October 22, 2007

New Report: Verizon Violates Workers’ Freedom to Form Unions, Abandons Customers

New report uncovers how employers exploit weakness in U.S. labor law during union recognition elections

Liz Cattaneo
202-822-2127 x104

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report released today by American Rights at Work reveals how telecom giant Verizon has broken the law to thwart workers’ freedom to form unions to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The report “Broken Promises: Verizon Neglects its Commitment to Provide Good Jobs and Quality Service,” documents how Verizon management has aggressively intimidated employees who support forming a union, and that it has even gone to the extent of closing down facilities after workers tried to organize a union.

“This report makes crystal clear why Verizon employees-and all hard-working men and women in this country-cannot put their trust and faith in our broken labor law system,”  said American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell.  “Verizon’s callous disregard for our labor laws shows exactly why America’s workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.”

This week, American Rights at Work will send the report to approximately 1,500 state and local elected officials who support the Employee Free Choice Act.  The critical legislation would allow workers to freely and fairly form unions when a majority sign cards authorizing union representation, and it would level the playing field by establishing stronger penalties for violations of employee rights and mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.

In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Verizon Business with illegal behavior targeting union supporters in two different locations.  In one case, Christopher Bloncourt, a technician in Monsey, NY, was spied on by management for his open support for a union.

Despite having his own office on the other side of the worksite, Bloncourt’s manager sat in the cubicle behind him for several months.  “I remember sitting in the parking lot, horrified, my stomach turning… My manager is sitting right behind me. I gotta worry if I hit the wrong key stroke. It was a horrible experience,” said Bloncourt.

Although the report offers many examples of intimidating and illegal behavior, the penalties against Verizon have been minimal.  Verizon Wireless was only required to post a notice after the NLRB found that management had illegally threatened to close its Woburn, MA, call center in response to workers’ attempts to form a union.  In a sad illustration of the weakness of current labor laws, the notice had to be mailed to workers’ homes because Verizon had already shut the call center down and moved the work to South Carolina.

In addition to Verizon’s efforts to keep its Business and Wireless operations union-free, the company is downsizing its traditional landline operation, where nearly 100,000 employees have union representation with either the Communications Workers of America or the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Verizon is now attempting to sell its landline operation in New England to FairPoint Communications, a small company with a questionable financial capability to maintain and invest in the workforce and infrastructure.  This deal threatens not only the future of good jobs, but the reliability of telephone service and the availability of high speed Internet access, to the detriment of the community.  Verizon is currently seeking buyers for its landlines in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan.

The report concludes with information about how labor and management have successfully worked together at another telecommunications company, AT&T, which offers its employees the freedom to choose union representation.

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