Last week members of the Communication Workers Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers called attention to two Verizon board members whose business practices reflect disdain for people whose work has made them rich and a sense of privilege that justifies taking handouts from the government while ignoring their own social responsibilities.
The two unions, which represent 45,000 Verizon East Coast workers, have been negotiating a contract with the company for more than a year. Verizon is demanding concessions that destroy retirement security for new hires, make retirement less secure for current workers, reduce health care benefits, gut contract provisions that protect good-paying middle class jobs, and take away rights that give workers a voice on the job.
The two unions went out on strike for two weeks last August but returned to work when Verizon agreed to resume good faith negotiations; the company, however, has refused to make significant changes to its last offer–an offer that CWA estimates would cost each Verizon union worker $20,000 over the life of the three-year contract.
The unions and their supporters held actions at 300 locations in the US and Puerto Rico to shine a light on two Verizon board members: Clarence Otis and Richard Carrión. The unions were joined by Jobs with Justice, the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and Restaurant Opportunities Center.
“Mr. Otis and Mr. Carrión are each paid $230,000 per year to direct Verizon’s business,” said CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson. “It’s time for them to step up and make Verizon management recognize the contributions of front line workers who have helped the company become so successful.”
In addition to being a Verizon board member, Otis is CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns national brand restaurants such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Capital Grille.
Workers at Capital Grille restaurants in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC in January filed suit against Darden charging the company with wage theft, workplace abuses, and racial discrimination. (The racial discrimination charge was subsequently dropped, but attorneys for the plaintiffs plan to refile charges in separate pleadings.)
Capital Grille workers in Los Angeles and Miami joined the suit in February.
Among other things, the suit says that Capital Grille management forced workers to work off the clock without pay, kept a portion of tips from private parties intended for tipped employees, required tipped employees whose hourly pay rate is as little as $2.13 an hour to perform non-tipped duties at their tipped employee pay rate, and forced tipped employees to split tips with non-tipped employees, which was done to help keep non-tipped wages low.
“I remember times they would check us out early,” said Carlos Marban, a dishwasher at Capital Grille in Chicago. “They would just clock us out before we finished; we would still be taking out the garbage. . . and a half hour of your pay is gone.”
While Capital Grille may be cheating low paid workers like Marban out of hard earned wages, its parent company Darden is making hefty profits. According to Restaurant Opportunities Center, which is helping Darden workers organize, Darden’s net income for 2011 was more than $500 million, and it paid its CEO $8 million in total compensation.
CWA, IBEW, and their supporters also conducted actions at Banco Popular, a Puerto Rican-based bank with outlets in major US cities. Carrión is the CEO of Banco Popular. Carrión also sits on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, Banco Popular still owes the US government $935 million in bailout funds that the bank obtained during the 2008 financial crisis.
The government bailout was made necessary in part by bad loans like one made to Carrión’s nephew Jose Vizcarrondo, who used a Banco Popular loan to purchase a residential construction project for $13.5 million and ended up losing $8.6 million on the deal.
Despite the bad loans and the fact that Banco Popular still owes the US government nearly $1 billion, Carrión’s total compensation for 2011 was $2.55 million.
Unlike Otis and Carrión, Verizon and Darden workers won’t be getting oversized compensation packages and government bailouts to help them maintain or obtain a decent standard of living. Instead, Verizon is demanding that their workers accept cuts to their living standard and Darden appears to be nickel and diminig its workers into poverty–all in the name of higher profits and higher stock prices.t clock you out and a half an hour is gone of your pay.”