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Verizon: Lining Their Pockets With Taxpayer Money While Workers Walk Out In Strike

NALC Members Stand With IBEW and CWA Members Against VerizonVerizon is not just a case study of what’s wrong with our economy – it’s also a classic example of what’s wrong with our politics.

A couple of years ago, the Sunlight Foundation investigated 200 of America’s most “politically active” corporations, and how much each one received in federal contracts and financial support.  Verizon was #14 on their list.  Look at the report and do the math yourselfLess than $100 million in political spending, and they received $3.5 billion back from the federal government… which would mean Verizon got about $35 back for every dollar of political spending.  And that’s just in federal contracts and federal financial support.

But their lobbying has had other benefits, too.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Verizon spent about $12 million on federal lobbying last year.  They had 98 federal lobbyists promoting the corporation’s interests on issues including immigration, international trade, healthcare and the environment.  But the leading issue was taxes.  LOTS of lobbying on taxes.  (See it all here.)  Which might explain the corporation’s federal tax rate.  According to Citizens for Tax Justice, Verizon’s effective federal tax rate is… negative.

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And that’s just at the federal level.  Verizon has a business segment of “State and Local Government Solutions.”

The National Institute on Money in State Politics shows more than $22 million in political contributions from Verizon-affiliated organizations to candidates for state and local office. (Who knew?  Verizon has “Good Government Clubs” in California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania and Virginia. “Clubs” ??!?)

Can’t help but notice Verizon’s recent press release: “Verizon selected as provider on $150 million Commonwealth of Virginia network and communications contract.”  The National Institute on Money in State Politics tracks $3 million in political contributions to Virginia politicians.  Can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection.

(Can’t help but wonder how many other states would show the same pattern, if anyone took the time to look.)

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Meanwhile – can’t help but notice – the corporation is racking up OSHA violations and FCC penalties and financial redress via the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers are now on strike, after working without a contract since last August.  Read more NHLN coverage here.

Update From CWA On Possible Verizon Strike Tomorrow

standwithvzworkers-bannerWith Verizon executives refusing to give up demands on offshoring jobs and other devastating cuts, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers are preparing to go on strike on Wednesday at 6:00 am.   

 The Communications Workers of America made this statement:

“The 39,000 hard-working families at Verizon have made the company successful. Given Verizon’s enormous profitability there is no justification for the company’s continuing demands to destroy good middle-class jobs and offshore work. Workers have negotiated in good faith for ten months and addressed the company’s primary concern, which they told us was limiting health care costs. Workers and the customers who depend on us would be much better served if Verizon returned to the bargaining table and negotiated a fair agreement that fairly addressed the concerns of their workforce.

“Marc Reed and other Verizon executives are trying to rig the system against working families. The question of federal mediation is a distraction to the real problem: Verizon’s corporate greed.  Historically, federal mediators only get involved in collective bargaining situations with the agreement of both parties.  CWA did not authorize anyone at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to approach Verizon about extending the strike date. Either the FMCS acted without authorization or Verizon executive vice president Marc Reed is lying.

“All day today, CWA and IBEW bargaining teams have been available to meet, ready, able and willing to bargain. Where’s Verizon?”

Communications Workers of America Statement on Verizon Contract Talks

 CWA-blue-line

New York – With collective bargaining agreements between Verizon and 39,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) expiring at midnight tonight, the Communications Workers of America announced today that they had put a constructive, comprehensive new bargaining proposal across the table at negotiations in Rye, NY that would offer the company significant healthcare and retiree cost savings. The proposal was made last night and union bargainers are currently waiting for a response from Verizon.

“It’s time for management to get serious, and back off its insistence on slashing the living standards of our members,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One, which covers Verizon workers from New Jersey to Massachusetts.  “Verizon made $1 billion in profits every single month for 18 straight months and paid their top executives $249 million in the last five years.  Only their unrestrained corporate greed stands in the way of a fair contract settlement.” 

In Philadelphia, the bargaining committee in negotiations for the mid-Atlantic bargaining units has reported it has yet to see any indication of substantive movement from the Company.

“The company hasn’t moved off its initial June 22nd proposal that made outrageous demands of Verizon workers.  If this company is serious about reaching an agreement, it needs to start bargaining constructively and now, “said Ed Mooney, President for CWA District 2-13, whi ch represents Verizon workers from Pennsylvania to Virginia.  “Right now there isn’t even anyone across the table from us who’s got the power to make any decisions.”   

Verizon has refused to budge from its outrageous initial bargaining proposal, made on June 22nd, which includes the following contract changes: 

  • Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
  • Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
  • Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs.  This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of call center jobs in recent years.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Reducing overtime and differential payments.
  • Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides paid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

At the same time, Verizon refuses to build out FiOS to many underserved communities up and down the East Coast, and has abandoned upkeep of the traditional landline network, leading to extensive service problems for consumers.  In these negotiations, the union members’ interest is linked directly to the public interest, since our jobs involve maintaining quality service on traditional landlines and building and servicing Verizon’s state of the art FiOS broadband network.  Even in New York City, where Verizon pledged to make FiOS available to every customer by the end of 2014, the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications issued a report finding that the company was evading the buildout commitments it made under its 2008 video franchise agreement. 

“86% of our members have voted to authorize a strike if necessary, but we remain hopeful that Verizon will negotiate a contract that increases maintenance of landlines, builds new high-speed fiber and pays the men and women who work for Verizon a decent wage with healthcare and retirement security,” Mooney added.  “The ball is in their court – we will see tonight if they are serious.” 

Background on Contract Negotiations 

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon.  Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time. 

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. This came on top of $4.2 billion in profits in 1Q2015, which means Verizon has made $1 billion in profits every month for the last 18 months. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

Related:

CWA Launches Radio Ads in Seven Regions Slamming Verizon’s Failure to Develop FiOS Broadband Service

New York State Mayors Join CWA at Bargaining Table, Tell Verizon to Stop Stalling on FiOS

Verizon Workers: We’re Ready to Strike

 Thousands Rally in New York to Reject Verizon’s Demands to Eliminate Job Security, Slash Pensions, and Increase Health Care Costs

With a Week Remaining Before Contract Expiration, CWA and IBEW Demand Good Jobs, and Verizon Commitment to Good Service and FiOS for All

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New York – At a rally today with thousands of workers and supporters, the Communications Workers of America announced that 86% of Verizon workers voted over the last two weeks to authorize a strike if necessary.  The contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

“Our members are clear and they are determined – they reject management’s harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers’ health care costs, and slashing retirement security. Verizon made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014, and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone. Their demands are completely outrageous and unwarranted,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One. 

The union and its supporters also pointed to the company’s refusal to build out its state-of-the-art FiOS network and its lack of investment in maintaining the original copper network. 

“On the one hand, Verizon refuses to build its high-speed FiOS network in lower-income areas.  And on the other, they are systemically ignoring maintenance needs on their landline network,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, which covers Pennsylvania to Virginia.  “This leaves customers at the mercy of a cable monopoly or stuck with deteriorating service while Verizon executives and shareholders rake in billions.”

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process. 

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.

In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services.  Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement.  Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions.  On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline.  

“The 2.5 million members of the New York State AFL-CIO will stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of CWA and IBEW in their fight for fairness,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “It is through their hard work and dedication that Verizon continues to rake in huge profits. Yet bargaining proposals offered by Verizon punish workers by taking away job security, reducing pension benefits, and increasing health care costs. The dedicated men and women of CWA and IBEW deserve better. Our brothers and sisters will have the full resources of the NYS AFL-CIO at their disposal until a fair contract is reached.” 

 

Background

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon.  Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time.  

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

But at the bargaining table, the story is different. Verizon is demanding:

  • Elimination of long-standing job security protections including protections against layoffs and forced transfers.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Sharply increasing health care cost contributions.  Higher deductibles, co-pays and premium sharing.  Remove the union’s right to negotiate over retiree health care.
  • Vastly increasing ability to contract out of work.
  • Off-shoring call center jobs.
  • Elimination of cost-of-living raises.
  • Eliminate Accident Disability Plan for workers injured on the job.
  • Eliminate 20-year old Family Care Leave policy.

 

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