Verizon workers face down corporate greed

verizon workers

NEW YORK - Verizon Communications, which raked in $19.5 billion in profits over the last four years and paid its top five executives $258 million during that period, is demanding drastic givebacks from its 45,000 unionized workers on the East Coast.

Verizon, despite its status as one of the most profitable American companies, is demanding the concessions across the board - in workers' health care, benefits and pensions.

Unions are fighting the demands for concessions, pointing not just to company profits but to what they say has been unprecedented growth in the company's Verizon Wireless subsidiary, its cell phone operation and in the company's Internet services.

35,000 members of the Communications Workers of America yesterday voted overwhelmingly to authorize CWA leaders to call a strike as early as Aug. 7, when the current contract expires. CWA reported that 91 percent of the workers voted in favor of the strike authorization.

The other union involved, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents several thousand additional Verizon workers, also voted the same day to authorize a strike.

In addition to benefits and wages, a key issue for both unions is the refusal of Verizon to allow the unions to organize at its rapidly growing Verizon Wireless subsidiary. Most of Verizon's unionized employees currently work on phone landlines that the company, they say, is trying to dump, or in FiOS TV, which needs little maintenance after initial installation.

"They fight us about Verizon Wireless, which is a fight about the future," IBEW spokesman Jim Spellane said. "They made $19.5 billion in profits and paid their executives $258 million, yet they demand major concessions across the board while they offshore jobs to Mexico."

Unions see the demands for concessions as an attack against the very workers who have made the company the success that it is in today's communications market.

"CWA members are determined to fight back against Verizon's corporate greed and bargain a fair contract, one that reflects workers' contributions to Verizon's success," said CWA Region 2-13 vice president, Ed Mooney.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is set to join the CWA by phone Aug. 4 for a virtual town hall meeting where she is to link Verizon's attempt to squeeze its workers to what she calls "the disastrous right-wing proposals Congress is considering that put corporate profits and luxury tax breaks ahead of working people."

Verizon, whose current CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, earns $55,000 a day, is demanding that workers pay into their health care premiums - as much as $3,000 for family coverage and that annual raises be ended. The company also wants to freeze pensions for current employees and eliminate them altogether for future employees. It also wants to limit sick days to five per year.

"This is an attempt," said Robert Master, a spokesman for the CWA, "to turn good paying middle class jobs into low-wage, less secure jobs by a company which has, despite a deep recession, made unprecedented profits."

The wireline division that Verizon says is doing so poorly had revenues of $41.2 billion last year. At Verizon Wireless, revenue was $63.4 billion.

Union members from all over the East Coast are planning to board buses for what they say will be an enormous rally this Saturday in New York City outside Verizon headquarters.

At yesterday's virtual town hall more than 5,000 union activists heard organizers from the New England and Middle Atlantic states discuss mobilization plans for the rally.

"These negotiations  and the demonstrations are all about good jobs," said CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton. "Companies like Verizon should be investing in rebuilding the American economy, not contributing to the destruction of good, middle-class jobs."

Photo: CWA members rally at the opening of bargaining talks in June at Verizon headquarters in New York City. (Dawn Sickles/CWA 1101)

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  • we already pay for our benefits by taking smaller yearly raises to offset the cost of increasing medical cost!!!!!! this greedy corporation is willing to bankrupt this city by having us out of work! they could easily take the money they are paying these scabs and cover our contract!!!! this is strictly union busting and nothing else! we are fighting the fight for all working people,including ny verizon lower management who will not have jobs if all the work leaves ny.

    Posted by d fazzolari, 08/10/2011 4:00pm (4 years ago)

  • I like working at Verizon wireline. I get paid based on my performance which like every other company involving sales does and will continue to do. U can't expect a company to pay u for poor performance. I pay my benefits which are actually really nice and of course any other company would expect u to do so why should union workers get special treatment. Im happy I got this job cause I can pay my bills and take care of my family. I think that's all anyone should ever want or need. Now I don't agree the executives should get millions but hey that's the world we live in and that's not ever gonna change cause the ones in power don't want to give up that power. U think any other major corporation isn't paying their executives millions as well. I make 4000 to 5000 a month but that's because im real good and I take the time to learn what I need to do the job good. I don't get paid benefits so why should u. I don't get a pension so why should u but im smart and have invested my own money in 401k plans and stock options as well. If u keep asking the company to take care of everything for u they gonna end up like the government.

    Posted by rizz, 08/07/2011 5:21am (4 years ago)

  • JWD we will not succumb to corporate greed .

    Wow a whole whopping 2 months of training to do what place a jjk1c or do you not know what that is ? Good luck with that one your two months of school will not even have you up to speed on how to install a DSL or FIOS line. Let alone try to trouble shoot a cable that has been neglected by the company to try to save the almighty dollar instead of taking care of the customer and provide them with quality service like we are suppose to. Good luck on that one buddy.

    And being so proud to come from somewhere else to cross our picket line ...

    Only have one word for you SCAB !!

    Posted by cwa4ever, 08/05/2011 11:05pm (4 years ago)

  • This is a simple case of corporate GREED!!! Verizon makes tons of money (almost $20B) in the last four years. The company is doing excellent! There is no need to cut employee benefits while the salaries of its top executives continue to grow larger. Verizon needs to recognize the union and continue work with them to the benefit of both the company and its employees.

    Posted by Rohan, 08/05/2011 11:53am (4 years ago)

  • There comes a time in everyone's life where you have to pick a side. And it's clear, JWD, your side is with Verizon Corporation. You must have been reading management's talking points. At least the Verizon workers can tell their children and grandchildren they stood together and fought for their family and their dignity. What will you tell yours? You kissed corporate ass for your own opportunist individual reasons?! Not a nice bedtime story.

    Posted by Terrie, 08/04/2011 12:45pm (4 years ago)

  • Being paid raises for anything other than your performance or cost of living adjustments is ridiculous in this day and age, everyone else has to pay something for health insurance and Verizon's insurance is one the best I have ever had and is worth the little they are asking them to contribute, pensions are a relic of the past...everyone else has a 401k and the union should also. This a global economy and Verizon cannot continue to adhere to policies that are from a time when they had no competitors and they were a US only company. I'm sorry but pay and benefits as a non-union employee has been the best I have seen at various companies I have been at and I do not see what the union employees fuss is about having to get the same level of benefits and policies that we get as non-union. I believe Verizon corporate is making a good move for the future of this company and I will be travelling out of town with 2 months of training I have received to do the union jobs until they succumb to reality.

    Posted by JWD, 08/04/2011 11:30am (4 years ago)

  • "The wireline division that Verizon says is doing so poorly had revenues of $41.2 billion last year." You can never use revenue alone to know how the company is doing...deduct the expenses from the revenues and you will not see such a grand number and it has been declining steadily every year. Wireline is not that profitable.

    Posted by JWD, 08/04/2011 11:23am (4 years ago)

  • We tried to establish a union for Anthem BCBS in Virginia from 2006 to 2008. The CWA local organizers are great people and many work for Verizon.

    If they strike I'm going to picket with them.

    Anthem's CEO Tom Snead got $10 Mil and Wellpoint's Larry Glasscock got $34 Mil after the merger.
    Anthem workers didn't even get COLA increases for 3+ years and our pension planned was scrapped. Some associates that were just four years shy of retirement lost their pensions completely. Yet the workers were still too afraid to unionize.

    I hope this makes the headlines and I hope Verizon executives choke on their golden parachutes.

    Posted by Mike Greer, 08/01/2011 2:59am (4 years ago)

  • Pelosi is not a real friend of labor. She voted for NAFTA and other "free trade" agreements and she failed to pass The Employee Free Choice Act during her four years as Speaker. Her 2008 opponent Cindy Sheehan had a much better labor platform.

    Posted by Sean Mulligan, 07/31/2011 6:02am (4 years ago)

  • Power to the workers!

    I'm going to watch this closely,
    if the union wins we keep our Verizon home service, if not, take it out and put in something else and let the nazis at Verizon know why.

    Posted by Rol-Tanguy, 07/30/2011 1:04pm (4 years ago)

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