CWA Targets Minority Board Members in Verizon Negotiations

CWA Targets Minority Board Members in Verizon Negotiations

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A battle of wills between the second largest wireline telephone company and the two largest telecom unions has taken an unusual and unfortunate turn into a racial issue.  The Communications Workers of America (CWA) the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have attacked two members of Verizon’s board of directors – an African American and a Hispanic – and the businesses they run – while not launching similar attacks on any of Verizon’s White directors or the businesses they run.

The underlying labor dispute has nothing to do with race – instead it is the traditional stuff of union negotiations.  Since last summer, Verizon and CWA have been negotiating over issues such as healthcare contributions, pension plans and work rules. In August 2011 45,000 of Verizon’s union wireline workers went on strike after failed attempts to reach an agreement on a new labor contract.

The strike was the first at Verizon in 11 years. After the union workers returned to work later that month, CWA and Verizon were still unable to come to terms of various issues, including sick time and pensions.

Now, almost a year later, things are heating up again. This time CWA has teamed with IBEW to “ask” two members of Verizon’s board of directors to assist them in securing a contract for Verizon workers.

What is surprising is that CWA and IBEW have targeted only minority members of the board, having only called out Clarence Otis, Chair and CEO of Darden Restaurants and an African American, and Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular Chair and CEO Richard Carrión, Chair and CEO of Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular.

The “ask” could not have been less likely to generate sympathy from the two Verizon directors.  CWA and IBEW put out a press release in which they challenged the compensation Otis and Carrión receive as Verizon board members (compensation that is actually typical of what Fortune 500 company directors earn), and then issued a demand for what they call “fair” conduct from the two men.  CWA then organized over 300 protests and rallies at Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters – restaurants owned by Mr. Otis’ Darden Restaurants, and at branches of Mr. Carrión’s Banco Popular.  What’s not clear is what the directors’ compensation or the operations of restaurants and bank branches have to do Verizon workers’ pay and benefits.

CWA representatives state that rally leaders want Verizon to resolve contracts with its workers as the company demands “cuts in compensation from workers of at least $10,000 a year,” CWA said

“This is more of the same and nothing new,” said Verizon spokesman Rich Young. “Union rallies do nothing to advance bargaining. We believe the only way progress can be made is for both sides to engage in meaningful contract talks at the bargaining table. We are always ready and willing to engage. Union leadership needs to do the same.”

The CWA and IBEW tactics call to mind the long history of union insensitivity or at times outright antipathy to minority advancement.  While CWA and IBEW no longer exclude minorities, their tactic of bullying high-achieving people of color in highly diverse companies is puzzling at best.  Darden and Banco Popular are highly diverse at all levels, top to bottom, and Verizon’s board, with five people of color among eleven members, is the most diverse board of any Fortune 100 company.  Verizon ranked 25th among Fortune 500 companies in DiversityInc.’s 2012 survey.

One of the first lessons learned by civil rights activists is to exercise care in choosing “what fights to pick.”  Rosa Parks was hardly the first African American to be sent to the back of the bus in Montgomery, AL, but she was selected to be the trigger of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott because she was universally revered as a dignitary in the community.  Likewise, unions should consider how it advances their goals to go out of their way to attack two men of color who are models of high achievement, community service and integrity.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. No wonder Wisconsin wants to do away with Unions. The CWA should go back to the drawing board and come up with tactics that don't appear racist.

    • both of those board member voted to triple their salery while the company wants 45,000 worker's to give back 10,000 dollars per member the ceo of verizon gave himself a raise of 4million dollars both of these board members gave themselves over 2million per year raise .

    • Maybe we should just do away with all middle class jobs. All companies can just hire illegals to do the same job for minimum wage with no benefits. We will become a two class society, the rich and the poor. Once again this is not a racist move by the union. CWA and IBEW represent thousands of minority workers throughout the country. They discovered some dirt on these two particular board members and chose to bring it to light. Are you in favor of your tax dollar going toward executive bonuses for failing companies as in Carrions case? I am not. Gather the facts on this issue before you make any more uninformed comments.

    • These men are making thousands and thousands of dollars more then any Verizon woker will ever see in there lifetime. I'm not even going to mention how much more they get on compensation when they leave the company. Race has nothing to do with the issue of giving union workers fair wages. It has to do with these men making huge profits and NOT giving the employees fair wages. I don't see either of these 2 me climbing a pole or working in extreme temperatures for the customer. All they do is reap the benefit of the sweat of hard working men and women. Lowell McAdam gets his fair share too.make no mistake about it!

    • How can you take this report seriously? Have you followed any of the Verizon labor issues over the past year, or are you, like most, just reading about it for the first time.

  2. The actions are coming at a bad time for Mr. Otis and Mr. Carrión, who face criticism for their own business practices at Darden Restaurants and Banco Popular, respectively.

    Amid reports that workers at some Darden restaurants are not fully compensated for their work and others have been subjected to racial discrimination, Verizon workers and supporters will bring attention to these problems at Darden locations across the country as part of the Day of Action.

    Carrión’s Banco Popular owes taxpayers more than $900 million in TARP bailout money – more than any other bank in the United States except one. Yet, Carrión’s own compensation has more than doubled since 2009. Meanwhile, under Carrión, the bank has controversially loaned millions of dollars to companies controlled by Carrión’s relatives – much of which has been written off as a loss to the bank.

  3. Many of the CWA and IBEW members that are in this fight for a fair contract are minorities. So this issue really has nothing to do with race.
    Apparently, Mr. Otis has his own racial discrimination issues going on in his own house he needs to look at. And, as a taxpaying citizen I do not want to be giving bailouts to banks in the first place, but if we have too, it would be nice to be payed back. Not have Carrion loan this taxpayer money to relatives and then write it off as a loss. What a joke?
    And Ms Barnette wants you to believe that CWA and IBEW are a bunch of evil racists. Here is the real evil, the CEO's of these companies, such as Mr. Otis, who get ridiculously rich off the backs of the workers and do not concern himself with fair compensation.

  4. What a shame mrs.barnette for being a journalist you havent a clue on the definition of the word "union". You are a clueless wet behind the ears no experience of life pathetic piece of non american turd. Good luck with your life. Oh hope all that corporate idolizing gets you what you want

  5. As an African American male growing up in a lower middle class lifestyle, I find myself ashamed at my sister Elesha. There are many people who share our skin color fighting for a fair contract from this greedy corporation. This career path has provided a decent middle class lifestyle for my family. I have saved and worked many hours of overtime so my daughter could attempt to receive a college education and hopefully one day be more successful than me. Believe me when I tell you that I know there has been a history of racism in this country, but CWA/IBEW are not the problem. In my opinion they are just trying to help a group of less fortunate blue collar workers make enough money for their families to have a brighter tomorrow.

    If you feel CWA/IBEW are singling out these two board members based on race, you are dead wrong. If they ever found any anti-american or anti-middle class info on any other board member they would publicize that as well. Maybe, you could use your journalistic skills to investigate other Verizon board members.

    Please reconsider your position on this article. I have a daughter who reminds me of you. Full of hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but it will be a lot harder to reach those goals if this company strips away our pay and benefits.

    It seems that you are a young successful black women and I will celebrate that fact every day of the week, but some of us have to start from the bottom, move up to the middle, and eventually rise to the top. Don't ever forget where you came from my sister.

  6. Ms. Barnette I applaud you for investigating this issue and brining it to our attention. I am surprised that the Unions would stoop to this level. Calling out the African American board members is racist. Unions have been a positive mode for change in our country, but they have erased years of good with this under handed approach. Please continue the good work.

    • I would applaud too but she is only giving a very narrow one sided view of this whole situation. The CWA and IBEW represent thousands of minority members throughout the country and are in no way calling out people due to race. They are calling out people who are doing wrong to middle class workers and the American tax payer as well. I assume you to be an American taxpayer so I cannot believe you would be in favor of the actions of Mr. Carrion.

      I have already briefly explained his situation in this comments section, so you can just read it there, or if you are really that interested in this topic feel fee to put your Google skills to use and find out more about him and his deceptive business practices on your own. Please feel free to peruse my other comments on this article to help you gain more insight to this labor dispute if it moves you. But I am pretty sure you just saw the words "target minority members" together in a headline and felt the need to contribute your uninformed two cents in this comments section.

  7. I am disappointed. CWA and IBEW are traditionally inclusive. I am sure that if African American and Hispanic members of CWA and IBEW were aware of these tactics they would be outraged. Mr. Otis and Mr. Carrion please do not let these attacks distract you from making the right deciisions,

    • Marie,
      As an African American CWA member I have no problem with the unions bringing to light the injustices these two men have done to middle class workers and the american taxpayer in general. All of minority brothers and sisters in this struggle against corporate greed feel the same way. We are not concerned with skin color in this fight we are interested in right and wrong and as we find more information on the dirty corporate pigs involved we will put them on blast as well. This is a fight for middle class families to maintain a decent standard of living, this has nothing with skin color. I stand together with my brothers and sisters of all races, colors, and creeds. So, please do not try and speak on behalf of myself or my union brothers and sisters when you clearly have no clue about the situation you are commenting on.

  8. Clearly the point of this article is that CWA/IBEW should be focusing on strategies that do not involve calling out minority board members. It sets a bad precedent for how Unions should go about the work of contract negotiations. I can't see how this will do anyone any good. It's a new low.

  9. It's classless for the unions to spotlight minority members like this. What is the point? Sit down and have a real discussion without threats, strong arming and extortion.

    • Vivienne,

      The unions have been trying to bargain with the company for over a year now and they have not budged on any issues. In a nutshell they are looking for about $20k in concessions per employee in pay and benefits, approximately 1/4 of the average employees salary. Along with many other work rules that these employees have fought to maintain over the last 60 years of bargaining. This company is in no way struggling, raking in billions of dollars in profit a year and giving each other millions of dollars in salary and bonuses a year. All the union members are trying to do is maintain there middle class lifestyle.

      I could go on and on about this issue but I will probably have better luck explaining this situation to a wall then too a group of mindless drones who hear the word racism and all logic immediately goes out the window. If anyone truly cares about what is really going on with this contract situation there is plenty of information out there. Just google it. Otherwise, just leave your limited knowledge on this topic to yourselves. There are many middle class families of all races involved in what has become the battle of their lives.

  10. I am at a lost to understand how an article that starts out with Verizon and two labor unions not coming to terms with employee bargaining rights end up as a delve into the dealings of only two Board members. Were the other members squeaky clean?

  11. I would just like to ask Elesha Barnette, if "CWA has teamed with IBEW to “ask” two members of Verizon’s board of directors to assist them in securing a contract for Verizon workers.", how is this an ATTACK?

    Ms. Barnette, are you trying to really make this look like a RACE ISSUE? As you said, Verizon has a very good reputation in hiring people of color, both in the management ranks as well as in the non-management ranks. With this in mind, would it not make sense to "ask" members of the board, that are of color to assist, in helping out other members of color?

    By the way, you may also want to do a little research on what it is that Verizon has on the bargaining table. The quote from Mr. Young "We believe the only way progress can be made is for both sides to engage in meaningful contract talks at the bargaining table. We are always ready and willing to engage. Union leadership needs to do the same.” is an outrageous statement at best. Union officials from both the CWA and the IBEW have been trying to work with the company for well over a year. What the two unions are trying to prevent is a push back to the work standards, including pay, healthcare and workers rights that were commonly accepted back in 1955.

    One more thing, as I sit here reading this and replying to this on a Sunday, enjoying my weekend off, I want to thank the efforts of the unions of America for their battles in the past, to make the workplace a safer place, with adequate time off to afford workers time at home with family, to rest and relax. Weekends, and vacations, holidays and a healthy workplace would not be a part of our vocabulary if not for the efforts of the UNIONS, and now, every unionized company in the country is watching this battle, to see how they can curtail their unions in the future. The IBEW and CWA are also in negotiations with AT&T. Let's all watch what happens.

  12. its about getting the most bang for your buck. the CEo;s of these two companies own many high profile business'. picketing these locations gets attention. PERIOD !!!

    it had nothing to do with race until it was brought up in this article.

  13. racist? really? i might just be a poor uneducated slave to corporate america but i didn't realize that by choosing to call out two board members who have track records of questionable decisions is racist. i may be naive on this fact but is the cwa entirely caucasian? how is bringing the mentality of these two board members to the public a racial issue? i actually didn't even consider that the cwa chose two "minorities" to ask sit in on the bargaining until i read this nonsense. its 2012 people this has nothing to do with race! but if you will allow me to point out that i do not see a caucasian editor pictured at the bottom of this page so can i assume that politics365 is a racist company? its articles like this that hurt the equal rights idea by making the focus on the race or gender of the individuals destroying the working class and not about their actions that they are taking to hurt thousands of american families just to fatten their wallets!

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