Verizon: union win

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Mon Aug 21 10:53:13 PDT 2000 - August 21, 2000

TOP GROKS ~~~~~~~~~ Zap! Union Win at Verizon Jolts the New Economy

Did something just happen? Unions goosed the new economy with their power surge at Verizon. Now a deal has been reached and, as in any outage when the lights go off and then come on again, the media are rubbing their eyes and wondering what just happened.

The eastern establishment print media, that is. Most online outlets went with wire service reports of Verizon's agreement with two unions to end their 15-day strike. Unions for the middle-Atlantic region are still waiting for management approval. Media reports emphasized that the agreement isn't a garden-variety deal for wages. It hammers at issues of job security, work-related stress and benefits.

The terms? Verizon may relocate just 0.7 percent of jobs to a different region each year. Customer-service reps get five 30-minute breaks a week to do something besides take phone calls. And since Verizon is a Netco wannabe, the company is springing for a round of stock options for everyone. Verizon will dole out 100 stock options to each union employee by the end of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Did union organizers slip past the velvet ropes of Internetdom, or act out a tedious tradition that inconvenienced East Coast dialers? The New York Times pegged the deal as a victory for the unions: In addition to the contract perks, they get the right to organize within the wireless division, in which just 50 of 32,000 employees belong to a union. No more fussy elections, the agreement specifies. Now organizers get to hand out ballots. If more than 55 percent come back with "yes" checked, the Times wrote, we have a union. (Note to the Times: It's probably safe now to stop running the handy little pronunciation guide that informs us it's "Vuh-RISE-en.")

Will workers at other telcos similarly jolt management by organizing? The Washington Post's page-one coverage handicapped unions' hold on new-economy venture as "tenuous." The New York Times chimed in that there's no certainty that workers not yet unionized want to be. But organizers lick their chops over the prospects, and the Times noted that SBC Communications has the same provision for card-check organizing. Small groups of workers have even been organized at Microsoft and also at Amazon, the Times' Simon Romero reported. Paid overtime at Amazon? Where working long and unpaid extra hours is called "getting efficient"? Now that would be a shock. - Deborah Asbrand

50,000 Verizon Staffers Go Back to Work (IDG),1151,17851,00.html?nl=mg

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Verizon Reaches Deal With Most Unions (Reuters),4586,2617483,00.html

Getting Connected

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