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January 2019, Week 3

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 		 [ In documents given to managers and employees the US’s largest
wireless provider encourages its own staff to use anti-union rhetoric
and disparages previous unionization efforts within the company.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 'IT'S UNION BUSTING 101': DOCUMENTS REVEAL VERIZON'S ATTACKS ON
ORGANIZED LABOR   [https://portside.org/node/19147] 

 

 Michael Sainato 
 January 16, 2019
The Guardian 

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 _ In documents given to managers and employees the US’s largest
wireless provider encourages its own staff to use anti-union rhetoric
and disparages previous unionization efforts within the company. _ 

 , 

 

Unions offer “empty promises and unrealistic expectations” and
don’t act with “integrity”, according to internal documents
circulated by Verizon’s human resources department and obtained by
the Guardian.

In documents given to managers and employees the US’s largest
wireless provider encourages its own staff to use anti-union rhetoric
and disparages previous unionization efforts within the company.

Several pages focus on the six Verizon retail stores in Brooklyn
that voted
[http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/16749/verizon_wireless_workers_make_history_in_brooklyn] to
join the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in 2014, the first
Verizon stores to unionize. The union battles at these stores are used
to frame unions as a danger to Verizon and its workers.

Verizon strike ends as tentative deal promises 'big gains' for worker

“The employees in Brooklyn were highly influenced into voting for
the CWA,” the documents allege. “They were swayed by a good sales
pitch through empty promises and unrealistic expectations.
Unfortunately, the union does not have to sell with integrity, and it
was our Brooklyn employees who paid the price.”

“Before you sign anything or even click ‘submit’ online, think
hard about joining a union and remember the story of your Brooklyn
workers,” the document continues.

Verizon pushed for a union decertification vote in their Brooklyn
stores, which workers voted 
[https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/brooklyn-wireless-workers-vote-to-save-their-union]against
doing in August 2018.

[A member of the Communications Workers of America pickets in front of
Verizon corporate offices during a 2016 strike in New York City.]
[https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/16/verizon-union-busting-cwa?#img-2]

 A member of the Communications Workers of America pickets in front
of Verizon corporate offices during a 2016 strike in New York City.
Photograph: Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

In a ‘Questions you may have’ section, Verizon offers further
input against unions. The answers claim “the best way to secure jobs
is to provide excellent products, services, and customer service,”
rather than join a labor union.

Verizon also criticized a 2016 strike
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/striking-verizon-workers-will-return-to-work-wednesday/2016/05/30/442b30ce-26b0-11e6-b989-4e5479715b54_story.html?utm_term=.0873f4d21076]of
workers at their Brooklyn retail stores and nearly 40,000 other
unionized employees who work as network technicians and customer
service reps, citing its impact on “working conditions for our
employees and experience for our customers”.

The documents further explain Verizon’s anti-union position. “We
don’t believe unions are necessary at Verizon Wireless or that you
or your coworkers will be well served by electing a union as your
collective voice.” Verizon argues the only difference between unions
and non-union-represented employees are the dues union members pay.
Verizon defines a union as “an organization whose income comes from
taking a portion of the wages from the employees it represents”.

Verizon added: “Instead of treating employees as individuals, the
company has to negotiate with the union on behalf of all employees
collectively.” The documents claim union representation has declined
because state and federal labor laws protect workers free of charge.

'They're liquidating us': AT&T continues layoffs and outsourcing
despite profits

The internal Verizon website, marked “for Verizon Wireless
management only, not for distribution to non-supervisory employees”,
offers leadership training on how to react to any employees who
mention or discuss unionizing.

The prompts resemble those offered to Amazon employees in an HR
training video leaked 
[https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/sep/27/amazon-whole-foods-training-video-union-busting-efforts-staff]in
September 2018.

The website includes union awareness refreshers and responses to any
perceived CWA organizing and union activity, including responses to
union flyers on call center closures and offshoring.

Verizon has run into trouble for previous attempts to ward off union
activity. In December 2018, Verizon finalized a settlement with the
National Labor Relations Board after the CWA filed 
[https://www.nlrb.gov/case/28-CA-218300]a unfair labor practice charge
in response to a Verizon employee in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who
experienced interrogation and surveillance by Verizon for engaging in
union activity.

“When I noticed the change in structure at Verizon, that made me
want to start unionizing and organizing two years ago when I took a
different position to work at headquarters,” said LaTasha French, an
employee for 18 years at the Verizon headquarters in Irving, Texas.

She claimed Verizon has sent union busters to harass her, give her
misinformation and offer false promises, like the possibility to work
from home. French added the way Verizon human resources had handled
complaints of harassment she had made, which included a supervisor
joyriding in the wheelchair the company provided for her, had also
contributed to her involvement in union efforts.

“I’m not afraid to go up against them because I know I do my job.
I know I’m there and available,” French said. “But what I
won’t stand for is you’re making billions of dollars on our head
and you treat us as modern-day slaves and uneducated. You’re trying
to consolidate other departments and you’re not giving the people
who take these additional duties any more pay.”

[Verizon also criticized a 2016 strike of workers at their Brooklyn
retail stores and nearly 40,000 other unionized employees.]
[https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/16/verizon-union-busting-cwa?#img-3]

 Verizon also criticized a 2016 strike of workers at their Brooklyn
retail stores and nearly 40,000 other unionized employees. Photograph:
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

In July 2018, a Verizon retail store in Hazleton, Pennsylvania,
successfully voted
[https://www.timesleader.com/news/711214/employees-at-laurel-mall-verizon-store-vote-to-unionize] to
unionize. Verizon’s union-busting tactics stopped an effort to hold
an election to unionize in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, around the same
time.

“We ended up pulling the petition,” said Darryl Givens, a Verizon
employee at the Wilkes-Barre store. “If we lost, we had to wait a
year. It was initially five to four. Two people didn’t want to be
involved at all.”

He explained Verizon sent executives to the store in response to union
activity. “The first thing they do is come and say how awful the
union will be for us and if we go union, they can’t do anything
special for you. They would come out and, not directly, say ‘unions,
sometimes their stores sometimes get closed,’ trying to entice us in
any way to vote no,” Givens said. “They would call us in, do
forced meetings with us, and go over how awful unions are. Every few
days we’d get rotated back in.”

'We are not robots': Amazon warehouse employees push to unionize

According to Tim Dubnau, an organizing coordinator for the CWA, this
is the modus operandi of Verizon in response to any perceived union
activity.

“They distort the truth about unions, they imply union workers make
less, they distort the truth about dues and strikes. That’s the
union busting 101 when you walk into the door,” said Dubnau. “They
have a jump team ready at a moment’s notice to have a forced captive
audience meeting to warn about the dangers of unions.”

Verizon did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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