Unions Strike against Verizon

July 1, 2016

Americans are struggling economically. As a result, 2016 Presidential campaigns address citizens’ grievances as a central part of their campaign platforms.

Workers claim corporations are greedy. They say big companies make business decisions that focus on profits over paying fair wages and benefits. Specifically, they complain that jobs are being sent overseas to workers who will work for less. In response, corporations argue that they’re just responding to the realities of a global economy. They say they must have the flexibility to make business decisions that keep them competitive. This is the central fight between Verizon’s union workers currently on strike and the telecommunications giant.

This will be a hot topic when presumptive nominees, Democrat: Hillary Clinton, and Republican: Donald Trump face-off this coming fall.

The discussion will likely turn to unions. When workers are unionized, their employment is governed by a multiyear union contract or a collective bargaining agreement. These are negotiated by the union and the employer. The two sides sit down and hammer out the terms. Topics included in the terms are: conditions of employment, wages, benefits, disciplinary procedures, employer’s obligations and responsibilities.

Verizon workers are striking because they fear Verizon plans to stop pension increases, make layoffs easier, employ more contract workers and remove a contract provision (which previously prevented the company from forcing employees to work away from home for extended periods). Unions fear that if this provision is removed Verizon will “force employees to accept a contract, sending their jobs to other parts of the country and even oversees.”

Verizon, America’s largest wireless carrier, says it needs to address the increased cost of retiree health care. They say they want union workers to contribute more to health benefits and have “greater flexibility” on managing their workforce and temporary job relocations. Verizon denies intentions to offshore or cut jobs.

The presumptive nominees have had different approaches to the matter. Hillary Clinton publically supports the striking Verizon workers. Although she accepted $225,000 from Verizon to give a speech in 2013, she recently met with striking workers in Manhattan. Here, she urged Verizon to negotiate a fair offer. She commented that, “to preserve and grow America’s middle class, we need to protect good wages and benefits, including retirement security.”

Democrats have traditionally been supporters of labor unions, whereas Republicans have traditionally supported big business interests over that of workers’ interests.

Donald Trump, however, has been uncharacteristically silent on the Verizon strike. Throughout his campaign, candidate Trump has been promising “he can make America great again by curbing the corporate practice of laying off U.S. workers and sending their jobs overseas.” However, when asked about his stance on the strike, he declined to comment. His actual stance on labor is more muddled.

An April 22, 2016 episode of the HBO series Vice investigated underpaid migrant workers living in horrid conditions in Dubai. These workers are employed to build a grand golf resort baring Donald Trump’s name. When asked about labor violations in Dubai, Trump responded that he only licensed his brand. He said another company is responsible for employing labor. When that company was asked about labor conditions on the Dubai project, the company denied Trump’s claims.

Regardless of the outcome, strikes put economic pressure on companies. Why? Lost revenue. Hopefully, both sides will reach a mutually beneficial agreement. It will be interesting to see if this issue regarding Verizon resurfaces this coming fall.

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