Unionists Challenge Verizon at Company’s Annual Meeting

Rand Wilson

The union had one protester's back during last week's protest in Little Rock, Ark., at Verizon's annual shareholder meeting.

CWA and IBEW workers oppose proposed landline sell-off deal, release report on preventing telecom disaster’

Wearing red union t-shirts and holding signs protesting landline sell-offs and job cuts, more than 50 Verizon union members and retirees rallied last week before the start of the company’s annual meeting in Little Rock, Ark.

Members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) traveled from all across the country to attend the May 6 meeting and deliver a leaflet titled Reputation Matters: Verizon is on the Wrong Track” (email me at rand@​mindspring.​com to receive a copy of it). After leafleting shareholders, members went inside to attend the annual meeting and show support for proposals to improve corporate governance and participate in the Q & A session at the end of the session with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. 

CWA leader Ron Collins spoke at length about the proposed sale of Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia and 13 other states to Frontier Communications, which I’ve written about here before. Residents will be strapped with a company that has high debt and limited — if any ability — to fix its problems to provide quality service, let alone build out high speed networks,” Collins said.

At the meeting, Collins announced the release of a new report: Preventing a Telecom Disaster: New Information Concerning the Verizon-Frontier Deal that Will Determine the Future of Telecommunications in West Virginia.” CWA experts make the case in the report that especially in West Virginia the risks of the sale far outweigh any potential benefits. 

Frontier will be increasing its debt by 75 percent and it’s in a shakier position now than when this deal was first proposed,” Collins said. If Verizon wants to sell its landlines, it should find a buyer that has the financial, technical and operational resources to meet West Virginia’s needs.”

The report, available here, was simultaneously released at the Public Service Commission in Charleston, West Va., by CWA International Rep. Elaine Harris. These new findings are of grave concern to West Virginia customers,” said Harris. If this deal is approved, Frontier will control 85 percent of our state’s telephone lines. In the other states, that figure is only about eight percent.”

CWA local union officers personally carried the research report to news media outlets across the state. As a result, it was extensively covered not only in the Charleston news media but in many smaller communities.

Pictures from the demonstration and report release can be seen here.

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Rand Wilson is an organizer and chief of staff at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.

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