August 10, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress Reporter
Sean, Dana and Gary were just three of numerous CWA 1101 members picketing during their lunch hour outside Verizon’s headquarters at 140 West Street on what the union has billed “Solidarity Thursdays.” As federal mediation between Verizon and CWA continues in Washington, D.C., Al Russo, CWA’s 1101 Vice President, who led different chants to mobilize the membership, said there’s a chance that the mediation process may continue past Friday, but there’s also the possibility that the company might impose its last offer.
That offer is no different from what the company proposed one year ago this month, which includes givebacks in health care, pension cuts and more outsourcing of work outside the U.S. and to low-wage, low-benefit domestic contractors, according to Russo.
Sean’s been working 15 years as a technician in a central office and said he’s never seen the company as aggressive as it is now in demanding concessions from the union.
“I didn’t think Verizon would make these kinds of demands that’ll set us back decades,” Sean said.
As there is a possibility that the CWA and IBEW might go on strike, Sean believes it just might be necessary as the company plays hardball.
“They want us to give up so much, yet all of Verizon’s top executives are getting more money. I don’t have a problem with them making good money, but not at our sacrifice.”
He noted that, among his co-workers, they’d prefer to see negotiations prevail rather than go out on strike, but “If we have to strike to preserve our benefits we will. We can’t allow the company to turn a good job into a crappy job.”
Gary does digital cross connections in a central office. A telecom worker for 16 years, Gary said, “Nobody really wants to strike, but it’s a shame we may be left with that option because the company is making a lot of money so we shouldn’t be going through this.”
Asked if he was ready to go back on strike as his union did one year ago, “We’re not going to settle for going backwards. If that’s what it takes, we’re willing to do it,” said Gary.
Dana, also a central office technician, has worked 29 years as a telecom worker in the city. “I’ve been working 29 years and they want to freeze my pension one year before my 30th year. I’ll stand out here as long as it takes.”
As with the other union members picketing outside Verizon, Dana expressed frustration over the total compensation of Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdam, which more than tripled to $23.1 million after the company’s shares rose 11 percent since his promotion from chief operating officer, according to Bloomberg News.
Dana mentioned that on the Stop the Cap website, stopthecap.com, McAdam makes it very clear that he and his top executives want to invest more on the wireless side of the business while divesting its rural landline infrastructure and completely eliminating copper by moving the services onto the company’s FiOS network.
Indeed, McAdam spoke about these topics to an audience of Wall Street investors back in June at the Guggenheim Securities Symposium. A transcript of McAdam’s remarks and answers are available via http://www.phillipdampier.com/documents/vz-guggen_6_21_12.pdf
The interviewer asks McAdam, “Is there a view at the union that they can be part of the solution or how does that work?”
McAdam answers that copper is no longer sustainable and claims that techs in the field and reps in the business offices are telling him that.
“We have to get the union leadership to understand that if the company is able to be more flexible in meeting customer needs then we can grow things like FiOS, which will provide good long-term jobs.”
But in the same breadth he acknowledges that jobs will be fewer and uses General Motors’ experiences as his rationale.
“….The analogy I use is we can hang on just like GM did until they have a massive event and then everything gets reset at once or we can take incremental steps as we go along.”
Russo, CWA 1101’s VP, after taking a break from rallying the members, said, “The members of CWA are ready to go out and fight for what we deserve. We built this network and the company has made billions. If the company can triple the CEO’s pay, then there’s no reason it can’t meet our modest demands.” firstname.lastname@example.org