Days after Verizon's unionized workers voted to authorize a strike at the end of July, they rallied in New York:The strike authorization vote did not put a dent in the huge array of concessions Verizon was demanding, and more than 45,000 workers are now on strike.
Verizon's demands include:
- Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
- Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
- Elimination of all job security provisions.
- Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
- Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
- Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.
Meanwhile, Verizon is doing just fine:
- 2011 annualized revenues are $108 billion and annualized net profits are $6 billion.
- Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company and Vodaphone a $10 billion dividend.
- Verizon’s top five executives received compensation of $258 million over the past four years.
The company is, of course, claiming that the problem is that its workers are overpaid, yet it is clearly not struggling financially. Verizon's claims to the contrary, wanting ever-higher profits and more money for higher CEO pay is different from struggling financially. By many standards, Verizon's unionized workers do make a good living, and management wants to invoke the corporate/Republican logic of the current moment that any worker making a decent living has a fat target painted on their back. That makes this explicitly a battle in the new class war: Do corporations keep increasing profit margins by reducing wages, as they've been doing for years now, or is there a point at which we stop and say wages and benefits have been driven down far enough and that the American tradition of a strong middle class is one worth maintaining?
If you're in New York (the state, not just the city), look here for picket locations.
For further discussion, see norwood's diary.