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EMPLOYEES, UNIONS AND ACTIVISTS CALL ON VERIZON TO STOP ITS PENSION FREEZE

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Nancy Hwa, 202-296-3776
May 04, 2006www.pensionrights.org

Several Activities Held in Conjunction with Verizon's Shareholders Meeting

WASHINGTON – On the day of Verizon's 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Verizon employees, retirees, labor unions and pension rights activists ramped up their efforts to protect workers and convince Verizon to overturn its decision to freeze pensions for salaried employees.  Among the day's activities:

  • The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) rallied in front of the shareholders' meeting in Overland Park, Kansas and outside of Verizon’s office in downtown Boston. The union workers are supporting salaried employees, recognizing that if the company can freeze the white-collar plan, union employees could be next.
  • At Verizon work sites throughout the mid-Atlantic, union members distributed information warning that Verizon's freeze for salaried workers also poses a threat to union workers;
  • Using activist listservs and the web site, www.VerizonRetirementWatch.com, a letter-writing campaign was launched for Verizon employees to urge CEO Ivan Seidenberg to stop the freeze;
  • Retirees and unions sponsored and spoke in favor of several resolutions at the shareholders' meeting itself.
    • The Association of BellTel Retirees, a retirees' rights organization, sponsored a resolution that requires two-thirds of the Board of Directors to have no significant financial relationship with Verizon. 
    • C. William Jones, a shareholder and president of the Association of BellTel Retirees, introduced a resolution tying senior executives' compensation more closely to the performance of the company. 
    • Both the CWA and IBEW sponsored resolutions to ensure greater Board independence from conflicts of interest.

Regarding his shareholder resolution, Mr. Jones said, "There is a dichotomy between the way senior executives are treated and the way the rest of the employees are treated.  If regular employees and retirees are asked to take a hit by having their benefits cut, then those at the top should have to make the same sacrifice.  That isn't happening."  CEO Seidenberg’s 48 percent salary increase and his $19.4 million in compensation last year have been widely reported and criticized in the media. 

"All of today's activities focus on trying to stop Verizon's pension freeze and other actions that are hurting employees and retirees," said Karen Friedman, policy director for the Pension Rights Center.  "The freeze is supposed to take effect on June 30.  There is still time for Verizon to change its mind and stop the freeze."

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