Strike Rhetoric Benefits No One
Adding fuel to the already hot fire is the current political climate, in which unions are viewed as evil incarnate by one side and union-busting is viewed the same by the other. Thus commentary on the Verizon strike has degenerated into typically strident rhetoric that paints Verizon management as evil overlords or casts the union members as irresponsible extremists.
The reality is that the wireline telecom world that supported unions in a traditional way no longer exists. Even Verizon, which placed the biggest of multibillion-dollar bets on modernizing its local network, still sees its wireline operating revenues decrease quarter over quarter, as it becomes a predominantly wireless company. The decline has been less steep recently, because of FiOS and Verizon's success in cloud-based services, but there has yet to be growth in wireline revenues. (See Verizon Q2 Revenues Up 2.8 Percent at $27.5B.)
So pro-union commentary that cites Verizon's fiscal health isn't really on target here, as that profit comes largely from the wireless side of the business.
On the other hand, the wireline network isn't going away any time soon and is, in fact, the bedrock for wireless service. So the idea that jobs for the folks that help service, maintain and upgrade that network are going away completely is also false.
But many of those jobs are becoming more software and IT-focused, and some of the skilled workers of the past don't have these skills for the future.
Verizon's challenge remains figuring out how to transition its current workforce, where possible, to the future skill set, while improving the efficiency of wireline operations. Clearly management believes that requires driving down the cost of employment by getting workers to bear a larger share of their growing health-care costs and by getting more flexible work rules.
I don't pretend to know where the middle ground lies here, but it's clear the harsh nature of the debate on both sides gets both sides nowhere.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading