Is Verizon Abandoning CWA?

Andrew Cuomo is on  Verizon's case.

In a filing yesterday at the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo criticized Verizon for providing "chronically poor" telephone repair service in many parts of the State, and called for the PSC, which regulates Verizon, to set stricter standards and mandate customer rebates for inadequate service.

Currently, the PSC requires Verizon to repair 80% of phone lines within 24 hours of receiving a customer repair request. However, the Attorney General's office analyzed five years of data (2002-2006) and found that Verizon had consistently failed to meet these regulatory standards. Specifically, 20 out of Verizon's 35 "repair service bureaus" across the State chronically failed to meet the PSC's standards. These repair bureaus serve a total of 4.8 million customer phone lines, about 62% of Verizon's New York customers. In total, Verizon failed to comply with the standards 35% of the time, although in some individual bureaus the failure rate was as high as 82% of the time.

The Attorney General found that the bureaus with failing scores include seven areas where Verizon is aggressively building out its new fiber-optic internet, video, and telephone network, including Westchester, Northern Queens, parts of Rockland and Putnam counties, and all of Long Island. Other regions with poor service include Buffalo, Albany, the Bronx, the Hudson Valley, Syracuse and Utica. The Attorney General noted that Verizon appears to be neglecting to maintain its copper-wire telephone service in favor of dedicating resources to expand its fiber-optic services, and that it has no effective plan to address this problem.

We know that Verizon is screwing their workers and trying to destroy CWA by playing around with their business structure.  It's pretty obvious that they are going to do this with their fiber service as well if they can get away with it.  And this has nothing to do with profitability for the shareholders, only management.  CEO Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon got $109 million the last five years despite a shareholder return of negative five percent.  Is Verizon, through shoddy maintenance, throwing away its wireline business as well?

CWA President Larry Cohen's strategy is not coherent.  On the one hand, CWA has its speed matters campaign, pushing for a universal build-out done by Verizon and company and funded by the government.  As part of this campaign, CWA is pushing for an 'open internet' but in its lobbying work the union leadership is strenuously against net neutrality.  On the other hand, they are protesting Verizon moving jobs out of the unionized part of the company.  I don't know why Larry Cohen thinks that Verizon's Seidenberg intends his broadband unit to stay unionized, but that trust is misplaced.

Now obviously I'm going to bring this back to net neutrality and our common interests.  The progressive movement, including CWA, wants a universal broadband network built and maintained by a high quality unionized workforce.  The difference is that CWA is spitting in the face of its allies in that quest by pushing against net neutrality.  I still have not heard a coherent explanation as to why they have that policy stance, and based on some of the emails I get, there are lots of CWA locals and members that agree with me.  My guess is that Cohen and the leadership of CWA thinks that in a high speed world, net neutrality won't matter, so why not trade it away in return for concessions the union really wants?  This is a profound misunderstanding of the strategic situation.  Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg is going to use his control of a non-neutral network to crush the internet (and the netroots), and then he will continue to undermine CWA.  And when Ed Whiteacre retires, AT&T and Cingular will do the same.  This can be stopped.  We are pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act, for universal build-out, for PEG, for all the nice media reform pieces.  We want CWA on our side so we can fight together and remove the overpaid bad faith actors such as Seidenberg from positions of privileges.

Net neutrality is what divides us from being a unified movement pushing for a unionized and universal high speed network built with public money.  I would hope that CWA members make their voices heard and ask CWA's President Larry Cohen to come on to right side, for net neutrality and for universal build-out and against Ivan Seidenberg's control of the internet.

Larry Cohen's email is as follows: lcohen@cwa-union.org

I'm going to email him and ask him to reconsider CWA's stance on net neutrality in the context of Verizon's poor business decisions, and I hope you will too, especially if you are a CWA member.  Labor is our friend, so be polite.  CWA is almost there with their 'open internet' plank on speed matters.  If you're not sure what to ask for, you can just send him this post. The email I wrote to him is on the flip.

President Cohen,

My name is Matt Stoller, and I am a liberal blogger at a site called MyDD.com. I am writing to you because I'm wondering if you would reconsider your union's stance on net neutrality. Given Verizon's multiple indications that the company is not interested in either the welfare of their workers, shareholders, or customers, and that the company often does not respect the law, it might be useful consider their credibility when handing them control of the internet.

I have included a blog post I wrote below on the issue, and would appreciate any comments or thoughts you have on the matter. I have several friends who are members of your fine union, and there are CWA members who read my blog. All of these people would very much appreciate you considering this request. I don't think we are very far apart, considering your Speed Matters campaign, but the issue of net neutrality really is quite critical to the millions of progressives who use the internet to organize our lives, our culture, our jobs, and our politics.

If there's anything I can do for you or if you would like to discuss this in greater detail, please let me know. In solidarity,

Matt Stoller

Tags: CWA, Employee Free Choice Act, labor movement, Unions, Verizon (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

Re: Is Verizon Abandoning CWA?

by unityworks 2007-04-19 09:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Verizon Abandoning CWA?

Matt, I agree with your statement: "The progressive movement, including CWA, wants a universal broadband network built and maintained by a high quality unionized workforce. " But I have to disagree with you when you say, "CWA is spitting in the face of its allies in that quest by pushing against net neutrality."  CWA is not pushing against net neutrality.  

CWA believes "the U.S. must adopt policy for universal access and set deployment timetables: 10 mbps down, 1 mbps up by 2010, with new benchmarks set for succeeding years."  CWA "believes the U.S. must preserve an open Internet.  Consumers should be and are entitled to an open Internet allowing them to go where they want when they want.  Nothing should be done to degrade or block access to any websites.

Let's face it; the U.S. - the country that invented the Internet - has fallen behind many countries in terms of high speed internet adoption and deployment.  The U.S. is 15th in the world in broadband penetration and we need to know why millions do not have broadband, and why those who do, are paying twice as much for connections one-twentieth as fast as those in other countries.

We can no longer rely on market forces, deregulation, and inadequate governmental programs that have not served us well.  We must invest more on communications; we shouldn't be charged more for slower speeds; and we need to find constructive ways to deal with the significant digital divide that is being created based on income and geography.

CWA believes that public policies should support growth of good, career jobs as a key to quality service.  All this could be accomplished if the government would require public reporting of deployment, actual speed and price.

Let me end, by stating for the record; there is no need to ask CWA President Cohen to reconsider CWA's stance on net neutrality.  CWA is already on the right side and against Ivan Seidenberg's control of the internet.

by unityworks 2007-04-19 09:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Verizon Abandoning CWA?

I am confused. Every Union member has a dual relationship with their employer.  On the one hand we fight every day; we fight during contracts; we fight on policy issues (who do you think was the main group that pushed and continues to push for service quality standards in NYS?); we fight when we organize; we fight in the courts and on the streets. On the other hand we want consumers to use companies that are Unionized -- that's why we push for people to buy Union label clothing; shop in union represented stores; use Union labor to do construction; use Union telecommunications companies and parcel carriers. How can you not understand the distinction between when you fight and when you encourage those who buy services to use Union services? The CWA, like every other Union, understands those two aspects.

I have worked as a telephone worker for 28 years. I absolutely understand and support the Speed Matters campaign. Do Google and Ebay and YouTube provide one Union job? Have their bloated executives volunteered ONE PENNY of their billion dollars of profits to pay for the build out of the kind of infrastructure this country needs?

The kind of high speed broadband that the CWA calls for, has protections in its program (and people should read the whole policy paper at http://www.speedmatters.org):
"Protect the Public internet: All broadband providers should be required to provide open, unrestricted Internet Access...Anti-trust protection against discriminatory behavior ... the FCC.. should have the authority to adjudicate on an expedited basis complaints alleging discrimination by broadband providers..."

That is the position. The only difference is that the CWA believes that on a portion of the greatly inproved infrastructure, "network providers should be entitled to provide video and other private networks on a proprietary basis."  That would just be a small portion of the total bandwidth and have no effect on the "open internet" on the remainder.

That seems like a pretty reasonable position to me. I have been a fighter for progressive causes since I was a teenager in the '60s and I still am. Larry Cohen has been also.  The CWA's position on this consistent with those progressive goals.

If you want to run an email campaign I suggest their are plenty other more appropriate targets than the President of one of the most progressive Unions in this country.  

by Laura Unger 2007-04-20 08:47AM | 0 recs

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