Hundreds of Communications Workers of America members and their supporters on May 3 rallied at the Verizon shareholder meeting in Huntsville, Alabama demanding that the company stop diverting money that could be used to support good-paying jobs for tens of thousands of workers and improve services for millions of customers into the pockets of a few overpaid executives. The union also told Verizon to pay its fair share of taxes.
They were joined by thousands of others who passed out flyers about Verizon’s corporate greed at hundreds of Verizon Wireless stores across the US from the East Coast to the West Coast and even in Hawaii.
“Enough of the attacks on middle-class jobs while paying executives obscene salaries and dodging taxes,” said Ron Collins, CWA chief of staff. “Enough of outsourcing good jobs to low-wage workers here and overseas. Enough of deepening the digital divide in communities most in need of a reliable and fast internet connection. Together with activists who have raised their voices at dozens of shareholders’ meetings and other events during this 99 Percent Spring, we are building a movement. A movement of people who are fed up and ready to stand united against corporate greed and impunity.”
In addition, CWA organized a nationwide call-in. Supporters were given the phone number of Verizon’s headquarters and urged to leave a message saying that they were fed up with Verizon’s corporate greed.
A new document, Broken Connections: an Alternative Annual Report for Verizon that demonstrators passed out at the shareholders’ meeting, gives some concrete examples of how Verizon’s greed has undermined customer service and hurt its workers.
For example, in order to expand its control of markets that depend on internet service, Verizon lobbied and took legal action to overturn a Federal Communications Commission’s decision to protect the open internet. Verizon also partnered with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an anti-worker and anti-consumer protection group, to eliminate state telephone consumer protection laws.
And recently, millions of Verizon Wireless customers were surprised when they were charged a $30 upgrade fee for all Verizon cell phones.
Meanwhile, Verizon is demanding that its workers agree to contract concessions worth $1 billion that will cost each Verizon CWA member about $20,000. Among other things, Verizon wants to freeze pensions and eliminate them for new hires, make retirees and employees pay as much as $6,700 more a year for health care coverage, eliminate job security, ship more jobs overseas, eliminate sick days for new hires, and deny disability benefits for workers injured on the job.
Verizon isn’t seeking $1 billion from its workers and charging its customers a $30 upgrade fee because it’s facing hard times; in fact, it has been quite profitable. Between 2007 and 2010, Verizon earned $22 billion in profit and in 2011 paid dividends worth $10 billion.
Current economic conventional wisdom holds that when companies like Verizon do well, they create jobs, but over the last four years, Verizon has eliminated 68,700 Wireline jobs and shipped many of them overseas.
While Verizon was eliminating good-paying jobs for workers, it was paying its executive officers top dollar. Over the last five years, compensation for the company’s top five executives totaled $349 million. Last year Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams had his annual compensation raised from $7 million to $23 million, $5 million more than outgoing CEO Ivan Seidenberg.
This lack of fairness sparked a two-week strike of Verizon’s East Coast Wireline workers and a group of Wireless workers in New York last August. The workers returned to work after Verizon promised to bargain in good faith, but the company has done little to change its concession demands, prompting CWA to file a bad faith bargaining charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
CWA and the Verizon workers it represents want Verizon to change its greedy ways and share its wealth with those who make it possible–its workers and its customers.
“A few people want all the money,” said Matt Rivera, a 14-year Verizon worker. “Everyone can see how much the company wants to take from us–even though they’re making much more, they want to give us much less.”