Verizon on strike: is the middle class really in peril?

With no end in sight, the varying group of red-clad picketers at the Verizon location just around the corner from me promises to be a sight I’ll see for awhile – at least until the economic reality of making no money from working begins to rear its ugly head. According to reports like this, the union and company have been far apart in negotiations.

The Communications Workers of America union calls the strike “standing up for middle class jobs.” Their complaint is that an immensely profitable Verizon has “regressive demands” which “would roll back 50 years of bargaining gains.” Too, the union condemns the “Wisconsin-style tactics” employed by the company.

And the union is getting support in its efforts – for example, the Teamsters who represent UPS workers have ordered drivers not to make deliveries to Verizon facilities where they would cross a picket line. (Sounds like an opportunity for FedEx.) The CWA also claims that over 100,000 have signed a petition decrying Verizon’s “corporate greed.”

Yet Verizon states a case that the workers represent a division of the company that’s not profitable and all they are asking is for well-compensated union employees to chip in a little bit on their benefit packages. The company is also accusing the union of misrepresenting the company’s bargaining demands and also several incidents of vandalism and sabotage. (That seems to be par for the Big Labor course, as I’ll explain later.)

In essence, the conflict boils down to this: Verizon is trying to cut costs in a division that’s on its way to obsolescence. No longer are Americans tied to a phone line as more and more households have eschewed a landline phone for cellular service. Nor does Verizon even have the monopoly on landline service as they used to because cable providers and others have made these services available. Unfortunately for the Verizon employees affected by the strike, their business will eventually go the route of the horse and buggy just as that of the telephone operator went away years ago when direct-dial phones became available.

The other irksome item within the union’s argument is playing that old class envy card. Their claim that the “very profitable company has paid its top five executives more than $258 million over the past four years” doesn’t address how these corporate leaders were paid. Most likely much of the compensation came in the form of stock options granted because the company was “very profitable” – would they prefer these executives lost millions of dollars instead? (By the way, that $258 million number works out to $1433.33 per striking employee per year. Would the strikers accept such a measly pay raise on even a $60,000 salary, let alone upwards of $90,000?)

Certainly that sounds like a huge amount of compensation for these executives – after all, who wouldn’t want a gig where they made an average of $12 million per year? But then again, would you like the hard work and long hours these people put in on their way up the corporate ladder? I doubt these positions were handed to them, and they certainly require more thought and skill in a number of areas than the average line worker would be able to exhibit. A failure on a line worker’s part may mean a few hundred customers are inconvenienced until someone can fix the issue. A CEO’s screwup could drive the entire company to bankruptcy and cost thousands of workers their jobs – so let’s get a sense of proportion here.

Read more here.

Author: AKA John Galt

A small business owner, a tea party organizer, a son, father and husband who is not willing to sell out the future lives of his children.

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