By Mike O’Day, Verizon Employee, CWA Local 1400

You may or may not have heard, but Verizon has put its land-based telephone operations in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine on the auction block. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the sale could be worth up to $8 billion as Verizon cuts off telephone lines in favor of wireless and broadband expansion. Landlines bought and paid for by rate-payers over the last century are about to be abandoned to the highest bidder with little regulatory oversight – and hundreds of good paying jobs across New England will be lost as a result. 

Verizon’s landline sell-off is yet another example of a “race to the bottom” economy that will effect our jobs and economy, as well as the quality and reliability of local services. Over 130 customer service and administrative staff are represented by CWA Local 1400 and members of IBEW Local 2326 account for the remaining 450 Verizon jobs in Vermont, which includes all the technicians, operators, and engineering people who maintain and service the lines. Verizon also subcontracts 700 or more employees – everything from landscapers to electricians – widening the potential impact to over 1,250 working Vermonters. 

What would the sell-off mean for Verizon? 

  • Decreased state regulation and public oversight.
  • Desertion from the costly obligation to provide universal service to all areas of the state at the same price.
  • Reduction of the pressure to build high speed internet networks in rural areas.
  • A “take the money and run” attitude in order to concentrate high speed FIOS data and video networks in more populous states such as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California.

What does this mean for Vermont Ratepayers?

  • Verizon wants to cherry-pick its customers by liquidating landlines in rural states to finance high-speed networks more populous states. This “rural redlining” will handicap Vermonters and Vermont businesses. 
  • The sale would allow Verizon, which has been guaranteed a profit for over a hundred years, to liquidate assets bought and paid for by the ratepayers in order to re-invest profits in bordering states.
  • The exit of Verizon, a Fortune 500 company, would signal a set-back for the Vermont economy in state-of-the-art fiber-optic networks which are currently available to our neighbors in New York and Massachusetts. 
  • If the sale goes through, Vermonters will be at the mercy of an undercapitalized, highly leveraged company that will be expected to return a quick profit to its investors. That will equate to very little investment in high speed internet apart from the downtown areas, and reduced capital to support infrastructure.

What impact could this have on the Vermont labor movement?

  • The companies currently showing an interest in Vermont – Fairpoint, Century Tel, and Citizens – all have an aversion to organized labor. They centralize call centers, not sharing the Vermont philosophy that local customers should speak with a local agent. They contract out construction work and use attrition to let existing contracts lapse.
  • The sale would witness the further decline of good healthcare benefits and the loss of defined pension plans, and provide another example of corporate greed for short term gains. 

As a regulated utility, cherry-picking customers must not be tolerated. Encourage your legislator to block the sale of Verizon, so that the information superhighway isn’t turned into a dirt road!