Five Reasons to Care About Verizon Contract Negotiations
On Monday, unions of working people at Verizon announced that they will strike on Wednesday morning if their bosses fail to come to the table to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement. The 39,000 women and men who make up the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are ready to take the streets to demand a fair return on their work.
During the last round of contract negotiations in 2011, Verizon came to the table with a long list of demands that would have undone decades of hard-earned progress. Ultimately, after a two-week strike and 16 months of escalating mobilization by working people and allies like Jobs With Justice, working people at Verizon successfully negotiated a sustainable contract and fought back the worst of the corporation’s demands. When Verizon came to the table last year with an eerily similar opening proposal, it was clear that the telecom giant has a long-term agenda to cut jobs that sustain families, decrease its menu of services they offer to many of our communities and offshore and contract out work overseas and to contractors.
Verizon employees’ contracts expired last August, and an overwhelming majority of CWA and IBEW members voted then to authorize a strike in case labor and management fail to reach fair contracts. As the teams of working people at Verizon stand together, it’s important that we have their backs. If Verizon gets its way, we’re allowing Verizon’s CEO to rewrite the rules in their favor yet again, instead of ensuring that more of our friends and neighbors have jobs that value our families and bolster our communities.
In anticipation of their current contracts expiring on August 1, CWA and IBEW recently announced that an overwhelming majority of their members voted to authorize a strike in case labor and management fail to reach fair contracts. But Verizon is already doing everything it can to avoid new contracts that guarantee decent jobs for its employees. As Verizon employees raise their voices against corporate greed, it’s important that more of us stand up for an economy that works for everyone. If Verizon gets its way, we’re allowing corporate CEOs to rewrite the rules in their favor yet again, instead of ensuring that more of our friends and neighbors can hold the line for family-sustaining pay and benefits.
As you see the news about the strike playing out in the press or discussed in conversations in your town, here are five reasons to back the working people at Verizon in their negotiations with the telecommunications giant:
1. Verizon makes billions each year, yet they still expect people to do more with less.
The corporation raked in $9.6 billion in profits last year — and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016. And from 2010 to 2014, Verizon executives made more than $249 million. Apparently, Verizon corporate bosses are unsatisfied with their massive profit margins and want to make working people do more with less. In negotiations thus far, Verizon has asked its loyal workforce for huge cuts to retirement security and benefits to people injured on the job, increases in employee health-care costs, and elimination of job security. Additionally the company wants to uproot technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing and taking care of their families who depend on them. These are life-altering changes to the men and women at Verizon who are just trying to pay their bills and ensure a brighter future for their families.
2. Verizon plays dirty.
Instead of putting forward reasonable negotiating terms, Verizon has invested resources in training 15,000 employees to take over in the case of a work stoppage. Verizon has also given its non-union employees a mobile surveillance app that can monitor and take geotagged photos of union members throughout negotiations. Essentially, it’s a tattletale app with the sole purpose of intimidating people from coming together in union at work.
3. Verizon wants to get rid of good union jobs and outsource instead.
The men and women in union who work at Verizon have worked hard to create better workplaces for themselves and those that follow. But just like in 2011, Verizon wants its employees to give them the thumbs up to contract out work, replacing good, hometown jobs with cheap labor. Since 2005, the percentage of Verizon employees in union has dropped from nearly 70 percent to less than 30 percent.
4. Verizon refuses to expand FiOS.
Consumer demand for high-speed Internet is higher than ever. Several years ago, Verizon got tax breaks and rate hikes in exchange for expanding FiOS, its high-speed Internet, phone and video connection, throughout the Northeast. But in 2012, Verizon announced it would no longer expand its FiOS service, leaving customers in many places without access to high-speed Internet. Why would the company not want to increase its customer base for a popular service? Some believe Verizon is choosing not to repair and modernize its outdated copper wire system and grow FiOS because the company doesn’t want to invest in the people who maintain and install the service.
The company has also been accused of redlining poor and minority communities. In New York, the FiOS expansion was concentrated in affluent city suburbs, while low-income, urban areas were left behind. Other communities that have been excluded from the FiOS expansion include Bethlehem, Pa., Baltimore, Md., and Roanoke, N.C. Verizon is now trying to get out of the business of landlines all together, which will mean poorer service and even fewer options for many customers, especially in poor and rural areas that are already on the wrong side of the “digital divide.”
“On the one hand, Verizon refuses to build its high-speed FiOS network in lower income areas. And on the other, they are systemically ignoring maintenance needs on their landline network,” said Ed Mooney, vice president for CWA District 2-13, which covers Pennsylvania to Virginia. “This leaves customers at the mercy of a cable monopoly or stuck with deteriorating service while Verizon executives and shareholders rake in billions.”
5. Verizon has a long history of ripping off taxpayers through tax evasion.
Verizon isn’t just looking to cut costs by slashing benefits and eliminating jobs; one of America’s most successful businesses is also taking money from taxpayers. From 2008 to 2013, Verizon received a tax refund of $732 million from the IRS, which resulted in a corporate income tax rate of minus two percent. That’s right, a negative income tax rate! Verizon is also culpable of stashing money abroad to avoid paying income taxes. In 2012, Verizon stored $1.8 billion in offshore tax havens.
Verizon’s position is clear: make money, no matter the cost to our families, our communities and our country. Which makes our position just as clear: we must stand with the working men and women at Verizon who have gone strike to protect not just their own livelihoods, but also family-sustaining jobs for those that follow.
© 2016 Jobs With Justice
Mackenzie Baris is a senior organizer for Jobs With Justice.