Over 60,000 workers are on strike against the “Baby Bell” giant, NYNEX which has a legal monopoly, through its subsidiaries, on local telephone service in New York state and New England. The core of the dispute is NYNEX’s demand that its fully-paid family healthcare coverage move into a shifting mode onto the employees, starting with a $10 per week deduction. In three years, NYNEX’s plan is to have each worker make an average contribution of more than $1500 a year.
There are other issues in the strike, but officials of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) say that they are all resolvable once the health insurance issue is settled.
On the consumer side, the New York Telephone company is asking the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve a $359.8 million rate increase effective January 1, 1990 as a first stage hike designed to double phone rates for residential customers in five years. The company also wants regulatory changes that would allow it to raise rates within a prescribed range each year without requiring PSC review and approval.
So, a coalition of labor and consumer groups are moving to oppose the telephone monopoly’s power play. The CWA has intervened before the PSC to oppose the rate increase. And a wider front of issues will be opened that will publicize just how powerful these “Baby Bells” have become all over the country.
These telephone companies are opposing giving rate relief to their customers arising out of phantom taxes which these utilities have collected but do not have to pay because of changes in the tax laws. NYNEX is under investigation by the Justice Department for having its non-regulated subsidiaries overcharge its regulated telephone subsidiaries. Using monopoly profits to subsidize its other commerce is not permitted because it would be, among other aberrations, a form of unfair competition.
The CWA and its vice-president, Jan Pierce, is mounting a campaign against Metropolitan Life whose CEO, John Creedon, is a member of NYNEX’s Board of Directors. Met Life is also NYNEX’s life insurance carrier and, not surprisingly, the company recently ended payments for strikers’ health and life insurance coverage.
NYNEX is risking the opening of its Pandora’s Box of questionable practices which include occupational hazards, electronic surveillance and the internal accounting between its subsidiaries. It is reporting booming profits from year to year in a growing telephone market. The Company is automating and gaining substantial productivity gains to fatten its profits further.
Between 1985 and 1988, NYNEX’s top executives gave themselves a 94% increase in pay. And now they are demanding that the workers accept a concession backward in health coverage payments. Among all the “Baby Bells”, only NYNEX is trying to cut health benefits.
As the strike continues into its third month, telephone service is deteriorating. Four thousand installations a week are riot being made. Yet the NYNEX management ploughs ahead stubbornly. One wonders what NYNEX would do to its workers if profits were flat and the market shrinking. This over-reaching is typical of many large corporations who have decided that they way to run their domain is to lengthen the gap between what their executives earn and what their workers earn. This formula is sure to damage morale and the cohesiveness of spirit and purpose necessary for a healthy and productive company.
So spot NYNEX. If this giant wins, its formula will become contagious for other companies against their workers.