Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Business vs. Workers' Jobs: Who Makes Who Possible?

A contract dispute between Verizon and one of its unions spurred a letter-to-the-editor by New Jersey state AFL_CIO president Charles Wowkanech titled Verizon not listening to union workers' concerns. He wrote, in part:

Corporate greed has reached astronomical dimensions, especially when compared to the stagnating salaries of the middle class. A case in point is Verizon, which racked up billions in annual profits, paid executives $283 million over four years, paid $10 billion to shareholders in 2011 and paid no federal corporate income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

Verizon is a perfectly healthy company, thanks to hard-working union members.

A business like Verizon will continue to take from workers until workers stand up for what is right.

I left the following comments in response:

zemack March 20, 2012 at 7:18PM

As a member (ret.) of a (private sector) union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, let me state that Charles Wowkanech does not speak for me regarding his smear tactics against Verizon (and by implication against all businesses).

I strongly condemn his attack on the alleged “corporate greed” of Verizon. One can just as easily level charges of “union greed” against its workers who, to paraphrase Wowkanech’s ridiculous bromide, “take from Verizon.” It must be remembered that, if not for Verizon’s profits, which derive from the valuable products and services its customers voluntarily buy, its executives’ expertise, and its investors (the shareholders), there would be no union jobs, or jobs of any kind.

Despite Wowkanech’s vacuous claim that “Verizon is a perfectly healthy company, thanks to hard-working union members,” the truth is that, however hard-working the union members are, every aspect of their jobs is given to them by their company. Who is it that creates and provides the products and services that workers build and install? Who provides the tools and equipment the workers need to do their jobs productively? Who provides the knowledge and job training? Who organizes the work force and directs and coordinates their “hard work” so as to contribute to a healthy productive enterprise? Who in fact provides the job openings the workers fill?

I have no opinion regarding the contract dispute, except to say that Verizon has as much moral right to fight for their interests as the union does for theirs. When we forget that a job is a two-way street, jobs disappear. By all means the union can negotiate for the best contract terms they can get. But union leaders who forget (or ignore) the fact that it is business that makes workers’ jobs possible – not the other way around - are doing their members a grave disservice.

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