Women Workers Deserve Better from Verizon

The two of us are Verizon workers: One of us works at a Verizon Wireless call center and the other worked at the warehouse of XPO Logistics, one of Verizon’s supply chain partners. We know the company well.

Neither of us ever expected to find ourselves in this position—blowing the whistle on the largest wireless company in America. But we’re motivated by an obligation to our families, our customers and our coworkers. We have an obligation to the truth.

(International Brotherhood of Teamsters)

Verizon workers across the country have called for an end to rampant abuse, union-busting and divestment from the workforce. Most Americans would be shocked to learn about the dark reality of the company’s neglect for the wellbeing of employees throughout its supply chain.  

Last year, women who worked at a Verizon-contracted XPO warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee started blowing the whistle on various forms of workplace abuse—from rampant sexual harassment to devastating pregnancy discrimination. The horrendous conditions at XPO, initially exposed by The New York Times, prompted senators, members of the House and women’s and civil rights organizations to call on XPO to correct the abuses.

One of us was one of those women who came forward and went through the pain of sharing a story of losing a pregnancy as the result of the toxic and grueling working conditions at the XPO Verizon warehouse. We shared our stories because we thought it might prompt positive changes that would protect other women.

Verizon, the warehouse’s exclusive customer, could have acted as the principled industry leader it touts itself to be and taken steps to hold XPO accountable by conducting its own thorough investigation at the Memphis facility and all XPO facilities it uses, telling XPO it won’t work with partners that violate workers’ rights. Instead, Verizon’s leadership tried to sweep the issues under the rug.

After dozens of XPO Verizon workers bravely spoke out about our horrific experiences, the warehouse was abruptly closed without explanation—putting hundreds of people out of a job. Verizon continues to partner with XPO across the country, and has not done anything to help the workers who lost their jobs or to ensure no one else servicing Verizon at XPO warehouses faces the same harassment, discrimination and blatant retaliation we did.

In the meantime, Verizon Wireless call center and retail workers in a number of states have begun organizing for better working conditions. At my call center in Irving, Texas, we have had to fight for the pay we earned when we are out on valid medical leave for surgery or other situations, putting our finances in jeopardy. Our schedules are sometimes changed at the last minute, leaving parents scrambling to find child care. My retail coworkers have seen their commissions cut by 70 percent as the company makes it harder to earn a decent living.  

When we stand up to talk about these issues, Verizon retaliates.

In Irving, union supporters have been spied on and interrogated about the details of our organizing efforts—all for seeking fair pay and working conditions. Verizon sends in corporate operatives from headquarters to lecture us about why unions are bad and how the company would suffer if we organized. All this pressure makes my coworkers afraid to stand up for themselves and organize.

Creating this hostile, anti-union environment is illegal, but Verizon spends tens of thousands of dollars on corporate lawyers to help them skirt the law. Meanwhile, the company has closed six call centers over the past year, and closed my previous department, making everyone worry for the future of their jobs.   

That’s why the two of us confronted CEO Hans Vestberg and other executives at Verizon’s shareholder meeting. Although the company continues to largely avoid addressing issues across its supply chain, it was encouraging that Vestberg declared his company committed to good working conditions, and to hear him promise that there would be no retaliation against union organizing efforts.

But actions speak louder than words—and so far, indifference to calls for better conditions and retaliation against workers organizing is the norm for Verizon, not the exception.

This is the wrong time to oppose working Americans. People across demographic groups support higher wagespaid family and medical leavecorporate accountability and an end to workplace discrimination. Candidates are lining up to get endorsements from the country’s largest unions in hopes of securing the labor vote. They are calling on employers to do the right thing. Working people across the country are speaking up and uniting for better pay and workplace standards—from teachers to telecom workers.

Verizon needs to stop union-busting. It needs to conduct an investigation into workers’ claims of discrimination and sexual harassment. It must maintain better standards across its entire supply chain. The company’s resistance to the interests of their workers is counterproductive—and it puts the brand’s long-term success at risk.

Verizon can still become the leader it claims to be. Workers like us deserve as much—and we know that the concerted effort these changes will take will be worth it.