In any line of employment people want to know that they are seen as valued individuals to the company they work for, not expendable assets to be cast away without regard. Recently a very serious issue involving Verizon and its many employees arose when issues arose with their business practices. While there is no true way to be certain just who is in the right, the arguments on both sides seem to indicate that the veracity of the disagreements varies when taken from different points of view. There is little to no future for an employer that will sacrifice loyalty on the job for higher profit margins.
This is not the first time that Verizon has approached their employees with a proposition that met this type of opposition. In 2011 Verizon attempted to institute a long list of demands that would have seriously damaged the hard work they had put into creating a company that has become one of the most dominant corporations in the field of telecommunications (Baris, 2016). As of last year the company came forward with another list of demands and propositions that met with even more resistance from their employees, and for good reason. As before, the company sought to think about their profit margin and make the attempt to convince their employees to accept something less than what they were already making.
The question as to who is the most important in any business is one that has been posed
in many debates and continues to be pertinent in the current day. The difference between a stable
and caring employer and an employer that is simply looking at the bottom line is that the caring
employer will realize the needs and concerns of the employees must be tended to when possible.
In many corporations it has been seen that the bottom line is all that matters for more than a few
reasons. One among them is that they can always find people that are willing to work. This is
where unions tend to fail considering that those they call “scabs” are almost always willing to
step in and perform the jobs that they are unwilling to do until their demands are met.
On the other side of this argument, employers must realize that replacing mass numbers of employees can meet with serious issues that are difficult to resolve in a short amount of time. When replacing those that have been with the company for years on end it is often seen that they must hire those that are either woefully unprepared for the rigors of the job and must be trained for extensive periods of time to meet expectations. The time, effort, and money that this takes can harm a company just as much as losing skilled workers can, which leaves the company hurting for qualified workers and losing money with each day that they are forced to depend on unskilled temporary labor. In such a situation neither side wins.
Verizon has also expressed interest in outsourcing thousands of jobs to other countries in
order to find cheaper labor. This would eliminate hundreds if not more local jobs that people rely
on and need to support their families. Benefits would be slashed and the union that Verizon
employees depend upon so heavily, which has already been reduced in size, would eventually
cease to exist. The hiring of non-union workers would eventually eliminate many salaried jobs
and reduce the role of the average Verizon worker to an hourly wage earner. Given the time and
effort that so many have put into the company it would be akin to a slap in the face as a reward
for their hard work and dedication.
One reason that has been given for this treatment of their workers is that Verizon has
been experiencing financial difficulties throughout the last decade, claiming that they are in fact
close to bankruptcy. This claim is quite easy to dispute however considering that 1) Verizon is
one of the largest telecommunication companies in the USA, and 2) They made well over $30
billion dollars in 2016 alone (Lovelace Jr., 2016). Even with slightly decreased numbers in
revenue Verizon is in no immediate danger of filing for bankruptcy, which means that the
company’s idea to outsource jobs is seen by many to be a desperate bid to make the rich even
richer as the profit margins would be allowed to grow. In return many workers would either be out of a job or forced to accept far less for the work they provide.
It might seem like Verizon might simply fold and give into the workers that they depend upon, but in truth they have planned ahead for this. Verizon actually made a play to train hire roughly 15,000 non-union workers to come in and assume the roles of those that remained on strike, thereby maintaining service and filling an unwanted gap. Workers were obviously incensed by this, but would not be moved as the consumers were the ones that were eventually harmed by poor service given by individuals with far less training and aptitude for the job. On one hand consumers agree that it is necessary to be given adequate work conditions and be compensated in the same manner as is expected, but several have also stated that it is necessary to maintain good work practices as well. In other words, the principle that Verizon workers are attempting to stand for is admirable, but the work still needs to be done.
Were that the only problem the strike would likely still be one. But Verizon made an
attempt that many find rather despicable in light of what it would do to literally thousands of
workers and their families. On May 1st, Verizon decided to cancel all medical insurance for the
thousands of workers on strike (Boston & Turner, 2016). It can be argued that workers on strike are not doing anything to earn their keep, but at the same time it must be recognized that unless these individuals are formally released from their place of employment, or otherwise resign, then their benefits are still expected to be paid. While this move by Verizon seems rather harsh, it is unfortunately a legal move that continued to threaten workers as they continued the strike.
In addition to shipping thousands of jobs overseas, and cancelling health coverage for the
thousands of employees on strike, Verizon was also willing to cap pension contributions after 30
years (DiMaggio, 2016). Despite all of this, employees remained on strike, claiming daily that it was not the money that they were after, but the security. Many people went on record stating that Verizon was not only being highly disrespectful to their employees, but was actively harming their most loyal workers by denying health care and taking away jobs that were crucial to so many. In their own defense Verizon executives claimed that operating costs and other such concerns were beginning to mount up and as such demanded a new strategy on their part. It goes without saying that many employees did not believe such statements and were more than willing to continue the strike to make their point.
It is also important to note that during the strike employees were trying to push as much
as possible for the company to either revamp or push forth with their plan to improve FiOS,
which is short for Fiber Optic Service. This service is meant to improve the connection as it does
not depend upon the copper wires that cable companies use. Instead it depends upon fiber optic
cables that are not as susceptible to weather conditions and can create a much faster and more
reliable connection. At this point the company has yet to move ahead fully with this program,
which when presented as a bundled service would be more cost effective for all those involved.
This is however a more secondary concern of those that went on strike, as funding the further
evolution of FiOS would in fact help save jobs.
What many workers agree is that corporate greed tends to get in the way of business at
times, which is commonly seen in many different areas throughout the business world. Greed can
often cause a sound business to falter or fail, or even turn a loyal and steadfast employee against
the company with minimum effort. Protecting the bottom line of a corporation does not tend to
work as well when in order to do so the corporation must harm those that it depends upon the
most. Verizon is one of the top telecommunications giants in the world largely because of the
staying power of its employees, who on average have been with the company for fifteen years or more (DiMaggio, 2016).
That kind of dedication is becoming increasingly rare as the years go by, and as a result companies are being forced to either put a revolving door effect into place to keep operating at their expected level of efficiency, or possibly find cheaper labor overseas. The inherent problem with this is that the integrity of the product and/or service begins to lessen as more and more hands are added to the mix. This slippery slope is one that many companies have experienced in the past. It is a gradual decline that is very difficult to halt, and one that is even harder to make a comeback from.
The strike, which lasted an unprecedented 45 days, ended in May of 2016, much to the relief of the company and its many employees. Both sides came to an agreement that was beneficial for both, and that would actually increase the number of jobs offered by Verizon. Roughly 1,300 call centers were added on the east coast alone, and the outsourcing initiative was halted, which also created more jobs for technicians in the states. On top of this, the raises that had before the strike been proposed to raise income by 6.5 percent were raised to almost 11 percent, which was highly beneficial to all employees and their families. It was also seen that hiring bonuses were raised to a significant degree, and pension increases were instituted as well.
Many people have said that this will serve as a reminder to many large corporations that
taking care of their employees is a sure way to keep everyone happy. The strike also highlights
the very real influence that the working person has over corporations that tend to see their people
as movable assets. The need to remember that people are more important than the product or
services they provide is a lesson that some corporations need to be reminded of in order to keep
their operations running smoothly. By taking care of the people that take care of them, these
massive companies can insure that they will be around for many years to come.
In order to keep their employees happy and willing to work, corporations must remember what it means to rely on those that make their business work. Too often at the executive level it is easy to forget what it was like to be at the bottom, scraping by for a paycheck and earning just enough to survive. While it is easy to dismiss this kind of thinking, it is also quite dangerous in that it minimizes the plight of the average worker. Thinking that work is simply work and that the top executives are motivated not by greed but by the necessity to take care of the company is an idealistic view that is not always wrong, but is dangerously naïve at times.
The company and the employees need one another. This is a tenet of any business that needs to be remembered and lived by in order to create the necessary balance that is required to run a successful venture. By keeping such ideas as this in perspective it becomes far more likely that a business will not only succeed, but will flourish as their employees will tend to stick around for several if not many years at a time. Employees tend to enjoy their work experience even more if they know that they are seen as a necessary component of the business, not an interchangeable piece that has no inherent value.
In the case of Verizon, the 40,000 employees that went on strike were not pushing for more money or better working conditions, but were attempting to remind the company that their needs were not being met. From cutting pensions to outsourcing labor to other countries, Verizon was slowly surely turning its back upon the people that had helped to make it one of the greatest telecommunication companies in the United States. Thankfully the company and the employees were able to come to an agreement that provided mutual benefits for both sides. This strike helped the company to realize that its employees are highly dedicated to their jobs, but also appreciate being treated like human beings, not numbers.
Baris, M. (2016). Five Reasons to Care About the Verizon Strike. Jobs with Justice.
Boston, A. & Turner, D. (2016). How the Verizon strike could impact workers,
employers. ABC2 News. Retrieved from
DiMaggio, D. (2016). Verizon Strike Shows Corporate Giants Can Be Beat. LaborNotes.
DiMaggio, D. (2016). Victory at Verizon. New Labor Forum, 26(1).
Lovelace Jr., B. (2016). Verizon beats on earnings, but revenue falls short of estimates. CNBC.