Can You Hear Me Now? No? Thank A Union

Paige Halper Fellow, Center for Worker Freedom
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Remember landlines?  Yeah, me neither.

But one union is trying to make sure you never forget.

Communications Workers of America (CWA), a powerful union that represents Verizon Wireless employees, convinced 39,000 landline workers to go on strike for 45 days.

And they seem to have won.

A CWA press release dated May 29, 2016, announced Verizon’s anticipated surrender, finally bringing the strike to an end. In a proposed four-year contract agreement, Verizon agreed to both pension and raise increases, 1,300 new east coast union jobs and over $2000 in signing bonuses.

Here’s how they got their way:

Earlier this May, 200 Pittsburgh-area residents lost all service in the dead of night after a cable was deliberately cut.  When members of the community began questioning the union’s involvement, CWA Local 13000 Vice President Tom Crawford, told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 that the network loss was probably a result of “untrained and unqualified” contractors hired by Verizon.

Before the strike began on April 13, 2016, Verizon Wireless’ sabotage reports were in the single digits. As of April 27CNN Money noted that Verizon claimed “57 instances of network sabotage and other criminal activity.”

The strike was marked with so much suspicious activity that Verizon issued a $10,000 reward for information regarding union vandalism of company property.

The union’s strike has injured both Verizon and the consumer. Sabotaged lines means no catching up on the latest episode of your favorite show, no internet access and worst of all, no landline service for emergency calls. An estimated 240 million 911 calls are made nationwide in a given year.

It’s not about Verizon; it’s about life and death situations.

The well being of our communities shouldn’t be dictated by an organization that reported spending $0 “on behalf of individual members” in its 2015 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor. Unfortunately, the CWA cares more about preserving an outdated infrastructure than people. In a nation where 98 percent are connected to high-speed wireless Internet, the CWA went on strike to protect landline jobs.

In the new contract proposal, Verizon agreed to reverse outsourcing plans, which the union argued would bring “a significant amount of pole maintenance work to the unionized workforce in New York” (in New York, by the way, workers in a unionized workplace are legally forced to join the union if they want to keep their jobs).

The strike concessions have made the CWA’s intention clear: preserve outdated technology at all costs, even safety.  That’s not all, the CWA strike has stunted innovation at the expense of consumers.

Every day of union demands and work stoppages added up for Verizon. That cost gets transferred to households in the form of increasing cable bills. And Americans aren’t too happy about this; the 2015 American Consumer Satisfaction Index revealed that Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Verizon, ranked the lowest of 43 industries.  The ACSI credits mounting consumer dissatisfaction with “poor customer service combined with higher prices.”

According to its officers’ relief fund guide, the CWA’s strike fund totals $400 million. And that number doesn’t include the continued dues of 400,000 members. That’s right, workers on strike are still forced to cough up union fees, despite not receiving their traditional paycheck.

When unions strike, they don’t just stop workers from doing their jobs. They stop new jobs from being created and new technology from being developed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a union has battled against innovation.

Imagine if unions were successful in killing off other industries’ progress: replace your Twitter with the local town crier. Your packages are now at the mercy of the Pony Express. And don’t even consider owning a refrigerator – think of the milkman union!

Unhappy with your cable bill this semester? You know who to thank.

Paige Halper is the Athena Worker Freedom Fellow at The Center for Worker Freedom, a special project of Americans for Tax Reform. phalper@atr.org