – by negotiating a fair contract. 

To learn more, visit

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CEJ's Lifetime Achievement - Marcella Fugle

Marcella Fugle
The winner of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award at our "Cirque de 99%" Annual Awards Celebration, Marcella Fugle, is currently the Chair of the NYSUT Retirees of WNY Political Action Committee. We thought we would take a moment to bring you up so speed on some of her accomplishments over the years - so you would understand why we are so honored to present her with this award!

Marcella began teaching in the fall of 1964, teaching regents Biology at a Junior High School in Hamburg, where she taught for 20 years. An early member of NYSUT, she was involved in the first contract fight for the Hamburg Teachers’ Association in 1968.

She became President of the Hamburg Teachers’ Association in 1974, serving in that capacity until 1990. Marcella also was active statewide for NYSUT, serving on the board of directors from 1976-2000 while participating on many of the committees. During this time, she also served on several committees for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

In 1985, she helped form the Southtown Teachers’ Center, where she worked from 1985 to 2000, when she finally retired from work. However, she would go on to become active in the NYSUT Retirees of WNY, where she is currently the Chair of the Political Action Committee. As such, her main objective is working to increase political engagement of teachers and move NYSUT members to political action. A recent success was their role in the election of Kathy Hochul to Congress. Marcella looks forward to the upcoming elections this fall – and whenever you see NYSUT members getting-out-the-vote – you will know that Marcella had her hands on this. She is also working hard to make sure school budgets are voted in as we celebrate tonight.

In addition, Marcella has been a long-time CEJ member. In 2000, she was asked to join CEJ’s board of directors, and has long worked to get teachers involved in organizations like the Coalition for Economic Justice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Annual Awards Celebration Announcements!

CEJ is 26 years old, and one month away from our Annual Awards Celebration!

the Cirque de 99%, Annual Awards Celebration is taking place on May 10th, 2012, from 6:00 to 9:00pm at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

We are excited to announce that our keynote speaker this year will be Steve Dubb from the Democracy Collaborative! Steve Dubb is the Research Director of The Democracy Collaborative and has worked for the Collaborative since 2004. Dubb is the principal author of Linking Colleges to Communities: Engaging the University for Community Development (2007) and Building Wealth: The New Asset-Based Approach to Solving Social and Economic Problems, which was published by The Aspen Institute in 2005. Previously, he was Executive Director of the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), a U.S. and Canadian nonprofit association that provides education and technical assistance to university and community-based housing and retail cooperatives.

The Democracy Collaborative has led the creation of Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH. Steve Dubb will be presenting the forward thinking work of the collaborative on how to empower workers and build community wealth through worker-owned cooperatives. Check out this video on the Evergreen Cooperative to get inspired!

We are also proud to announce that we are giving our Lifetime Achievement Award to Marcella Fugle, Chair of the NYSUT Retirees of WNY Political Action Committee. A long-time CEJ member and labor leader, Marcella exemplifies the commitment to justice that CEJ seeks to uphold. We are honored to give her this outstanding award.

Additionally, we are honoring the following award recipients:

The Norm Harper Labor Award: James Wagner and John Mudie of CWA 1122
The Fight-of-the-Year: OPEIU Local 212 Workers at BlueCross BlueShield
The Future of Justice: John Washington of Occupy Buffalo

We hope to see you on May 10th! As always, you can purchase your tickets online through our secure server here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Verizon, Don't Drop the Call on Your Workers

Yesterday, on March 20th, CEJ, Citizen Action, the Don’t Bypass Buffalo Coalition, CWA 1122, and other community partners rallied outside Verizon Communications on Elmwood Ave in Buffalo to call on the company to compensate their workers fairly and save 45,000 middle class jobs.

The event was planned in coordination with national actions taking place this week led by Jobs with Justice, CWA and IBEW workers, and thousands of others. Tomorrow, on March 22nd, in cities across the country, these groups will be holding a Verizon Day of Action.

At a time when we need good jobs more than ever, Verizon is seeking to decimate 45,000 middle class jobs even though they are making record profits and tripled Verizon CEO’s Lowell McAdam’s pay to $23.1 million last year.

Check out the video below of the singing telegram (to the tune of "Build Me Up, Buttercup" by the Foundations) we delivered to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam yesterday.

(If your browser does not support his feature - click here to watch the video on youtube)

Call Lowell McAdam at 888-738-2990 and tell him that you stand with Verizon workers against corporate greed and for a fair contract. Let him know that you expect him to treat the workers right and negotiate a fair contract now.

To learn more and take action, visit