Verizon workers hit picket lines from Mass. to Va.
Strikers said it was wrong to separate them from the company’s overall profitability _ Young said it made $3 billion in the first half of this year _ because they are the underpinnings of the profitable wireless sector.
Paula Lopez, 60, a customer service representative on a picket line in New York, acknowledged that fewer people used land line phones but said land lines were “the stepping stones and building blocks for wireless. … That’s where they got the money to start up the wireless.”
“We built this company and we gave them the ability to have wireless,” said Lori Speciale, vice president of IBEW 2214, on a picket line in Buffalo.
The company acknowledged that wireless is not totally independent of the landline workers and that FiOS cable TV, Internet and phone packages, which the strikers install and maintain, are profitable. But Young said the company could not ignore that the divisions the strikers work for were unprofitable overall.
Demonstrators also complained that the company was squeezing them when high-level executives were making millions.
Mark Maurer, a customer representative, said as he demonstrated in Garden City, N.Y., “What I find hard to understand is how the executive compensation could be so obscene in this day and age.”
Young said executive pay was based on performance and had been approved by stockholders.
Analyst Entner said the problem is, “The company is half in trouble.”
He said the loss of land lines is accelerating “and only with the introduction of FiOS has that been stemmed. The workers know that, but they also know their checks come from a big, profitable company.
“So we’re in concession bargaining, with the company saying we need concessions or jobs will be lost and the workers doubting jobs will be lost because the company is doing all right,” Entner said.
Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the stakes were high enough for both sides that he doubted a strike of more than a week. Verizon’s last strike, by 86,000 workers, lasted two weeks in 2000 and caused many repair delays.
“This kind of bargaining, with pensions and health insurance givebacks, is happening everywhere now,” he said. “The union worries about opening the door on these things but they don’t want a long strike.”
AT&T Inc., the only U.S. phone company larger than Verizon, wrung some concessions from unions in 2009, when contracts covering about 90,000 workers expired. The negotiations ended without a strike, and with workers shouldering some premiums and co-payments for their health insurance.