Today, union bosses ordered 36,000 Verizon workers on the east coast to strike. Nearly all of these employees, 99 percent, service the Verizon wireline networks, whether as customer service agents or technicians.
The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represent the workers. For the past 10 months, the unions and Verizon have bargained over a contract and have failed to reach a new agreement.
Unions want greater job security, more high-paying jobs, and better pension benefits. The problem with union demands is that more and more Americans are giving up their landlines and abandoning TV set-top boxes in favor of streaming video. So it is understandable that Verizon requires fewer workers to take customer calls and service wireline networks.
Even still, Verizon is offering a pretty good deal for workers that are employed in a dying landline industry. Verizon proposed:
- 6.5 percent wage increase over the term of the contract;
- Access to quality and affordable healthcare benefits, which the company’s other 130,000 receive; and
- Retirement benefits that include a 401(k) with a company match.
This is a pretty good deal when the work that these 36,000 employees perform only amounts to 7 percent of Verizon’s operating income. Further, on average, the wireline employees already receive competitive compensation of $130,000 a year in wages and benefits.
But unions would rather strike than sit down at the bargaining table and agree to a contract that is sustainable. They have little leverage—Verizon has been training thousands of non-union employees to perform the strikers’ tasks. Verizon does not anticipate any loss of service for customers no matter how long the strike lasts.
Hopefully, the union members are on board with the action taken by union bosses to strike because, unfortunately, they do not have a choice. Under federal labor law, union bosses decide whether or not to strike—very few union constitutions and bylaws allow members to vote on whether to strike. And even when members get to “vote,” it can be a voice vote in a union hall.
Moreover, if union members are against striking and would like to work they could be fined an exorbitant amount, up to $50,000. Workers must resign their membership to continue working if they wish to avoid union fines or discipline.