Starting on August 8th, 45,000 workers at the Verizon telephone company went on strike. The company wants major concessions from a section of the Verizon workforce which has union rights and benefits. Verizon is attempting to break the unions that represent these workers, and strip away their benefits. The Verizon workers are absolutely right to try and draw a line against these concessions.
Who is on Strike?
The Verizon workforce on strike are the wireline workers who maintain the fixed line services, including phone lines, DSL internet, and TV cable. These workers are mostly concentrated in the East Coast around New York. They are organized in two unions, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). They have gone on strike six times since 1980, winning pensions and good health benefits.
These are workers who have worked for decades. Today however they are a minority of employees in the company. As technology has changed the workforce has grown. Out of 190,000 employees, only 30 percent are wireline workers. The rest are newer workers who do work with wireless and cell phone services. But these workers have no union and don’t receive the benefits the wireline workers have won.
Verizon is taking advantage of the changes in technology to attack the wireline workers. Verizon wants to freeze pensions and to make workers pay thousands of dollars per year for their health care. They want to penalize the wages of workers who don’t meet job performance standards. And they even want to take away two paid federal holidays – Veteran’s Day and Martin Luther King Day. It is shameful that Verizon has profited from these workers for decades before wireless technology became available, and now they want to throw them away.
Verizon’s Huge Profits
Verizon management says they are losing money on their wireline services because no one uses phone lines anymore. In fact Verizon is extremely profitable, making $10.2 billion in profits in 2010. In the first half of this year Verizon has already made $6.9 billion. The CEO Lowell McAdam and four other top executives are getting $258 million in bonuses stock options and salaries this year.
Drawing a Line Against Concessions
The strike began when negotiations broke down between Verizon and the unions. With the contract coming to an end, the wireline workers refused to work without a contract, with 90 percent voting in favor of a strike. Many workers and not just those at Verizon feel like they need to draw a line against these attacks. On July 30th even before the strike began 10,000 people rallied in protest at Verizon Corporate Headquarters in New York. On August 17th, thousands of people protested the New York Department of Education as it signed a $120 million contract with Verizon.
The Real Solution is For Workers to Fight Together
The future is not decided for the Verizon workers. They might be able to get a contract with fewer concessions than Verizon wants. But this is not a real solution. It is just the lesser of evils. But a real solution is possible. How many workers are in the same situation as the Verizon workers? How many jobs that still have pensions and health care benefits are under attack? And what about the non-union workers at Verizon and everywhere else? We could fight together against the attacks we face. We could stop accepting concessions, and instead we could begin to fight for the things we need.