Some 45,000 Verizon workers, or roughly a quarter of the carrier's employee base, have gone on strike across the country, potentially disrupting everything from equipment repairs to new installations. Rallies and picketing have reportedly started at dozens of Verizon work locations.
The striking workers hail from two unions, the CWA (Communications Workers of America) and the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), whose leaders failed to reach an agreement with Verizon management over a contract that expired Aug. 6. The unions claim Verizon wants too many vital concessions, particularly in areas such as health-care coverage.
For its part, Verizon management is casting the union's demands as out of touch with economic realities.
"It's no secret that the Wireline business has experienced a 10-year decline in our customer base and in profitability, despite investing billions in improving our network, processes and systems," Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam wrote in an Aug. 7 letter posted on the carrier's Website. "We have arrived at the point where we must make additional hard decisions to address customer needs and the overall operating costs of the business."
The letter claimed "the existing contract provisions ... are not in line with the economic realities of business today" and that "the changes we are requesting are similar to what the CWA has already agreed to with other companies in our industry." McAdam also cited the struggling U.S. auto industry as an example of what happens when "needed adjustments" aren't made by labor and management.
According to the CWA, though, Verizon is the unreasonable party.
"Over months of negotiations, there has been no real bargaining by Verizon management," read a statement posted Aug. 6 on the union's Website. "In fact, every major concession demand-more than 100 in all-remains on the table."
That statement also suggested Verizon has more than enough assets to meet those demands. "It has $100 billion in revenue and net profits of $6 billion," it added. "Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company and Vodaphone a $10 billion dividend. Verizon's executive compensation is sky-high, and Chairman Ivan Seidenberg is paid 300 times what an average worker earns."
Bloomberg reported Aug. 8 that Verizon has trained "managers and contractors" to perform union worker duties while the two sides continue to negotiate. That being said, a drawn-out standoff has the potential to disrupt repairs and services, and perhaps encourage those on-the-fence customers to consider competitors' offerings.