It was by unforeseen chance and serendipity that on Day #1 of the Verizon work stoppage that hit the East Coast, both Democratic Presidential candidates were in New York that week preparing for the New York primary.  Two days before the strike, Democratic contender Bernie Sanders found himself in a union hall in Buffalo, New York and said to those present, “I know that going on strike is not something that is easily done.  I know there’s going to be a lot of pain involved. I want to thank you for standing up to the outrageous greed of Verizon and corporate America. When you do that, you’re not just standing up for your own members - you’re standing up for working people all over.”

Two days later, Day #1 of the Verizon strike began and Sanders found himself on the picket line in Manhattan.  Democratic contender Hillary Clinton issued a strong statement of support on Day #1 of the strike and chastised Verizon to return to the bargaining table. “To preserve and grow America’s middle class, we need to protect good wages and benefits, including retirement security. And we should be doing all we can to keep good-paying jobs with real job security in New York.”

 These were welcome words to the 39,000 Verizon workers who, after nine months of fruitless bargaining, needed all the public support they could gather.  Since August, 2015, when negotiations began, the tone set by Verizon was ominous: he proposals presented to the Verizon workers were nearly identical to those presented in 2011. Those proposals, that would effectively eliminate jobs that are capable of sustaining families, had the union members of Verizon going on strike for two weeks - and they beat back every regressive proposal made by Verizon.  

What Verizon is asking its workforce in the 2016 negotiations is the permission to change Verizon’s work rules to allow for far more outsourcing of its work.  Verizon has already moved 5,000 jobs overseas, and the conglomerate is aggressively seeking to move more jobs overseas and to low-wage contractors.  Verizon is demanding a decrease in job security and an increase in health care costs.     

Now the strike is on Day #30, and, after the thrill of election day was over, the candidates left with their supportive statements and the picket lines have remained. Press coverage has been slim for the last month.

The conundrum facing Verizon, the question of how the economy can retain and grow sustainable jobs in the midst of rapid technological change, is the situation faced by corporations nationwide.  Given Verizon’s actions for the past several years, Verizon has demonstrated the company is just not that interested in retaining decent jobs and developing its workforce. 

At the very beginning of the bargaining process last year, Verizon was bracing for a strike.  Bob Mudge, head of Verizon’s wireline service boasted to the Associated Press that replacement workers have been trained. “Let’s make it clear, we are ready for a strike.”

Verizon has acted on their decision to expand its wireless service at the expense of its wireline division. The The wireless service is immensely profitable: its workers are mostly non-unionized and their wages are lower than on average.  Verizon realizes the highest profit margin with their wireless service than any other telecommunications.  More than forty cents of every dollar of revenue on the wireless instantly becomes cash flow.

In contrast, the wireline division, a steady cash source for Verizon, has had its service expansion plans cut.  There remains a high demand for wireline service, and Verizon readily agrees with the unions that maintaining and growing wireline service is one avenue to retain good-paying work for its Verizon workforce, it’s just that Verizon does not want to go that way.

Not when Verizon can earn profits of $1.8 billion a month, for the first three months of this year.  And, when most of the Verizon strikers work in the wireline division, the thrill of job elimination and greater billions has taken precedence.

On Day #30 of the Verizon strike, the Verizon executives have not returned to the bargaining table to find common ground to end the strike, since May 5th.

Despite the reassurances given to Verizon customers, technical and customer services have been disastrous for the last thirty days.  Either there is no reply to any customer complaint or concern or there is a delay of weeks, maybe months, in getting any technical service. When the faux technician comes to your business or residence to fix a line problem, too often the lines are left dangling from the walls with the company promise to fix things soon.

There are 39,000 people walking the picket line on the East Coast from Virginia to Massachusetts - people who would much rather be working and return to the lives they used to live four weeks ago.  The Verizon strikers have continued to build public support from outside the company.  Verizon has been presented with a letter from twenty United States Senators and fourteen Mayors to settle the dispute.  Tends of thousands of workers have pledged their support for the Verizon strikers - and support for their cause grows.

The problem remains with Verizon’s refusal to hear any words of sensibility or common sense from anyone who does not share their insular vision.  Verizon has become the huge conglomeration of wealth and power because of their employees - and now Verizon has shut these very workers out of any reasonable hope for a future for them and their families.


Published by Nancy Snyder