Nearly 40,000 Verizon wireline and cable workers workers went on strike yesterday. The unions had been in negotiation with Verizon for the last 10 months, as negotiations fell through workers took to the picket lines in states up and down the East Coast. Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders immediately showed his support for the unionized workers.
Members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have united “ to maintain good jobs and maintain our standard of living” according to Keith Purce, president of CWA Local 1101
The strikers are comprised of wireline workers in CT, DE, NY, NJ, Massachusetts, PA, RI, MD, VA and Washington, D.C. These workers mainly are responsible for Verizon’s landline phone systems and Fios cable system.
The strikers contest that Verizon is seeking to move jobs offshore, outsource work to low-wage contractors, close call centers, and force technicians to go on months-long assignments away from home. The unions also say that Verizon has cut staff instead of living up to promises to install more FiOS fiber lines.
Verizon contends that the workers are being unrealistic in their expectations and are ignoring the differences in technology advancement since the last time contracts were negotiated.
Verizon spokesman Rich
“This is about the union unwilling to work with us to make these old legacy contracts reflect today’s modern digital age,”Verizon spokesman Rich Young has said.
But is Verizon wrong? You can’t argue the fact that more and more people are moving from landlines to wireless. I don’t have a house phone, I don’t know many people who still do. I live in Maryland where Fios, which is internet and is offered but it it not available in My area. It’s not available in most areas of Baltimore in fact. Cable subscriptions are going down daily thanks to companies like Netflix and Hulu.
According to The New York Times, The wireline business generated about 29 percent of Verizon’s revenue in 2015, but accounted for only 7 percent of its operating income. Over the last few years, Verizon’s wireless business has consistently grown at least 7 percent a year, whereas its wireline business has shrunk slightly — in the last year, about 2 percent.
It’s hard not to see valid arguments from both sides
The unions have the backing of many of the mayors of East Coast states. 14 mayors have given them a letter about the fiber optic issue and one from 20 United States senators urging Verizon to act as a “responsible corporate citizen” and negotiate fairly with its workers.”
Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders who was in New York campaigning, went to visit the striking workers on the picket line. “Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country,” the Vermont Senator told them. “They want to outsource decent paying jobs, they want to give their CEO $20 million a year.” He also took to Twitter to congratulate them on their courage in taking the risk of striking.
“I know how hard it is, what a difficult decision it is to go out on strike. I know you’ve thought a whole lot about it, and I know your families will pay a price. Today you are standing up not just for justice for Verizon workers, you’re standing up for millions of Americans who don’t have a union,” Senator Bernie Sanders told the striking Verizon workers.
Verizon doesn’t want their customers to worry, they issued a statement saying that they have trained thousands of non-union employees over the years in order to prevent service outages for Verizon customers.
Hillary Clinton, who has given speeches for Verizon in the past, has said that she was ‘‘disappointed’’ that negotiations had broken down between Verizon and its unions.
‘‘Verizon should come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘To preserve and grow America’s middle class, we need to protect good wages and benefits, including retirement security.’’
She showed up on the picket lines as well, shook some hands and took photos but did not take time to give a speech or voice her opinion among the strikers.
Both management and the unions say Verizon smart-phone customers should not be affected. Verizon employs about 177,000 workers. We will definitely be watching to see how this plays out.