Another profitable company with well-compensated executives wants its employees to give a little.
So it should be no surprise that there’s an unusual event going on right now — a massive strike by workers. About 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike this week because contract negotiations have stalled.
I say the event unusual because strikes in the country have been on the decline for years. The number of major U.S. strikes, including those involving 1,000 workers or more, fell to just five in 2009, the lowest level since 1947, when the Department of Labor first began tracking the data.
“The bottom line is that unions know the strike weapon just doesn’t work that well anymore, especially in a tough economy,” said Phillip Wilson, president of the Labor Relations Institute.
But for some reason, Verizon’s workers think it can work, or maybe they’re just so frustrated they don’t know what else to do. You see, the company is quite profitable right now but company officials say they still need major concessions from employees. It’s a familiar story many workers have heard before, especially during this downturn. Workers are seeing their pay and benefits cut, in addition to ongoing furloughs without pay, but all the while the top dogs keep padding their bank accounts.
In the case of Verizon, the top six executives at the company pocketed about $45 million in compensation last year. When you compare that to average wages at the firm for the rank and file that seems pretty extreme during tough economic times. Software engineers at the company, who are not unionized, make about $87,000, and customer service reps, many of which are unionized get $16.64 on average, according to Glassdoor.com.
Executives at Verizon make 20 times more than their top-paid employees, and nearly 60 times more than what their lowest paid workers bring in.
The pay gap between employees and executives has been growing for years now across all industries, but companies still want to extract more and more from the rank and file.
What if there was a company that limited how much more the head honchos could make compared to the little guys and gals? Am I crazy to even suggest this? Did I not have enough coffee this morning? Turns out, there is one such company.
I recently bought a bottle of Seventh Generation multi-surface cleaner. Why? Because I read in an article published in The Nation by Gar Alperovitz, a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Government and Politics, that the company actually had such a policy.
A different large-scale corporation, Seventh Generation—the nation’s leader in “green” detergents, dishwashing soap, baby wipes, tissues, paper towels and other household products—has internal policies requiring that no one be paid more than fourteen times the lowest base pay or five times higher than the average employee.
I went to the company’s site and sure enough it spells out this policy:
Our new CEO Chuck Maniscalco has maintained our policy of ensuring that no one’s base salary will be more than 14 times the lowest paid full-time employee and no more than five times the average employee.
It’s not a crazy idea after all. Maybe Verizon’s union negotiators should put this on the table.