Verizon Strike A Fight For Future of Work

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 11:21 PM

Both sides show up to be digging in for a potentially protracted fight in what industry observers declare is an particularly high-stakes battle, some suggesting the outcome will be number less than a referendum on the strength and relevance of organized work in the twenty-first century.

Verizon Strike A Fight For Future of Work

As the communication workers strike against Verizon enters its second week, it's grown increasingly ugly, with reports of sabotaged equipment, picketing workers urging customers to boycott Verizon Wireless and Verizon telling investors that the strike will hit its bottom line this quarter.

Both sides show up to be digging in for a potentially protracted fight in what industry observers declare is an particularly high-stakes battle, some suggesting the outcome will be number less than a referendum on the strength and relevance of organized work in the twenty-first century.

"This is an old-fashioned work war," said Gary Chaison, a Prof of industrial relations at Clark University. "The work movement sees the Verizon strike as a fight for its survival."

"The question is, is there going to be a unionized presence in this advanced, technologically innovative kind of industry?" said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Middle for the Study of Labor, Work, and Democracy at the Univ of California — Santa Barbara.

The likely reply doesn't bode well for unions.

Verizon'south highly profitable wireless business is nearly entirely nonunionized, and telecommunications consultant Tim Farrar pointed out that the company has been investing more in content, buying AOL latest year and expressing interest in acquiring Yahoo!

"In some ways, maybe you could declare this is their last stand… not only subordinated to the wireless business, but also to these new ambitions," Farrar said.

"The genuine dilemma of unions has been that work losses have been increasing," Chaison said. "Unions tend to be in declining sectors of the economy... They're stuck organizing sectors of the economy which are number longer growing."

That'south why experts declare the timing of the strike — the workers have been without a contract since latest August — is number coincidence.

"By doing it at this time, it resonates in quite a large way with what'south going on politically," said Joseph McCartin, history Prof and director of Georgetown University'south Kalmanovitz Initiative for Work and the Working Poor.

Even if the timing is prescient, though, Verizon still has some advantages; primarily, that it'south still making money from both wireless and strike-impacted wireline services, and those networks are automated.

Verizon said thousands of nonunion employees had been trained and deployed to handle the work performed by striking union members, but the longer the strike drags on, the more frayed that patch will become, particularly as the summer months bring potentially service-interrupting thunderstorms to the Northeast.

"Over time, there'south erosion of quality and maintenance," Lichtenstein said, but by that point in might be too late.

"Long strikes tend to be lost strikes," he said.

Experts declare the union'south best-case scenario is that public discontent and political pressure grow to the point where regulators step in. They might examine whether Verizon should be regulated more love a utility, with a universal broadband mandate replacing the twentieth cent universal telephone service mandate.

Although Verizon recently announced it was building out "a new fiber platform" in Boston, earlier plans for more extensive expansion up and down the E Coast have stalled, prompting an audit by NY City that charged the company with underserving many lower-income residents.

"Verizon substantially failed to meet its commitment to the people of NY City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement latest year. "We will keep them accountable."

"If you wish to create FiOS work now, you've to be a utility because you've to thrust out into areas that aren't going to be all that profitable," Keefe said.

"Up until presently universal service has been telephony, that's clearly inadequate today," Keefe said. "I think the FCC has got to create some decisions."

Union leadership has called on Verizon to construct out its FiOS fiber network and still continue maintaining traditional copper-wire phone lines for those customers who still only have land lines — a duty framed as excellent corporate citizenship, but one that also would defend strikers' jobs by ensuring that their skills remained relevant and required for Verizon'south continued business operations.

Tying their cause to political issues of the day might ultimately assistance the striking communication workers prevail, but the flip side of a triumph that empowers a broader swath of workers is a beat that not only weakens the union, maybe permanently shifting the dynamic of power, but that tarnishes politicians that supported the strike.

"A beat for the workers would be a blow not just to Verizon workers but to other workers and allies of workers in the Democratic party," McCartin said.

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