Verizon executives have shitty priorities

Verizon is laying off a bunch of employees.

America’s largest wireless service provider plans to cut 1,700 jobs by offering its technicians and call center employees buyouts. Verizon Communications announced last week that it would reduce its nationwide workforce by 1 percent, and if enough workers don’t accept the buyouts, it will resort to involuntary layoffs.

Sometimes that just happens in the course of running a company.  But here’s the kicker.

Verizon paid chief executive Lowell C. McAdam more than $22.5 million in 2011, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of executive compensation. The company has paid its top five executives more than $350 million in the last five years, according to the Communications Workers of America, the union that deals most directly with Verizon.

I have Verizon.  I like their service.  It’s a real shame I’m going to have to switch carriers.  I won’t support people who display a disregard for the people who work for them in order to make themselves even more obscenely wealthy.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • StevoR

    Switch to who though?

    Aren’t they all pretty much equally bad?

    Corporate ethics has long been a complete oxymoron.

    • Nick Johnson

      Essentially, yes they’re all evil. They all charge a ton more than they, or their competitors, do in other countries and they recently informed everyone who had an older plan that the next time you upgrade you will be switched to a verizon plan. So, my old unlimited cheaper alltel plan will now cost $20 more and have a data cap the next time I “upgrade”. I put upgrade in quotes because the phones the manufacturer shit out at a rate of 2 a month are really hit and miss on quality.
      Verizon just had one of their telemarketers call me yesterday too. They charge you out the ass for minutes then try to use them up.

  • Brian Wolfe

    All of the corporate telcos have pulled, or are pulling this kind of prioritization these days. Switching from one to another won’t help really IMHO.

    Since switching doesn’t help (they already have high churn rates) exposure and public embarrassment is the answer I think.

  • Jasper of Maine

    Quick! Give them some tax breaks so they create jobs!

    • John Horstman

      Hehe. I’m glad to see the absurdist theatrical spectacle that is contemporary American culture hasn’t entirely killed my ability to recognize sarcasm and satire. I thought we’d already crossed Poe’s Event Horizon (as far as I know, I’ve coined this one myself – it’s the point at which absurd extremist beliefs become so widely held that it becomes universally impossible to recognize satire), but I guess we’re still on the safe side, if barely.

  • Rory

    There was a pretty chilling episode of Frontline on a few weeks ago titled ‘Cell Tower Deaths’ about the obscene treatment of folks who erect and maintain the cell tower infrastructure in the U.S. Awful stuff–minimal safety training and equipment for people climbing these huge towers, monkeying with people’s employment status in order to avoid making health insurance payouts, etc.

    I admire your willingness to stand on principle, but I’m not sure the competition is any more moral.

  • Yoritomo

    Let’s do the math. 1,700 call center employees cost the company about $30,000 each per year, probably less. That’s $51 million per year, or $255 million in five years. They could pay 1,700 employees if their top five executives were willing to give up 60% their salaries and “only” earn an average of $4 million per person and year?

    The only word I can think of is “obscene”.

    • Leo

      Um…I agree that call center employees probably don’t make much, but don’t forget to possibly factor in health care. Also, they’ll probably be saving a bunch on building space being rid of that many employees. In short, I think your costs are too low.

      That’s not to say I disagree that the executives make too much, though.

      • Makoto

        True, though remember, a lot of part-time employees are kept below 40 hours/wk to get around health care and other benefit requirements. I haven’t looked into how many that applies to for call centers, but I’m guessing it’s more than a few based on what I’ve seen for other industries. Need more info.

      • Hamstur

        In a previous job, I did these sorts of calculations. To get an idea of actual employee costs, add 35% – it’s a rough, back of the envelope number for sure but closer to reality.

        Even though that means it would be closer to 85 million, I think Yoritomo’s point stands.

      • Joshua Fisher

        Actually, figuring that the vast majority of those employees make $10 an hour or less. Even assuming full time work that only comes to $20,800 per year, adjust that by the aformentioned 35% and it comes to $28,080. $30,000 is a 44% increase over $10/hour full time wages. Add to that that even if they were all full time employees many cannot afford to spend $300 a month for the medical benefits anyway so they opt out. I don’t have any hard data on what percentage of employees opt out of medical benefits so lets just say that $30,000 a year per employee seems to be quite a generous figure.

    • Trebuchet

      Doing that math was the first thing I thought of as well. Even if the the employees cost the company an average of $100k/yr (unlikely), that comes only to $170M, less than half of the top five executives $350M.

  • fastlane

    I just switched from AT&T for some of the shittiest customer service (and crappy cell service where I used to live) to Sprint. Unfortunately, it’s a matter of the least of multiple evils, and they are probably going to be one big conglomerate soon.

    I wonder if there’s a way to work around the system and get a Euro plan that is worldwide? It seems like the phone costs were much lower when I lived in Germany, and it wasn’t that long ago.

  • kevinbutler

    Sprint’s not too bad. I’d look into Credo mobile too ( They give money to progressive causes!

    • John Horstman

      Credo leases tower time from Sprint. The definitely donate to progressive causes and have even been spearheading political opposition to the Right Wing on a number of issues through a SuperPAC the spun off; however, most of your money is still going to Sprint. That said, I have Sprint; as far as I can tell, they’re the least-evil by a very small margin. The most socially-responsible option is to give up wireless service altogether.

      Actually, overall it might be suicide: exploitation is endemic to the culture to the extent that necessary survival behaviors for most people are inherently exploitative, and functionally serve the interests of the wealthy elite. I’m not encouraging suicide, especially not to someone who’s considered it in the past, but instead I’m suggesting an acceptance of the fact that it’s functionally impossible to completely extricate oneself from ethically-problematic systems or behavior patterns, and look at these sorts of decisions as a matter of negotiating the least-objectionable position, not in terms of negotiating a position that isn’t objectionable, full stop.

      • John Horstman

        It ought to be “They”, not “The”, in the second sentence. Any chance of FtB adding an edit function, or would that get too confusing with people changing comments to which others have already responded?

  • Doug

    I’d like to find a corporation more than 5 years old that doesn’t un-apologetically lay off workers and/or freeze their wages to fuel raises for its CEOs. Seriously, I don’t think it exists.

    • Rory

      I think Pixar would qualify, off the top of my head, but I could be wrong.

      • Alan G. Humphrey

        Disney now owns Pixar.

        • Rory

          Yeah, I guess I was thinking that they HAD been around for five years, and I wasn’t really aware of any blatant evildoing. Now, obviously, they’re evil.

  • LeeWood

    On top of the executives compensation, add in all the political funds that Verizon
    wastes trying to corrupt our election process and the numbers get really insane.
    It’s a shame stock holders don’t demand that their companies stop wasting money
    spending in our elections.

    • Rory

      It’s not wasted if you’re able to buy a congressman who throws some key legislation your way. In some cases that might be a bargain at any price.

      • Alan G. Humphrey

        And, they might claim that they created a job…

  • unbound

    Some corporations are just better at hiding this stuff than Verizon. But pretty much all large corporations are this way.

    My favorite was when a corporation gave nearly $2 million in stock to one of their senior executives. Not for his performance or for the performance of the company…it is listed at the SEC simply as a gift.

    When can I start getting gifts like that?

  • Cari

    Find me a decent, honest, fair, cell phone provider who cares about their employees and customers, and …oh hell, I’m talking nonsense.
    The best we can do is complain and petition. Keep at it JT! I am calling Verizon today!

  • unbound

    @LeeWood (#9) – The problem is that it isn’t wasted money. The money invested in lobbying and politics in general is actually the most efficient investment that most companies make. A few million dollars in lobbying usually results in hundreds of millions in either direct contracts (via legislative restraints), direct payments (the biggest being the handouts the oil companies get via the energy bills), and prevention (or rolling back) of legislation that would require them to spend money being, well, responsible.

  • democommie

    I used to work for Veriscum, almost six of my eight years were in regulatory.

    I remember when Verizon was looking to get into the landline long distance market. They made promise after promise to the FEC and state regulatory agencies about how they would lower prices and deliver better service (at the time there were around 150 “phone companies” doing business in MA) by offering their current customers a seamless transition to full national service. Boy, was that a load of horseshit.

    The last time I was in an AT&T store, the sales agent was friendly, courteous and helpful. He told me that the labor force was union, I found that pretty amazing; Verizon’s wireless operation is, afaia, totall non-union. Being in the union doesn’t mean that they can’t fuck you over–it just costs them more to do it.

    • fastlane

      They are pretty friendly in the stores. It’s just once you have their service and want to use their ‘free’ online or phone service is where it starts to get ugly. If you go over your minutes by even a little bit, they hit you with huge fees on top of the $/minute (the small print in the contract).

      Funnily enough, after posting yesterday, I found a bill from AT&T in my mailbox yesterday, even though I had called and cancelled service almost a month ago now, including getting the agent to give the full payoff amount so I would never have to deal with AT&T again (those were the words I used). The bill was for $5…because I had paid over the phone while I had the agent on the line. If they had added the $5 then, I would have paid it just to get rid of them, but they decided to try and send me a bill.

      So I called their customer service again, asked them the reason for the $5 charge and told them I was absolutely NOT going to pay it. The service rep said it was a ‘valid charge’ according to the contract. I simply told him that if he wanted to go to court over it (or according to the contract, send it to an arbitrator), I’d be happy to go down that route. Needless to say, they ‘waived’ the fee, and eliminated any possibility of me ever buying any service from AT&T ever again.

  • michaelcross

    Verizon is horrible. I heard about the layoffs this morning, and I shook my head. So they want more business, but made themselves less able to support their customers? Sounds like a winning plan! My story: 8 years ago, our AT&T landline service stopped working. Every time we asked for a service call, they deflected it using one excuse after another. After a week of that bullshit, I switched to Verizon. Three years ago, our Verizon landline stopped working, just at the time when my wife was having a very bad health problem and we NEEDED the phone to work. Multiple service calls were requested, promised, and not honored. At one point a service rep got the local service truck manager on the phone with me, and he lied, saying that linemen had visited the house and nobody was home, even though my wife was home 24/7. I gave them one more chance, and took the full day off to meet with the lineman. He never showed. I called again the next day, and got lied to again about a truck being dispatched and not finding me home. Adios fuckers! I will never do business with AT&T *or* Verizon. Ever. They obviously don’t WANT my business. They casually tossed away over $800/year worth of business. I related this whole issue to Verizon in writing, and they never responded.

    • ccaldwell314

      “Verizon is horrible. I heard about the layoffs this morning, and I shook my head. So they want more business, but made themselves less able to support their customers?”

      They’ll still outsource, because it’s cheaper.

      However, as someone who pseudo-manages an offshore call center from stateside, I can tell you that you’re better off without the offshore people. They have little to no accountability because as long as their metrics (which have nothing to do with customer satisfaction, btw) are good, they’re going to get their contract renewed.

  • Stephen B.

    Verizon is the only choice in my area…they have a monopoly. Used to work for a telco, but got “lucky” and was laid off. Became a teacher. But I digress.
    All telco’s are the same. They are there to make money. If you knew the real cost to them for a domestic LD call you would puke, the profit on overseas call is even more heinous.

    Wish I could do without them, but can’t.

  • Alverant

    Sounds like another reason why I’m glad I don’t have a cell phone period. If you want one, that’s your choice I won’t bash it, but we got by for a long time without them and for me, there’s no need to get one.

  • Ashley

    I switched to Straight Talk. Not the greatest service in the world, but cheaper with no contract, and no more having to deal with Verizon’s terrible decisions.