Sunday, August 7, 2011

Verizon Strike - Could Be A Long One

I'll front this post by saying my Dad worked for AT&T as a technician for about 30 years, retiring right around divestiture. I was only 11 but remember the long strike (over 100 days) in 1968 like it was yesterday. I've also been teaching telecommunications classes to NYNEX, Bell Atlantic and now Verizon technicians since 1995 as part of the Verizon NextStep program, I've had hundreds of Verizon technicians in my classes and have always been impressed.

Verizon is actually two separate companies when it comes to unionization. There is the landline side - what most of us would call the traditional telephone company. 45,000 Verizon landline employees are unionized and represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). These employees are on the east coast, ranging from D.C. north to Massachusetts. Verizon Wireless is non-union and has coverage across the United States.

It's no secret the landline business is in decline and the company is currently focused on building out the wireless business. Here's the sticky points as listed by William Huber, president of IBEW Local 827 in New Jersey:

  • Verizon wants to tie pay increases to performance review.
  • Verizon wants the union workers to contribute to health-plan premiums.
  • Verizon wants to freeze pensions at the end of this year.
  • Verizon wants to eliminate the sickness and death program
  • Verizon wants to cut the sickness disability benefits from 52 to 26 weeks.
I've always been impressed with the work ethic of the technicians, starting with my Dad who went about 19 years without taking a sick day. I see the same level of work and family commitment I saw in my Dad in today's Verizon technicians.

I do think this strike could rival my Dad's long 1968 strike in length. Hope I'm wrong.

Update 8/8/11 at 6:39 AM

Here's a piece of an interesting email I got from one of the technicians I had in class a while ago:

"We were told for the last year that Ivan was stepping down as CEO after the contract was done. When the news came out a couple weeks ago that he was stepping down a week before the contract expired, we should have known that was not good. We always received decent contracts from Ivan. From what I hear the company would not back down on any of their demands, even late Saturday, I also heard the union had agreed to pay some towards healthcare."

Ivan Seidenberg worked his way up in the company the old school way, starting as a cable splicer (he was in the union) out of high school. Lowell McAdam, the new President and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon, came up a different path.


Barbara W said...

I am worried about my land line. With only one cell phone in the family, we depend on the old fashioned technology. What a pity that the shareholders' demands are ripping off customers. Where does this end? And, what will happen to the VERIZON classes here at STCC?

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

Things are moving very rapidly. One of the good things about the Verizon NextStep program is we've been able to keep up with the technology changes.
Even though Verizon Wireless is non-union the strike is stil going to impact wireless services. The fiber that runs out to the towers is installed and maintained by the landline (unionized) part of the company. This will not just impact Verizon Wirless but companies like AT&T wireless, etc.
And it will also impact power to your home - unionized utility workers for NSTAR and National Grid say they're prepared to honor the Verizon strike.

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

I believe this anonymously posted comment came in under the wrong post and was meant to go here.

"This doesn't just affect the residential land line. Verizon bought MCI and as part of the Business/Govt market we are grouped into the land line division."