Verizon strike ends, but bitter negotiations continue

45,000 Verizon employees have now returned to work following a two-week strike, but it seems the dispute is just beginning. The two sides agreed to resume negotiations but there are few signs of goodwill between them.

Verizon is the principal phone service provider in the Northeastern United States. Most of the workers in Verizon’s traditional landline telephone and popular new FiOS broadband/cable TV operations are represented by labor unions, chiefly the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). But growth in wireless service has far outpaced wireline in recent years, and Verizon has successfully resisted union organizing on the wireless side of the house.


Union-represented Verizon workers stand out because they still enjoy participation in a defined-benefit pension and employer-paid health care. These benefits were fairly common for the last generation of workers but are becoming rare today, and Verizon wants to cut benefits to bring these workers into line with today’s labor market. (Bringing union working conditions down to the nonunion level would of course also remove a powerful incentive for wireless workers to organize and seek parity.)

The dispute has unfolded in a very public manner, with Verizon – and to a lesser extent, the CWA  – taking out full-page advertisements in newspapers around the region. The union’s message in the ads has been pretty conventional. Verizon is making good profits and its management is very well paid. Why is the company trying to take away from workers the benefits they have secured over 50 years of labor and bargaining?

The company, on the other hand, has taken a rather bold approach in its public relations. They don’t say that they are losing money on wireline service.  (They aren’t.) They hint that labor costs are the reason for the shrinking landline phone market, but don’t spell out a real strategy for reviving interest in landline service. (If consumers are choosing smartphones over landlines, cost is probably not the main reason – and Verizon hasn’t indicated it will use any givebacks to reduce consumer prices in any event.)  Mostly Verizon just says that it’s unreasonable for workers today to enjoy pensions and fully employer-paid health care. Most other workers have lost them, so Verizon workers should too.

When GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, Americans -- understandably -- demanded that workers make major concessions before public resources were committed to salvaging the US auto industry. Verizon almost seems to be betting that many Americans are jealous and resentful of workers have retained good health and retirement benefits in this day and age, and will root for anyone willing to take them down a peg.


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7 years 5 months ago
I live two miles from a Verizon facility and saw the protesters a couple weeks ago on my way to Fedex to drop off packages.  Here is an article about their problems.

Essentially the union workers at Verizon are in a dying business and the money that Verizon has is coming from the wireless business.

''Mostly Verizon just says that it’s unreasonable for workers today to enjoy pensions and fully employer-paid health care. Most other workers have lost them, so Verizon workers should too.'' 

The country would be much better off if the public employee worker's health benefits and pensions benefits were cut back to what others can expect.  It would reduce a lot of the stress on the economy and free up money for hiring more people or funding medicaid or other projects that are desirable to the community.  They have cut about a thousand teachers and other positions in our area in order to pay the pension benefits of retired teachers.  And next year the school districts have been told to expect bigger hits which means more tenured teachers will be let go.
7 years 5 months ago
''The race to the bottom is on and the shot that started the race was''

introducing collective bargaining into public employee unions. 

Someone living in California would have to be blind and not see that the public service unions are bankrupting California.   And when did this trend begin?  Before Reagan.  And has it ever been cut back?  Rarely and about 40% of public service workers are unionized while about 7% of private workers are.  Who is in financial trouble?  The states because of the unions.
7 years 5 months ago
"And let's see, who has added more to the US, union workers or lawyers. Or subtracted more.  I think we have more of that type of "knowledge" worker than we need."

Actually I'm pretty sure the unions keep a lot of lawyers in business.  I know some good labor lawyers getting real rich off some unions!

But at least we can agree the US has too many lawyers!  (Of course my union grandfather and father are proud I became one!)
ed gleason
7 years 5 months ago
JR ..Verizon is not government owned so what do the ramblings about public service unions mean? Off topic?
Jeff.. you seem to be able to separate the landline business from the wireless business.  I guess the Telcos do not yet have your skill level..If there were no land lines Jeff. your complaining allies would not be able to protest so much to the Gov. as no one would ever give them their wireless number. GEEZE 
7 years 5 months ago
Despite the name, the boogey man " non union joint venture" is Verizon Wireless, owned 55% by Verizon and 45% by vodofone, a very large global wireless company.
The entrenched mindset that allowed the phone company owners a guaranteed profit with middling service and the workers to extract these best in class benefits is, alas, passing quickly. For the first time in over 100 years, landline wire links fade while wireless communication grows in importance. While wireless towers are still hardwired to a network, each tower likely eliminates hundreds, if not thousands of individual service calls to wire up a house. More and more people (especially young people) don’t even have a landline phone, millions of others have switched to cable phone or internet phone service, bypassing Verizon completely.
Here at the America magazine blog, Mr. Sinyai and others like trot out the usual suspects to blame for the above business changes- Ronald Reagan, the GOP, Fox news – and most especially the bad old business that actually wants to make a profit and have the business show a return in line with the required investments.
Ask any business person just how painful it is to use Verizon when upgrading or changing telecom business lines. Such projects run months over plan (I am talking about non strike periods here) while Verizon workers require multiple site visits for 15 or 20 minute tasks due to featherbedding union rules.
If Verizon doesn’t change its work rules and cost structure, the CWA will represent a whole lot less workers the next contract as technology and more important the customers will have moved on to better options.

ed gleason
7 years 5 months ago
"customers will have moved on to better options.'

Joseph C and JR want to write the obituary for unions, Verizon and ATT yet give us no successors. I bet both guys are customers of one or the other and use the service 24-7. TPers and GOP candidates want to eliminate Wash DC, again with no successors. Both Phone companies never missed a dividend paying 5-6%. EPS is always over the dividend.
Anti-union rants are as unbecoming as anti-government rants..and anti-tax rants and are usually done by people who yell 'class war'!!! 
7 years 5 months ago
We have Verizon for wireless and generally pleased with their service.  We ditched Verizon, née Nynex, née ATT when they started padding their bills and Optimum offered better landline phone service for less than half the price.  Verizon tried to compete with Optimum but couldn't and then burned their bridges when they charged us a huge cancellation fee that came out of the blue.  So they should reap what they have sown.

The nonsense about the Tea Party is getting old.  They do not want to eliminate the federal government, just reduce it in size and keep it from growing.  By law each year the budget is increased 6-7% whether anything happened or not to justify it.  Any reduction from that 6-7% increase is then called a budget cut and the bleeding hearts are out saying that the poor are being cut back when most often the increase isn't as large as they hope for.  

Also no one wants to get rid of unions, just curtail what they do especially the public service unions who are incredibly dysfunctional.  It shows where the liberal mind set is at when they bring up the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to try and justify the way above average public employee salaries.  I don't know how they can keep a straight face let alone write for a Jesuit publication.  They can not argue from reason and must use bogus comparisons to hide what is really happening in the market place.  How could anyone who is suppsoedly interested in the poor spend their time defending the above average salaries is beyond me.

The Tea Party also want to farm some of Federal government activities out to the states where it should be and can be scrutinized locally and if it is to remain federal farm it out to the hinderlands.  For example, the Department of Agriculture would be better off in Omaha or some such location and away from the sewer, that is Washington D.C.

If we cut back just 1% a year, real cutbacks not just reductions from the budget forecast, we would have a balanced budget in 7-8 years and the country would be healthier and wealthier.   Everyone in the country could live on 92% of what they are getting from the Feds and there would be money to create new jobs without the onerous debt from the Federal government.  Maybe we could use some honest discussions here instead of irrelevant nonsense.
ed gleason
7 years 5 months ago
The race to the bottom is on and the shot that started the race was Reagan breaking the FAA union. .. Bangladesh anyone? Pension promises, SS and Medicare, unemployment insurance are all disposable promises, done with fingers crossed according the GOP/TP. Lower taxes and no capital gains taxes are sacred irrevocable principles according to GOP/TP.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
Verizon is big in the Northeast but not elsewhere.  They will eventually probably be gobbled up by AT&T to reform a monopoly.  The internet is also in danger of eventual centralized control.  Hopefully someone will figure out how to harness the cellular aspects of home wifi to bypass corporate control.  Information could be passed from home to home and even split up among pathways so that the government couldn't snoop.  Then who needs Verizon and AT&T?
7 years 5 months ago
"Most of the profits the people on the picket line keep referring to come from the booming wireless business, which is a non-union joint venture."

It means its a legal relationship with local (usually state-based) wireless providers.  The way it usually works is that building and maintaining a nationwide wireless network is incredibly expensive and burdensome - the paranoid ramblings of centralized control nowithstanding - so many times a national company will essentially "rent" the wireless network of a local company.  The local company usually maintains the network for the national company in exchange for payments from the national company.  Of course most of these local companies are not unionized (for obvious reasons). 

I think this relationship is an example of economic subsidiarity - which of course drives the big national unions bonkers as their oppressed workers are unable to make their union "contributions."  Sometimes I wonder if, in the moral worldview of some, a unionized worker isn't viewed as filling the highest absolute moral status in the universe.

What is driving resentment of union claims among average Americans isn't jealous, it's common sense.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago
Not paranoid ramblings, counselor, technological ramblings, perhaps a type of thinking outside the box and a little out of your league.  And let's see, who has added more to the US, union workers or lawyers. Or subtracted more.  I think we have more of that type of "knowledge" worker than we need.
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago  
The idea has already begun.  The hightech mammoth killers are gathering and sharpening their weapons.  God bless the mammoth slaughterers and their efforts.  Let there be much blood. Liberte!
Stanley Kopacz
7 years 5 months ago


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