VZ Strike Update: Krugman on Verizon as Robber Baron as Thousands to Rally in Times Square

Renowned economist Paul Krugman weighs in on Verizon’s business model, saying the company is part of the “second robber baron era.” He writes in the New York Times:

 

When Verizon workers went on strike last week, they were mainly protesting efforts to outsource work to low-wage, non-union contractors. But they were also angry about the company’s unwillingness to invest in its own business. In particular, Verizon has shown a remarkable lack of interest in expanding its Fios high-speed Internet network, despite strong demand.

 

But why doesn’t Verizon want to invest? Probably because it doesn’t have to: many customers have no place else to go, so the company can treat its broadband business as a cash cow, with no need to spend money on providing better service (or, speaking from personal experience, on maintaining existing service).

 

Krugman notes: profits are at near-record highs, thanks to a substantial decline in the percentage of G.D.P. going to workers.

 

Meanwhile, thousands of Verizon workers prepare to rally and march in Times Square today with the support of dozens of elected officials, including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito,City Council Members Julissa Ferreras, Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, Ben Kallos, Corey Johnson, and Jumaane Williams, NYS Senators Kevin Parker, Adriano Espaillat, Brad Hoylman, NYS Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, and others. 

 

Concern about how the strike could prompt customers to switch from Verizon is raised by Kansas City Star columnist Lewis Diuguid: 

 

Any little thing — such as a Twitter post or a workers’ strike especially when it’s picked up in a contentious presidential campaign — will cause customers to switch carriers. Public relations damage control measures have been deployed, but they may not be enough to enable the offending corporations to maintain their market share.

 

Verizon wireless worker Jazmin Sypher writes about why she’s on strike in The Guardian. She says:

 

CEO Lowell McAdam got $18m in compensation last year. That’s some 300 times more than the average Verizon Wireless worker.

 

My co-workers and I aren’t asking for $18m a year. We’d just like to take care of our families. A big part of the reason I work at Verizon is for my three kids.

 

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen tells the story of long-time and multi-generational families who have worked for the telecom giant:

 

“We built this company,” [Christina Moylan] said, pointing to the workers who walked in an oval in front of the entrance to the old New England Telephone and Telegraph Company building. “When we started, we were a family. Now? Now we’re just a number.”...

 

[Moylan] started 38 years ago as a telephone operator with the company that became Verizon. She rose through the company, bought a house in Melrose, raised a family.

 

Hers has been one of those middle-class existences the politicians extol, existences that are going the way of the dodo....

 

Matt Lyons, 29 years on the job, walked up from the Local 2222 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers picket line on Franklin Street to Bowdoin Square the other day. He says it’s galling to see executive pay rise so disproportionately. He says it’s unconscionable for a highly profitable company to ship overseas the kind of jobs that long sustained America’s middle class.

 

“My grandmother worked for what became this company. She was a telephone operator for 50 years,” he said. “She was able to send my dad to BC High, then to Boston College. That’s what made the middle class. That was the system, and it worked. And now that system is being taken away from us. And for what? So rich people can get richer? And working people can get screwed?”

 

From the picket lines, Verizon attorney hit striking workers with his Porsche last week.