Verizon, facing a potential strike by 39,000 unionized workers, has rolled out a smartphone app designed to help its managers document and report violations of its “code of conduct” during a work stoppage.
Contract negotiations between the CWA and Verizon have stalled in recent days after the union objected to reduced job security, increases in health care costs, and slashed retirement benefits for its members.
A Verizon spokesman says the app, which allows users to snap geo-tagged photos of striking employees and send them to company executives, was designed in response to unspecified past incidents of vandalism and harassment during strikes. “We believe strongly that this is not an invasion of privacy,” says spokesman Raymond McConville. “This is completely lawful and necessary to ensure that our employees are safe.”
“This particular thing is just an example of how arrogant and obnoxious they are,” counters Bob Master, the vice-president of the Communication Workers of America District 1, which is negotiating the new contract on behalf of Verizon fiber optics workers in New York and eight other East Coast states.
The worker concessions sought by Verizon are related, in part, to its decision to focus on its wireless business at the expense of building out its fiber optic network—a shift that hurts consumers, the union says. Indeed, a New York City audit found that Verizon had failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everybody in New York City who wanted it.
The CWA contends that the app is just another way for Verizon, which earned $9.6 billion in profits last year, to gain the upper hand. “I think they definitely projected this as a way of intimidating people,” Master says. “At the bargaining table [our negotiators] call it the snitch app.”