The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Verizon unions agree to take-aways

Sep 8, 2003

In early September Verizon Communications, the largest phone company in the country, reached an agreement with two unions representing 79,000 of its work force. The president of one, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), hailed the agreement, claiming that it "meets the union's key goals of protecting members' job -security rights, health care and other benefits and provides fair wage and pension improvements."

According to what was released to the mass media, it appears that the new agreement does keep the job security rules that at least formally make it more difficult for Verizon to lay off current unionized workers. But, for the first time, these small protections do not apply to new hires. In other words, the union officials agreed to sell out future workers – hardly a way to "protect members' job-security rights."

Neither does the new agreement "protect" workers health care benefits, as the union officials claim. A Verizon vice president told the Wall Street Journal that workers will pay 25 to 30% more in out of pocket health care expenses than they used to pay – a hefty increase.

And neither are wages "improved" as claimed. On the contrary, in the first year of the new agreement, wages are frozen, and workers only get a lump sum bonus. In the following four years, workers get minuscule 2% raises, which don't even cover inflation.

No, this new agreement is a real step backward for the workers. In 2002 the chief executive of Verizon was paid 20 million dollars. With an agreement like this one, the company will probably give him a raise to 30 or 40 million.