CWA and IBEW, two unions that represent 39,000 Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, announced that the unions will strike Verizon beginning at 6 A.M. on April 13 unless a fair new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
The strike will be the largest work stoppage in the US since the same Verizon workers went on a two-week strike in 2011.
Bargaining representatives for both unions said that Verizon’s greed is the cause of this strike.
“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 vice president Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”
“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”
CWA and IBEW have been bargaining with Verizon for ten months. In August, their collective bargaining agreement expired, but the unions agreed to continue negotiations in hopes of finding common ground that would make a fair agreement possible.
In March, the unions proposed a path for addressing the company’s critical needs including health care cost savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Instead of responding to unions’ proposals with proposals that addressed the union workers’ critical needs, the company continued to demand steep concessions.
In addition, Verizon told union negotiators that unless the unions accepted these concessions by May 20, the company would start transferring technicians without their consent to any place where Verizon does business in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
The transfers would last for up to two months. During that time, workers would be forced to live away from their homes and families.
“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Virginia, who has been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”
In addition to asserting more control over their employees time away from work, Verizon is demanding concessions that, according to the unions would “gut job security protections, contract out more of our work, freeze our pensions at 30 years of service, and shutter call centers and offshore the jobs to Mexico and the Philippines.”
Verizon also wants to eliminate profit sharing and raise health care costs for retirees. In addition, the company refuses to offer wage increases and benefit improvements to it unionized Wireless workers.
Verizon is demanding all these concessions at a time when the company is extremely profitable.
During the last three years, the company booked profits of $39 billion. During the first three months of 2016, Verizon has averaged $1.8 billion a month in profits.
Verizon executives have been amply compensated for the company’s profitability.
Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam was paid $18 million last year, 200 hundred more times than the average Verizon worker.
Over the last five years, Verizon’s top five executives were paid $233 million.
Shareholders have also been treated generously.
“Last year alone, Verizon paid out $13.5 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to shareholders. But they claim they can’t afford a fair contract,” reads a message that CWA sent to members about the upcoming strike.
“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, vice president, CWA District 2-13. “This very profitable company wants to push people down.”
Mooney also criticized Verizon for not fulfilling its promise to expand its fiber optic network (FIOS) to communities that are not adequately served by high-speed internet service and for not maintaining it copper wire network that enables land line services to homes and businesses.
Verizon doesn’t just want to push down its workers it also wants to “push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”