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Verizon, Striking Workers Accuse Each Other of Not Bargaining in Good Faith

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mike Paleski outside Verizon headquarters (WNYC/Arun Venugopal)

Verizon and picketing workers are accusing each other of not bargaining in good faith, as a strike enters its second week.

The two sides have filed competing charges with the National Labor Relations Board, in hopes that the federal agency will insert itself into the situation.

"CWA is urging the NLRB to immediately order Verizon management to drop its refusal to bargain and negotiate in good faith as the law requires," read a statement on the Web site of the Communications Workers of America, which represents the majority of workers.

John Bonomo, a spokesman for Verizon, said the company is not commenting on negotiations. The two sides are at an impasse over several issues, including the company's demand that workers start paying into their health care plans.

Ellen Danninn, a labor relations expert at Penn State University, said that under Section 8D of the National Labor Relations Act, employers tend to have more leverage.

"If the parties have met their obligations under 8D, and they have reached an impasse and it's a bona fide impasse," said Danninn, "these court decisions give employers the right to implement their final offer."

But she argued that most employers avoided getting to this point because it could demoralize the work force. She also voiced skepticism about Verizon's claims that striking workers were sabotaging company equipment. The company has asked the FBI to investigate the claims.

"I would strongly suspect that the union would advise its members not to do that sort of thing," said Danninn. "All it will do is harm their cause."

But Bonomo said that since the beginning of the strike, 110 alleged acts of sabotage had been discovered, whereas in the six month period before the strike, only 46 incidents had been allegedly committed.

The CWS says it tells all striking workers to act in accordance with the law.

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Comments [8]

Ray from New york

In response to "you deserve it". The basis of your argument which focuses on the percentage of the population unemployed is unwarranted. On the contrary, these workers are not responsible for the millions of unemployed, they not responsible for the lack of employment available, or the tough times our citizenry feels today. If your looking for blame point the finger at companies like Verizon who would will exploit and terminate its workers in the name of beating analyst expectations. Blame government who allowed big business to export jobs to other countries (NAFTA) in the name of increased company profitabilty while completly destroying the manfacturing industry. These were the places many Americans could find jobs years ago. The employees of Verizon provide a service and should be compensated for it accordingly. As I sympathize with your situation I cannot help to feel your frustration and anger is misplaced. It appears on the surface that your are siding with the monster multinational conglomerate which makes billions in revenue. While falling prey to the propaganda Verizon is using to convince the population that it's middle class employees are being greedy. I say you take focus the issue in this country and realize that the fight these union individuals are fighting are for the middle class. Think about that a multi billion dollar company (22 billion) calling it's employees greedy because they want job security, or dont want to lose the pensions they worked so long for. Sure you'll work for half, but once you conform they'll want you to work for 1/4 then 1/8. It's called corporate slavery. There's a problem when 1% owns 95% of the wealth. (Edward Wolff) But the problem is far worse when members of the middle class side with the 1% calling the 99% greedy. So redirect that passion you have and educate yourself on why your willing to work for half in the richest country in the world.

Aug. 15 2012 09:37 PM
You deserve it

There are millions of people out there without a job and now verizon workers are striking because they can't get what they want. Be happy you have a job period! I say they get all new employees that are willing to work for money. Be thankful you have benefits. I'll do it for 1/2 the pay and no benefits just to get something.

Aug. 19 2011 06:21 AM
joshua teamster

The stock holder said it all. As long as they are taken care of! who cares about the working man, he would probably step on our backs to get a better view. What a disgrace, go cwa, ibew! Take em down!

Aug. 16 2011 10:01 PM
mswoon

Are the Bosses Telling the Truth?
Monday, August 8th, 2011

Verizon Management claims employees are doing fine, workers say otherwise. 45,000 Verizon workers are on strike on the East Coast over salary, pension and health benefits and collective bargaining rights.

In the New York Times, Steven Greenhouse prints the claims side by side.

Yesterday:

Verizon called its employees well paid, saying many field technicians earn more than $100,000 a year, including overtime, with an additional $50,000 in benefits. But union officials say that the field technicians and call center workers generally earn $60,000 to $77,000 before overtime and that benefits come to well under $50,000 a year.

Today:

Verizon says employees are well paid, with many field technicians earning more than $90,000 a year, including overtime, with additional $50,000 in benefits. Union officials say field technicians and call center workers earn $60,000 to $77,000 a year before overtime and benefits come to less than $50,000 a year.

Now a careful reader might figure out the difference between Verizon saying that "many" tech workers earn more than $90,000, and the union saying the same workers "generally" earn about 1/3 less. It's the same as saying "many" Americans are millionaires; generally Americans are not.

If the company is wildly overstating what its employees are making, news accounts should get to the bottom of it.

UPDATE: Greenhouse digs into these compensation figures a bit more today, and it's hard not to conclude that Verizon's doing some funny math:

The financials of Verizon’s landline business are not the only set of numbers that company and union are fighting over. Union officials dispute the company’s estimate that each employee receives $50,000 worth of benefits each year. In that number, the company includes $14,700 for medical and dental insurance, $10,900 for retiree health care and life insurance, $10,800 for pension and $7,500 for time off.

Union officials say total benefits average $25,000 a year. Mr. Kohl, the union official, disputed the $10,800 yearly figure for pensions, noting that Verizon’s annual report said the company’s 2010 contributions to the union’s defined benefit plans “were not significant.” Verizon officials said the $10,800 was an average annual amount.

Mr. Kohl also said the $10,900 retiree health care figure was greatly exaggerated, asserting many retirees worked years to pay for that care so the cost should not be attributed to current employees.

Mr. Kohl also quarreled with Verizon saying the value of time off — vacation, sick days and personal days — was $7,500. He dismissed that as double-counting because that number was already counted in wages.

Verizon is counting sick days and vacation as paid compensation? We've seen companies claim retiree healthcare as part of current workers benefits before. Greenhouse is doing today what reporters should be doing when covering this kind of dispute.

Aug. 15 2011 04:57 PM

Asking the union to pay for some of their benefits, pay for performance, and some other reductions is not unfair. The majority of the US doesn't have those entitlements. From the looks of it VZ is ready for the long haul and each day on the job these management workers are getting better at the work and the learning curve is decreased. As a stockholder I am ok with a short term dip (if it happens) for longer term gain.

Aug. 15 2011 11:37 AM
Rich Bennett from Sewell Nj

As a CWA employee , I am fighting for a living wage and benefits.

Aug. 15 2011 12:40 AM
Dave Macbeth from MASS

I would hope the company would in good faith bargain a resonable offer that both parties would agree upon. The last thing Verizon wants is to have months and months of costly repairs. As the rain begins to down pour on the east cost and more severe weather forecasted this week, I would presume more outages will occcur. The company has certainly put it's contigency plan in full affect but is no way prepared to handle all this disruption that has occured. My opinion is Verizon will try to hold out for a while and hope to gain political and federal support. However, the damage that will continue to occur will be extremeley costly if Verizon is not careful. As an investor I am staying onthe sidelines waiting for this nonsense to end.

Aug. 14 2011 11:08 PM
Denise

Cwa need to tell their members to go back ito work. If verizons is bringing court actions against them. This was never done to cwa members being sued by their employer. This will prove to be very costly to cwa and it's members.

Aug. 14 2011 10:44 PM

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