MEDIA: Media Watch - Verizon strike: more media coverage for workers

Verizon Communications, the combined entity of Bell Atlantic and GTE, found its massive renaming campaign interrupted when 87,000 members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers began a strike. A corporate identity consultant told The New York Times (August 11) that the situation created ’a rocky start’ for the new telecommunications giant. The strike opens the possibility that many consumers may get a bad first impression of the renamed company.

Verizon Communications, the combined entity of Bell Atlantic and GTE, found its massive renaming campaign interrupted when 87,000 members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers began a strike. A corporate identity consultant told The New York Times (August 11) that the situation created ’a rocky start’ for the new telecommunications giant. The strike opens the possibility that many consumers may get a bad first impression of the renamed company.

Verizon Communications, the combined entity of Bell Atlantic and

GTE, found its massive renaming campaign interrupted when 87,000 members

of the Communications Workers of America and the International

Brotherhood of Electrical Workers began a strike. A corporate identity

consultant told The New York Times (August 11) that the situation

created ’a rocky start’ for the new telecommunications giant. The strike

opens the possibility that many consumers may get a bad first impression

of the renamed company.



CARMA monitored a sample of a week’s coverage and found that the media

focused most often on the demands of the unions as opposed to Verizon’s

position. The media latched onto the unions’ demands for better working

conditions, specifically a less stressful work environment and less

mandatory overtime.



Employees described the workplace in the call centers as especially

stressful.



The Baltimore Sun (August 14) observed, ’Workers have also complained

about having to cancel vacations at the last minute because of

overtime.



Verizon workers are penalized when they come to work even seven minutes

late. Electronic monitors at their phone record their whereabouts, even

timing their bathroom breaks.’ One worker summed up her frustration:

’It’s like a sweatshop. There are so many rules’ (Pittsburgh

Post-Gazette, August 15).



Verizon defended itself by maintaining that monitoring employees and

establishing overtime were necessary to ensure quality of customer

service.



But the media conveyed these views less frequently.



Demands for increased job security also received attention. The unions

were portrayed as fearful that management would transfer jobs to rural

areas where they could pay workers less. And, there was concern that

jobs transferred to other areas would go to non-union workers. Verizon’s

response centered around the need for flexibility so the company can be

competitive in the cutthroat telecom industry. But management’s position

earned less attention than labor’s.



Coverage was split between articles that reported progress and

indications that a final agreement was still elusive. Reports positioned

Verizon as expecting everything would fall into place once an agreement

was reached to make it easier for workers to unionize in Verizon’s

wireless division.



Company executives were more often cited for their optimism, while union

officials were more likely to suggest that there were items yet to be

settled.



Coverage also took note of the backlog of service orders piling up as

the talks dragged on. By August 17, the media were citing approximately

90,000 unmet requests for repair or installation of new phone

service.



A few articles viewed the strike in terms of labor’s role in the new

economy. ’At stake are the status and protection of workers in the new

telecommunications and technology industries,’ according to USA Today

(August 11). Interested parties were reported to be watching the outcome

for its implications on the future of labor relations. While both labor

and management have expressed their interest in a quick solution, an

agreement appears elusive.



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com.



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