Labor Laws, Unionization, and the Workplace – Verizon Strike Of 2016

The Story behind the Verizon Strike Of 2016

Verizon 2016 strike involves landline section workers who are highly unionized. The workers complain that the company is trying to eliminate unionized workers in the section by focusing on outsourcing workers from Philippines and Mexico, who are working on hourly rate and with no demands for health benefits, pension, or any other form of benefits negotiated by unionized workers. The company consider this more profitable since it reduces the operational cost and eventually, finding a way to eliminate unionized workers who always fight for a better bargain (Smith 2016).

In addition to this, the company is claiming to be experiencing a decline in sales landline section as 1.4 million customers disconnect their landlines and focus on wireless communication. Consequently, the companywants to compensate for this by eliminating workers in landline unit benefits by employing shared cost medical cover and freezing workers’ pension benefits at thirty years of service making them to pay high health cost. The company has also reduced work injury compensation, and job security. Moreover, the company had a plan to b assigning technician to two months of duty away from home and refuses to negotiate for any change of working condition or workers benefits (Smith 2016). This initiated for a need of strike as a way of pushing for the workers agenda and resolving they work condition dissatisfaction.

How Verizon Strike Reflects the Current State of Unions in the United States

The American unions have been growing weak in modern days. The union power may have been declining with time, with union influence on companies’ labor treatment going down. According to Smith (2016) majority of employers always find an alternative to handle striking workers duties every time there is a strikes. Smith noted that in most cases, these companies end up doing better in terms of performance during strikes and hence leveraging union’s bargaining power (Smith, 2016).

Read also Labor Laws That Have Shaped the Present Union Management Relationships

Verizon also managed to use supervisors and outsourced workers as alternative service providers in the company during this time. This corners the union suppressing its ability to bargain for a better deal. The Verizon strike is regarded as a mega strike, since unions have not been calling strikes for a while. Thus, the strike may reflect the unions desire to repossess their initial power. It also demonstrates poor collaboration and support among workers union. The striking union CWA represents workers in the landline unit. Although Verizon workers are represented by a number of different unions, no other union called a strike in solidarity with CWA, despite other unionized workers in wireless unit experiencing similar threats that include high level of outsourcing and hence possibility of extension of benefits cut in the future.  

Read also Provisions in Labor Union-Employer Contracts

Whether Verizon Strike “Signaled a Larger Economic Battle” or “No Morality Play”

In my opinion, Verizon Strike is more of a signal of “Larger Economic Battle” than it is a “No Morality Play”. This is because the strike is initiated by Verizon steps to cut cost on a unit that it considers to be less profitable, compared to others, though it is not making any losses. The trend also demonstrates that the company also prefers nonunionized workers in wireless unit, so as to eliminate workers benefits and pensions, despite the unit being one of the most profitable units in the company (Dayen, 2016). Thus, it is clear the company’s move on landline unit is not an isolated case of treatment for the workers in the unit due to low unit profitability, but a company’s strategy to lower cost, and maximize on profit. Based on the trend, other units will soon experience the magnitude of this economical move. In addition to this, the technology is changing, giving companies a better way to offer services without incurring much cost or involving so many workers.  This creates a threat of huge lay off among older workers who demands high salaries on the basis of redundancy or lack of technological ability to handle companies’ task.

Verizon workers have experienced a great change in working condition, reduction of benefits, off home duties, reduced job security among others. Although one may claim that they are among the best paid in the country, the negative change to their financial benefits and work environment cannot be overlooked. Moreover, Verizon workers cannot compare their position with a low performing organization just to perceive the changes as less cruel (Sherk, 2016). Their work position is changing to the worse as change in the economic environment brought about by technology is experienced. As the company struggle to maximize on profit through cost cutting, workers also struggle to safeguard their financial health by resisting the changes. Thus, this is more like an economic battle which is likely to be experienced elsewhere, than it is a “No morality play.” 

Lesson Learnt by HR manager from the Experience of the Verizon Strike of 2016

The HR manager should learn that changes especially those trying to lower the status quo of workers will not be readily welcomed. Workers will strongly resist any change that seems to negatively affect their working condition, workers benefits program or create job insecurity, despite the change being justifiable. Workers will always revoke the Wagner Act to promote their collective bargain to block unfavorable changes (U.S. Department of Labor, 2017;HR Hero, 2017). Thus, HR must be prepared for this battle which may leave them torn between embracing effective workers management system or the company’s demand for cost cutting and high level of profitability.

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