Preparations for Verizon strike vote are underway

As the first week of bargaining between unions representing Verizon Communications’ East Coast workers from Virginia to New England and the company ended, the Communication Workers of America, which represents about 65,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast, told its members that preparations for a strike vote are underway and that all locals will have an opportunity to vote on whether to authorize a strike.  The current contract expires at Midnight, August 6.

In a newsletter to members, the CWA bargaining team said that “in all of our experience we have never seen such an aggressive agenda as the package of proposals the company brought to the table. Verizon has made it clear they want to take away every protection we have as union workers.”

The list of proposed take aways is extensive. Some of the key company demands include eliminating annual wage increases and basing progression raises on performance evaluations, freezing pension accruals beginning December 2014 and moving everyone into a 401(k)-type retirement plan, replacing the current comprehensive health care plan with a high-deductible plan, reducing the number of sick days and paid holidays, eliminating job security provisions in the contract, and expanding the practice of contracting out work.

Verizon appears to be pursuing an even more extreme overreaching strategy than the one GE used in its recently concluded contract negotiations with UE and IUE-CWA.

“There’s no way to sugar coat the reality that’s facing us,” said Ed Mooney vice-president of CWA District 13, which represents Verizon workers in Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Verizon is looking to strip the level of benefits and job security that the union has fought years to earn.”

“Verizon is pursuing a long-term strategy that’s trying to eliminate unions,” said Ron Collins, vice-president of CWA District 2, which represents Verizon workers in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Verizon, whose unionized workers comprise 30 percent of the company’s workforce, has undertaken  an aggressive, anti-union bargaining strategy despite the fact that it has done well under the current union contract. Its revenue for 2010 was $106.6 billion ranking it 16th on Fortune’s 500 list and it paid $5.4 billion in dividends to investors in 2010.

Addressing a rally of CWA members, Chris Shelton, vice-president for District 1, which represent Verizon workers in New Jersey, New York, and New England, said that despite Verizon’s success, Verizon is saying that it can’t afford its present union contract and will try to justify its concession demands by claiming “that all across the country workers are suffering, so Verizon workers have to suffer too.”

Shelton went on to say that Verizon’s executives aren’t suffering: Verizon’s chair and chief executive officer Ivan Seidberg received $18 million in compensation in 2010 and Verizon’s president and chief operating officer Lowell McAdams received $7 million.

CWA which has been joined by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in bargaining with Verizon is telling its members that the key to fighting off these take away demands and making progress is for members to stay engaged, join in the mobilizations that the unions are calling, and to stay united.

“There’s lots of different ways that we’ll be fighting with Verizon to protect and advance our rights,” Shelton said. “We’ll fight them politically, we’ll put pressure on them at the bargaining table, and, most important, we’ll put pressure on them at the workplace.”

An example of the workplace pressure that Shelton was talking about was the practice picket line that went up at Verizon shops throughout the East Coast on June 22 when bargaining began. Thousands of union members set up picket lines before work and during their lunch breaks to demonstrate their solidarity.

So many workers took part in CWA Local 1104’s practice picket line in Long Island, New York that it spilled out into the street and backed up traffic.

In other actions, members throughout the East Coast passed out flyers criticizing Verizon for not paying any federal income taxes in 2010, put up “No Contracting” signs in parking lots in reference to Verizon’s plan to outsource work, and put “We Are United” sun shades on their cars window visors.

The next big action is a rally planned for July 30 in New York City. “We need to continue to stand strong and get our message out that we are more committed than we’ve ever been to fight to protect our wages, benefits and working conditions,” said a District 1 CWA bargaining report to members. “Now more than ever we need to mobilize! mobilize!  mobilize!  mobilize!

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16 thoughts on “Preparations for Verizon strike vote are underway

  1. Verizon pays no federal income tax thats unpatriotic in a time of war

  2. you guys are finished, LONG LIVE COMCAST!

  3. There will always be rich people and there will always be poor people. Just be glad you live in a country where you have a choice. Stop wining about how much other’s make! If you feel bad about the federal government not getting enough money, then pay more yourself. If you are striking because you don’t think life is fair, you should be fired. Grow up!

  4. The average Verizon employee, like myself, does not receive guaranteed pay increases and the increases that I do receive ARE based on my performance.

    My health insurance has a high deductible but I am thankful to have it, my retirement plan is a 401K plan which the company contributes to and I am thankful to have it, and I seemingly have a crap load less sick and vacation time than the union members.

    I’ve been with the company for a decade and have witnessed a whole hell of a lot of change, generally not for the best. But all in all in these times I am thankful to have a damn job.

    Oh and I get to work those 12 hour shifts to cover the striking workers with no overtime pay but so it goes.

    Moreover, I find it ridiculous that anyone would pitch a fit for BENEFITS including the want for pay increases NOT based upon merit and performance while countless millions are unemployed.

    And here is another tid bit that many union workers fail to appreciate. I work in a highly technical position and when these strikes occur myself and many highly skilled workers are pulled and placed in “customer service” positions to fill in.

    What I am about to say is not a gross exaggeration, it takes less than FOUR HOURS to teach the “fill in” staff the processes and procedures of the customer service staff. In four hours I can do the job of the person who is picketing.

    If Verizon wanted to or was able to I can guarantee that they could replace ALL of the union workers in less than 1 month considering the number of unemployed out there who would leap at the opportunity of a job with a major Fortune 500 right about now.

    I on the other hand had to obtain a computer science degree and must pay thousands of dollars out of my own pocket each year to maintain my various technical certifications simply to remain relevant in the business.

    Look , I do not like this new age of the powerful corporation any more than the union workers and I realize what they are trying to accomplish but it is too late – the game changed decades ago.

    If unions keep this up I can guarantee that they only manage to speed up the already hasty demise of the American worker.

    Unions are simply no longer relevant in today’s world.

    • Wow, could have not said it better Mark. I agree with you 100%.

    • Wow Mark, I can see that with all the education that you have you were never taught a thing about the working class Americans! You are crying about having to work 12 hours with no OT if there is a strike. Do you realize why there is a 40 hour work week? Thank your nearest Union member. I cannot stand that the talking heads have turned so many uneducated Americans against the last line of defence of corporate greed. They have succeeded in making almost an issue a well i dont have it so why should they? ( OT, Health care, Vacation time, sick time some form of retirement after spending 30 years building a company) Are these not things that everyone wants and should have?

    • To all the Anti Union Suporters. You may well have your own reasons and i do respect that but please think about this. If all the unions are allowed to be broken in this country Do YOU REALLY think that the greedy corporate pigs will give anyone there fair share? Do you not realize without a union scale wage they will be able to say that all jobs for this company are $10 an hour job. And when that happens ( It would) the private sector will follow. So when we finally reach a 2 class society and And wait on lines at health clinics people will be talking about Remember when there were Unions!!!!

    • You couldnt learn the customer service job in four hours if your life depended on it. YOu have no idea what it is like to do customer service for eight straight hours at verizon. Mark- get a life.

  5. I feel bad for you. It sounds like you need a union.

  6. It is funny how the decline of the Union Workers over the past couple of decades hasn’t improved our economy or the financial stability of our country. Good paying jobs is what drives our economy. If middle class Americans are not making money, who is going to buy these products and services that these corporations are trying to market and sell. So go ahead and keep attacking us union workers, and if you succeed in driving us from the workplace than this country will really be in trouble. BTW, raises based on performance would DESTROY Verizon. If the only way I get a raise is to fly through my work, do you really think I would care about quality or what your house looks like when I’m done.

  7. Look at it this way: VZ made 600M on wireline in the first 6 months compared to 9B or so ?
    Now, most of the money is coming out of Wireless side where there are only non-unions. The 45K or so union is not generating much revenue. These folks have better health insurance coverage than the non-union workers! They strike and the non-union workers have to pitch in to do their job as well …. in a bad miserable economy, in a Nation with debt crisis. I think these folks are absolute morons and dont deserve a job, all the more when thousands are banging the door for a job.

    Lets get rid off these stupid unions, get contract workers who are more competitive and performing.

    • While it’s true that Wireless profits are higher than Wireline profits, both segments grew last year and in the first two quarters of this year. Verizon’s CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg recently told investors that both segments are positioned for sustained growth. What this profit differential means is that Verizon’s non-union workers aren’t receiving a fair share of the value they produce.

  8. company makes billions in profits,top executives make millions.job are outsourced.people are directing thier frustrations in the wrong place.it is corporate america that needs an overhaul.why do you people think that there are so many people to feel these positions.because corporate america is selling the middle class and the country right down the shitter

  9. Unbelievable….I left the company a year ago. I was a consultant. I have my Masters degree. They deserve what they get at Verizon. There is no way to learn the consultant position in four hours. You are just an angry member of management that has a napoleon complex because the union members make more than you. I left because the company was headed this way. Corporate greed. I spent 8 to 10 hours a day selling everything but the sink to the customers for that company, and we were all treated like crap everyday. Go Red!!!

  10. I wonder if there is something that this company wont do to save money. It seems that the tons of money that they save on tech support with indian, mexican & other 3rd world countries agents is not enough.

  11. i would like to see are ceo live on what he want’s union workers to accept. go red

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