Forgotten Where He Came From

Posted on March 24th, 2008 | by A Worker |


The contract between Verizon and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that has kept labor peace at the communications giant for the last five years expires in August. The unions represent more than 70,000 workers at Verizon, and even though the company has been making money, they are still looking to take health and pension benefits from their unionized workforce. In 2006, Verizon liberated the pensions of the “management” employees. Verizon’s net income in 2007 was more than $5.5 billion with combined assets of $187 billion. But no amount of profit is enough anymore. Now — as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century — corporations no longer want to honor any sort of social contract with their employees.

The Man at Verizon, CEO Ivan Siedenberg, makes tens of millions of dollars a year. All though he has worked for Verizon all his adult life, he now believes that companies can no longer offer benefits to workers because most people no longer spend their career at one company. As is typical of the master of the universe kind, Siedenberg has forgotten where he came from. He has also forgotten the main reason that folks no longer spend their entire work lives at one company is because greedy CEO’s have chosen to export jobs to fill their pockets with pay raises, stock bonuses and ironically ridiculous multi-million dollar pensions instead.

It’s no surprise that benefits and pensions are the big “bread and butter” issues in the dispute. But the stakes are way higher than simple bread and butter or rice and beans. The future of telecom workers and others folks could be decided over the next few months. Will telecom move further toward becoming another low paid, no benefits and no security business with a “flexible workforce?” This will mean even fatter paychecks for money hungry executives at the expense of employees, share holders and the economy at large. The working folks who create corporate profits with their hands, brains and muscle deserve a high standard of living, quality health care and the security of knowing that if they live long enough to retire after piling gold in their bosses bank vault for 40 years, they can expect to live comfortably and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Corporations are making are making truckloads of money and paying working folks less and less. Here’s a graph from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) comparing profit to real wages over the last fifty years.



Compare the numbers from 1991 and 2001 and it is quite clear where increased profits have come from. Wages plummeted 25 percent and profit jumped 23 percent. Executive compensation skyrocketed in these years as well. In 1989 the average CEO made only 71 times as much as the average worker. By 2000 it was 300 times us regular folks.

If these multinational behemoths want to continue to exist than they need to understand that first they must guarantee a high quality of life for the workers who generate the profits that make their enterprise successful. They also need to make quality products and services, so when working people buy the things they produce they get what they pay for. If workers are to continue to be consumers than they need to get paid! CEO and executive salaries and stock holder returns need to be secondary. If corporations don’t like this new more equitable way of operating than we need to throw them into the recycling pile and come up with another means of organizing production, one that does not put the irrationality and anarchy of the “free market” a head of needs of people and the other living beings on this planet.

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