Verizon Workers STILL Struggling, Turn To Board Members, Find More Greed

What a complex web we weave, when our lives are ruled by greed. Verizon is an example of what corporate greed (the 1%) is doing to our middle class and vulnerable (the 99%). It is a highly profitable company, just gave its CEO a huge raise, but dodges its taxes (schools, roads, police, firefighters for the 99%), and to top things off is asking its workers to take cutbacks. So its workers are going over the head of the CEO, and look what they find.

Background

Verizon is a highly-profitable company. Last August (yes this has been going on a long time) I wrote in, Verizon’s Workers Strike Back At Corporate Greed — You Can Join Them!

The giant telecom company Verizon, currently raking in the billions ($6 billion in profits and a $10 billion dividend on $108 billion in revenue last year), while paying no taxes, is putting the squeeze on its workers, and they are fighting back. With all those profits, the company has been consumed by greed: Now Verizon is asking for $1 billion in concessions from its workers.

Verizon’s directors recently approved a 200% increase in compensation for the CEO, to $23.1 million. But Verizon continues to demand cuts in compensation from its workers of at least $10,000 a year.

Dodging Taxes

Taxes are how our government does what it does for We, the People and our small and medium businesses. Schools, teachers, police, firefighters, courts, ports, enforcing environmental regulations, enforcing worker safety regulations, enforcing consumer-protection regulations, etc. Verizon, with all of its profits, dodges taxes. In November’s How Wealthy Companies Like Verizon Avoid Taxes,

Verizon needs to open a call center, which means a few new low-paying jobs. They get local governments bidding against each other, offering all kinds of tax breaks if only they’ll bring those jobs there. Before the bidding war these jobs will be in the economy somewhere, but local schools, police, etc. will be funded. After the bidding war the same number of jobs open up but schools, police, etc. are not funded — and the 1% are that much richer. Company after company does this. Community after community, desperate for jobs, loses. Schools, police, infrastructure go unfunded. Just who does this help? The 1%.
… [Verizon] aggressively manipulated state tax rules, demanded subsidies, and used other methods to end up with a negative federal income tax rate, and receiving state and local tax subsidies in at least 13 states. When setting up call centers, for example, they offer localities the prospect of jobs that that will be created somewhere in US, where the company would have paid taxes to fund schools and infrastructure, but get the localities bidding against each other until they end up making a profit instead of paying taxes.

Verizon’s Directors

45,000 Verizon’s workers are are still trying to get a fair contract and are now turning to Verizon’s directors, asking them to get this company to act responsibly. But looking into Verizon’s corporate governance seems to reveal the very kind of web of 1% greed that is destroying our country.
Friday Verizon’s workers launched protests aimed at members of Verizon’s Board of Directors, asking them to take responsibility and get the company to negotiate and give workers a fair deal. Joined by members of the IBEW, Jobs with Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition, actions took place at nearly 300 locations across the country (300 protests, but not in the newspapers or TV news), including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Boston and Washington D.C., as well as in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Targeted in these protests are directors Richard Carrión, CEO of Peurto Rico’s Banco Popular, and Clarence Otis, CEO of Darden Restaurants. Looking into Verizon’s corporate governance you find that Carrión and Otis currently are being criticized for their own business practices at their companies Banco Popular and Darden Restaurants.
Richard Carrión has been a Verizon director … not quite forever, just since 1997. He is a member of the Corporate Governance and Policy Committee and the Human Resources Committee. Carrión has also been a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since 2008. He serves on that board (sits in that web?) with Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, who is currently in the news. (Previous directors include Stephen Friedman who resigned but was not prosecuted – who is? – after it was disclosed he purchased millions of dollars of Goldman Sachs stock while serving both as a director of the bank and of the NY Fed while the Fed was bailing out AIG, which directly benefited Goldman Sachs and bolstered its stock.)
Carrión’s Banco Popular owes taxpayers more than $900 million in TARP bailout money – just one bank in the US owes more. Yet, Carrión’s own compensation has more than doubled since 2009. Meanwhile, under Carrión, the bank has controversially loaned millions of dollars to companies controlled by Carrión’s relatives – much of which has been written off as a loss to the bank.
Bloomberg, N.Y. Fed Director’s Puerto Rico Bank Loses On Nephew’s Loan,

Popular Inc. (BPOP), Puerto Rico’s largest lender, amassed record losses during the credit crisis and got a $935 million injection from U.S. taxpayers. Now a loan to a real estate venture overseen by the chief executive officer’s nephew is burning a hole in the bank’s books.
Popular loaned the money two years ago to a developer controlled by Jose Vizcarrondo, whose uncle, Richard Carrion, is the bank’s CEO … Popular said it wrote off more than half the $15.7 million.
Add that Vizcarrondo, 49, is a Popular board member who until two months ago helped set Carrion’s pay, and the saga exposes conflicts of interest and potential weaknesses in the bank’s governance…

Meanwhile, Clarence Otis has been a Verizon director since 2006 and is a member of the Audit Committee and the Human Resources Committee. Otis has been Chairman of Darden Restaurants since 2005 and CEO since 2004. Darden Restaurants is the largest company-owned and operated full-service restaurant company in the world. The Darden brand includes: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V’s. There are more than 1,900 Darden restaurants.
Otis is also on the Board (web?) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
So, what about Darden? What happens if we pull on the web a bit further? The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) is an organization working to better the conditions of people who work at outfits like Darden’s. From their website,

The mission of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) is to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant workforce. ROC-United is the only national restaurant workers’ organization in the United States. ROC-United is the only national organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to the needs of restaurant workers.

The ROC has launched a Dignity At Darden campaign, asking the chain to stop practices of discrimination and wage theft,

In December 2011, workers from the Capital Grille Restaurant stood up for dignity in their restaurant company. On January 31st, Capital Grille workers in New York, Chicago, and in the Washington, DC area filed federal litigation against Capital Grille’s parent company Darden for discrimination and wage theft (Click here to find out more about the lawsuit). On February 15th, workers from Capital Grille in Los Angeles joined the struggle. On February 28th, Miami Capital Grille workers also launched their campaign and added their claims to the litigation.

Dardens was in the news recently, when the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) released a report, The Hands That Feed Us, looking at wages and working conditions of workers across the entire food chain. A report on the FCWA report, Many Food Workers Keep Working While Sick, Survey Finds, looke at how lack of paid sick days can help spread disease,

Many well-known restaurant chains have been implicated in recent foodborne illness outbreaks. Just take a look at this list of recent Hepatitis A outbreaks tied to sick workers at restaurants like Olive Garden, Quiznos, and McDonald’s. … This spring, the New York City branch of ROC demanded that Darden, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster, among other chains, provide paid sick days to protect the health of consumers and employees.

From FCWA, Tell Darden: Take the High Road,

Alliance member Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has launched an exciting new national campaign, Dignity at Darden. In December 2011, workers from the Capital Grille Restaurant stood up for dignity in their restaurant company. On January 31st, Capital Grille workers in New York, Chicago, and in the Washington, DC area filed federal litigation against Capital Grille’s parent company Darden for discrimination and wage theft. Employees at all of the 1,680 Darden Restaurants across America – such as Capital Grille, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden – deserve to be given equal opportunities, to be fully and fairly compensated for their efforts, and to enjoy a safe and healthy workplace. Listen to workers’ stories on the website.

Action

So Verizon’s workers are bringing attention to the conditions at Darden restaurants. With reports that workers at some Darden restaurants are not fully compensated for their work and others have been subjected to racial discrimination, Verizon workers protested these problems at Darden locations across the country as part of last week’s Day of Action.
“Mr. Otis and Mr. Carrión are each paid $230,000 per year to direct Verizon’s business,” said CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson. “It’s time for them to step up and make Verizon management recognize the contributions of front line workers who have helped the company become so successful. Leaving the workers’ contracts unresolved undermines the workforce, hurts employee morale and creates unnecessary uncertainty for the company.”

For more information, please visit www.verigreedy.com.
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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