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45,000 Verizon Communications workers go on strike at contract expiration

“Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Or maybe it DOES…! :-)

If “you” are the management of Verizon Communications, and “I” am one of your employees….

For the first time in 11 YEARS, Union leaders representing 45,000 workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states decided to call a strike, which began at 12.01 AM Eastern Time today. Most of the striking workers are field technicians or call-center workers who are represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Contracts with the two unions EXPIRED, from Virginia to Massachusetts. Verizon Wireless customers are NOT affected by the strike. After 45,000 Verizon workers walked off the job today, the NEW CEO (Doesn’t that just “speak volumes?” :-) ), Lowell McAdam sent a letter to management to justify the need to extract better contract terms, stating that the company must make “additional hard decisions” to keep the cost of its wireline business in check.

(Note added August 09, 2011: Have you ever noticed that when corporate management makes “hard” decisions, that they are usually only “hard” for the employees, and not generally for the management? :-) )

According to CNET News:

“It’s no secret that the wireline business has experienced a 10-year decline in our customer base and in profitability, despite investing billions in improving our network, processes and systems,” McAdam said in a note posted on the company’s Web site. “Now, we’re asking our union-represented employees to help us on a variety of issues that could streamline our processes and further reduce our wireline cost structure while keeping their overall compensation and benefits among the best in corporate America.”

A union statement had THIS to say:

“More than 45,000 workers are on strike today at Verizon Communications. Bargaining continues. Since bargaining began on June 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired, nearly 100 concessionary company proposals remained on the table.

As a result, CWA and IBEW have decided to take the unprecedented step of striking until Verizon stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.

Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle class workers and their families.”

I know that a lot of people have “knee-jerk” reactions at the mention of “unions,” either “pro” or “con.” :-) I like to keep my knees under control, :-) take in data, and evaluate each case on its own merits. ALL of the high-tech companies for which I worked were non-union – a fact that MIGHT explain the deplorable working conditions at SOME (and only some) of them! The only union-related activities in which I have participate were in part-time jobs involved with teaching and music. Yes, for a couple of years, I was a proud member of the American Federation of Musicians. My father was a member of the “office union” at a large electrical company which still exists in name, but no longer as a major force in its industry. Like my father, I was severely exploited by most of the corporations that employed me. I think that MOST non-management employees (and most MANAGEMENT employees, too! :-) ) at MOST corporations are!

With recent actions by the current Governor (and government) of Wisconsin, actions by the current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (from Ohio), and anti-labor actions by the government of Ohio, I am becoming ashamed to say that I spent most of my life in Ohio and seven years in Wisconsin. Hopefully, both states (and the House of Representatives) will “wise up” soon.

Verizon’s wireline business showed a 0.3% decline in revenue in the second quarter, an IMPROVEMENT from the 2.2% decline in the first quarter. In contrast to the decline in its TRADITIONAL phone business, Verizon’s FiOS service, which offers faster Internet and television services, has been a GROWTH area for the company! Communications Workers of America spokesperson, Bob Master, told CNN that some conversations were still going on, but he called the bargaining the “the worst we’ve ever seen in 50 years.” Master said the company is demanding rollbacks of wages, benefits and union rules while posting profits of up to $6 billion.

“Verizon is not General Motors or Ford,” Master said. “This is a company that has made billions upon billions of dollars. Because of the recession and anti-union climate, they have decided to try and drive down the middle-class standards of our members.”

In the past TWO contract negotiations, talks were extended past the contract deadline because progress occurred at the bargaining table, and strikes were averted. The last strike (18 days) occurred in the year 2000 and included more than 86,000 workers.

THIS time however (NEW CEO? Unreasonable demands? Inflexible positions? :-) ), management and labor were too far enough apart at the contract deadline.

Well, if McAdam knows (from his message) that the wireline business had experienced “… a 10-year decline in our customer base and in profitability, despite investing billions in improving our network, processes and systems,” then it did not take any FORESIGHT to see the problem. Obviously a lack of proper planning had been occurring for a long time. Sadly, at most conservative (some say “stodgy”) corporations (telecommunications companies are in this group), WORKERS have almost NO input into the planning process, so they are being penalized for management’s failure to plan.

It isn’t like the decline of VOICE communications over wire was unpredictable (or had not already been occurring for 10 years). :-)

The future belongs to the adaptable, and foresight helps! Promote the right people, not people who “think just like you.”

(Note added August 21, 2011: Verizon employees will return to work on Monday, August 22, but are still without a contract.)

-Bill at

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