Verizon: Plenty Of Good Middle Class Jobs But Would You Want To Work There?

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Verizon often ranks on the "Best Places to Work" and "most admired" company lists, thanks to its ample salaries, generous benefits, impressive diversity and well-regarded training program. Yet many of the company's employees, former and current, are on a tear about the phone carrier, accusing it of slipping off its moral perch, harassing employees who demand their rights, outsourcing and contracting good jobs, and punishing union members who dare to push back. But given the diminished supply of secure middle class jobs across the country, does Verizon still deserve its accolades? And why do so many workers there seem so miserable?

The company rose from the dust of AT&T's anti-trust breakup in 1984, when the Bell Atlantic and GTE corporations merged in 2000 -- one of the largest mergers in U.S. history. Rebranding itself as "Verizon," it's the 15th largest company in the country, with over $2.4 billion in profits, and almost 200,000 employees, according to Statistics Brain.

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And those employees have a pretty sweet deal. Network engineers earn an average of $72,000 a year, according to Glassdoor.com. Software engineers take home $88,000. Customer service reps make an average of $36,000 -- 20 percent more than customer service reps on average. Training magazine ranked Verizon's training program the top in the country, and employees log more than 9 million training hours a year, according to Verizon spokesman Ray McConville.

The 45,000 unionized employees on the landline side of the business have benefits that hark to an earlier era: completely free health insurance, vision and dental; job security; profit-sharing; yearly wage increases; a pension like in the good old days; and while almost all Americans are entitled to three months of leave per year for the birth of a child or a health issue, for these employees, that leave is paid.

With the landline business shrinking, and non-union competition on the rise, Verizon has driven a hard bargain in the latest round of union contract negotiations. In fact, after over a year, the details of the new contract are yet to be resolved. And many on, or formerly on, the Verizon payroll say that the austerity that has kept Verizon and the unions in gridlock for 13 months has been pernicious for a long, long time.

Neal Dias, a black man who shot up the Verizon ranks for over a decade, claims that he witnessed verbal abuse and threats at all levels, and then was blackballed when he complained: his work sabotaged, his bonuses reduced, forced to sit in the back of the room, told by white managers that he was a product of affirmative action, and ultimately fired in 2008.

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Since then, Dias has been waging a campaign against his former company. His petition, calling on Verizon to end its "relentless bullying tactics," has been signed by 1,024 people, and his blog has 16,000 followers. Just this month, he was granted a trial in his case against the telecom goliath. Verizon spokesman Ray McConville said that he couldn't comment on pending litigation.

"It used to be your parents would say go to the phone company. Get a good, solid union job -- you'll be set for life," says New York attorney Carol Ryder. "Not anymore."

Ryder says that she became accredited as a federal attorney just so she could battle Verizon on behalf of her husband, who she says was forced out of his job when Verizon suddenly -- and illegally -- took away the accommodation for his disabilities.

Her husband had a triple bypass and suffered several neurological diseases, she says, and so he did his engineering job at night, so that he could park close to the building and go on fewer long drives. When Verizon stopped offering those accommodations, her husband had to leave his job.

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Ryder's husband isn't the only one whose supposedly suffered this way. Last summer, Verizon paid out $20 million to a group of employees -- the largest disability discrimination settlement in the history of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While working on her husband's case, Ryder sent out a clarion call to other Verizon employees who believe that they've been wronged, and she says that she's received around 25 complaints so far. Mostly, she says, these employees claim they've been targeted for using their paid Family and Medical Leave Act time-off, as guaranteed in their union contracts. And a group of employees who charge Verizon with exactly this crime, were granted trial earlier this year.

When Verizon considers an employee too expensive, Ryder says, it will find any tiny excuse to fire the person. "You use too much toilet paper and you're out. I'm exaggerating, but not by much."

And according to Ryder, the company knows that with its superhero squad of lawyers, few employees have the resources or stamina to fight Verizon all the way to court. Ryder is currently searching for a law firm with another weight to throw around to take on Big Red. "Erin Brockovich couldn't even handle this case," she says.

But despite the droves of employees allegedly kicked to the curb by Verizon, many others defend the company, praising its benefits, salaries and stability, and complaining only about the conservative corporate culture, sometimes frustrating bureaucracy, and oppressive quotas for those who work in sales.

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One employee in Marlborough, Mass., writes on Glassdoor.com that the company shackles its workers in "golden handcuffs," because the compensation is so hard to beat. But for many Americans, anything gold would be nice right now. And military veterans will find a particularly welcoming home at Verizon, which made G.I. Jobs' Top 100 Military Friendly Employers.

For those interested in this making this bargain, Verizon is hiring everywhere from sales and engineering to IT and human resources. A person who applies online for a customer service job will have at least two interviews, one on the phone and one face-to-face. The questions focus on why you're applying ("Why Verizon? Why do you want to leave your job? Where do you want to be in five years?"), and past situations that have tested your mettle ("Give an example of when you had to settle a conflict?").

You may also have to take a personality test, which probes you on your typing and multitasking abilities, and on your likelihood to, say, have a violent meltdown or hide from human contact for days on end. A drug test and background check are also standard. And those applying for specialized jobs, like business consultant or software developer, should expect questions of the business and technical variety, respectively.

Despite accusations of foul play by some, Verizon remains a company that people stay at for decades. There's a reason why the unions are holding firm in negotiations, claiming that Verizon's demands and aggressive outsourcing threaten the American middle class. Unlike so many other companies, Verizon still offers true middle class jobs.

Looking for a job at Verizon? Start your search here.







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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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Phone Boy

I too, have had the unfortunate opportunity to experience Verizon's tactics of verbal and mental abuse, not only as a sales representative, but now as a field technician as well. As others have stated, Verizon does pay its employees a fair wage, only because of the various unions that fight for this, otherwise, Verizon would be paying its employees Walmart wages. Verizons primary goal is to rid itself of all union employees and they will do whatever it takes to make this happen. In the sales office myself and hundreds of others endured daily threats from management because the pressure to "sell" was constantly being forced down the throats of lower management by their superiors. The reason I put the word sell in quotation marks is because what we were forced to do in most cases wasn't actually selling, it was more like manipulating a conversation with the customer in order to put services on their account that either they didn't want, need or in any way benefit from. If you cooperated with this "sales process" you were handsomely rewarded with prerouted sales calls, monthly bonus checks and trips around the country but if you had a conscience and refused to "follow the process", look out because your ass was grass. The office I worked out of was visited on a weekly basis by an ambulance that would treat employees for cases of what I can only describe as panic attacks that were brought about from the amount of stress and anxiety that was placed on an individuals shoulders. On a daily basis I would watch and listen to all levels of management as they would praise the employees who lied...... sorry, I meant the employees that were best at following the sales process and as a result posted the best numbers. I was literally at the point of a nervous breakdown myself when the opportunity to move into the outside world of Verizon as a field technician presented itself. I was happy to jump on the opportunity, as I was determined not to join the countless others who were getting through work each day thanks to a variety of antidepressant and anxiety medications. The first couple of years, I must admit, were fabulous. As a technician you were given your daily work log, you went out, completed it and were pretty much left alone. I actually loved going into work every day, it was crazy. Unfortunately, those days too have come and gone. Since the new regime from Verizon Wireless has taken over Verizon Communications (a.k.a. Fios and other home services), the outside world of Verizon has turned into a micromanaged and unsafe work environment just like the sales office, the only difference being, on the outside, you are up against different dangers such as electrocution, falls from poles and ladders, traffic accidents, etc. Technicians are both verbally and electronically (through emails and texts) threatened and harassed on a daily basis by management for not meeting certain quotas, much like a sales representative on the inside. As technicians we are constantly being given more and more work and tasks to accomplish on a daily basis and at the same time, less and less time to fulfill these demands that are placed upon us. The result of this management style is an increase in fatalities, injuries, accidents, and overall an entirely angry and disgruntled workforce. I could continue on for hours with all that I have seen and experienced in a relatively short period of time. The bottom line is that Verizons one and only concern is the shareholder. Verizon management in most cases are simply peons that are given the go ahead by corporate big wigs to do and say whatever is necessary in order to keep the multi-billion dollar money machine moving forward, regardless of the physical, mental or economic damage that is being experienced by not only employees but customers and the public at large as well.

December 29 2013 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Henry McKelvey

I came upon this article by accident, so I thought I would add my two cents. I was employed at Bell Atlantic for 9 years and at Verizon for 8.8 years, (all most 19 years total). During that time, I saw a huge cultural shift in the company I chose to be my employer. The shift was not a good one the company became cold and impersonal, along with the top management becoming petty and spiteful. As an associate, at least the union protected me, so only so much of the mess could not roll down on to me. Then I decided that I could change things by becoming management, since I was in school getting my degree in technology\business, I could somehow become a force for change (boy was I wrong). From the first day I became management to the day I was RIF’d (8.8 years) it was one long battle against racism, classism, and a host of other isms. I will not go into everything, but I will say that it happened to many other people too (Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian), but I will not exclude racism, because I know what happened to me and I will not have it excluded from the record. The fact is the new company Verizon is not above using any of the isms to achieve its goals.

It is sad that they have chosen to be a company that is vengeful and spiteful, but when you allow attitudes that find themselves more at home in the 30’s – the 60’s you invite the problems that now are linked to Verizon. A friend of mine got back in to Verizon, but she was given a job that was under the very people who she helped to get to where they are. Do you think they are kind to her, no, it is the exact opposite, and they are really putting the screws to her to the point that it is having an impact on her health. I told her that the new company was like that because everybody is trying to uphold the culture that was passed down which was predicated on the same racist culture that hid for many years but made a comeback after the regime of the early 2000’s.

All I can say is that Verizon has a long way to go to get back to being a respected company; I hope she makes it, but I do so as a person on the outside with no wish to get back in.

December 13 2013 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
acexb0x

The company is garbage. Never had I worked in a place with such incompetence management. Employees are harassed if they don't sell 5 accessories with 100 dollars in revenue. Management will belittle you in front of your team in an attempt to get you to sell 5 accessories per phone with 100 dollar revenue for those accessories. Not to mention I was sent home when I requested a break.. Which is mandatory in California. The first 2 years working there I was never give a break. You are also encouraged to walk customers that are going to buy basic phones or that are not buying accessories.

May 28 2013 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
juan354

Most of the circuits are now gone from analog to digital, and channelized which requires less manual labor.
Being most circuits are now channelized and can be control from the Philippians, India and overseas, means it is the end for most jobs with Verizon..Verizon is power and monopoly....Verizon rather hire a Tech, or consultant from India, or overseas before they would hire an American.

January 25 2013 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
angiecsadler

Rhobbel are you a Verizon employee? I'm just curious how you came up w/ this conclusion of the employees being "spoiled"?

October 27 2012 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to angiecsadler's comment
acexb0x

If he was a wireless employee he would be singing a totally different tune.

May 28 2013 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ally_adams1

I worked an internship within the last year at Verizon corporate headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJ. I interacted with all levels of employees from IT technicians to middle and executive management responsible for the wireless Enterprise and consumer side of the company's operations.

The company is in a state of flux and apparently the wireless side of the company is launching a coup to take over the company which has resulted in a totally dis-functional company.

The wireless personnel are not knowledgeable about the other aspects of the business and they are taking it down quickly – intentionally or by sheer ignorance.

Operations are significantly understaffed after numerous layoff's and the remaining employees are disgruntled, depressed, suspicious, lacking confidence and just waiting to hear they will be laid off. The executives are malicious, egotistical, sneaky, and seem to believe they are superior to the non-wireless side of the company. In my opinion, I don’t know how they could provide any level of support or service with the drama that is occurring there.

I am happy that I did intern at Verizon to have experienced the unethical behaviors and ignorance that can occur and how it impacts a company’s products, services and employees.

October 18 2012 at 7:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Thomson

Bullying and abuse are becoming more common both in our workplaces and schools. I never knew about it until it happened to me, working in a public park of all places! Through contact with organizations and lobbying, I've learned how prevalent extreme bullying is in private and public employment. Bully tactics are used by managment, as well as sociopathic individuals who simply enjoy persecuting subordinates, especially when given to opportunity to work with them in private situations. Targeted individuals would be very happy if the abuse just stopped. Since bullying is "equal opportunity", targeted individuals are not protected by Human Rights Laws. They're targeted, just because they're vulnerable in an opportunistic situation that's ideal for the bully, not because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Agencies and companies usually avoid acknowledgeing a bully's actions. Most have extensive legal resources available to blame the target and even reward the bully. In Verizon's case, and my own, defending or explaining away a bully's abuse often causes a target to resign or flee in disgust or terror. It can be a convenient way to get rid of older workers or force them to retire prematurely. Because bullies focus on their targets one at a time, co-workers often fail to understand what's going on behind the scene. It's difficult for a target of this sort of abuse to get legal representation, even when a case is well documented. It's much easier if a boss throws you down the stairs, but psychological injuries leave no visible scars. Despite FBI reports warning employers of the dangers of ignoring workplace abuse, it still continues. I thank people like Neal and his lawyer for standing up for what is right. It will hopefully help others.

September 21 2012 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Thomson

Bullying and abuse are becoming more common both in our workplaces and schools. I never knew about it until it happened to me, working in a public park of all places! Through contact with organizations and lobbying, I've learned how prevalent extreme bullying is in private and public employment. Bully tactics are used by managment, as well as sociopathic individuals who simply enjoy persecuting subordinates, especially when given to opportunity to work with them in private situations. Targeted individuals would be very happy if the abuse just stopped. Since bullying is "equal opportunity", targeted individuals are not protected by Human Rights Laws. They're targeted, just because they're vulnerable in an opportunistic situation that's ideal for the bully, not because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Agencies and companies usually avoid acknowledgeing a bully's actions. Most have extensive legal resources available to blame the target and even reward the bully. In Verizon's case, and my own, defending or explaining away a bully's abuse often causes a target to resign or flee in disgust or terror. It can be a convenient way to get rid of older workers or force them to retire prematurely. Because bullies focus on their targets one at a time, co-workers often fail to understand what's going on behind the scene. It's difficult for a target of this sort of abuse to get legal representation, even when a case is well documented. It's much easier if a boss throws you down the stairs, but psychological injuries leave no visible scars. Despite FBI reports warning employers of the dangers of ignoring workplace abuse, it still continues. I thank people like Neal and his lawyer for standing up for what is right. It will hopefully help others.

September 21 2012 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Thomson

Bullying and abuse are becoming more common both in our workplaces and schools. I never knew about it until it happened to me, working in a public park of all places! Through contact with organizations and lobbying, I've learned how prevalent extreme bullying is in private and public employment. Bully tactics are used by managment, as well as sociopathic individuals who simply enjoy persecuting subordinates, especially when given to opportunity to work with them in private situations. Targeted individuals would be very happy if the abuse just stopped. Since bullying is "equal opportunity", targeted individuals are not protected by Human Rights Laws. They're targeted, just because they're vulnerable in an opportunistic situation that's ideal for the bully, not because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Agencies and companies usually avoid acknowledgeing a bully's actions. Most have extensive legal resources available to blame the target and even reward the bully. In Verizon's case, and my own, defending or explaining away a bully's abuse often causes a target to resign or flee in disgust or terror. It can be a convenient way to get rid of older workers or force them to retire prematurely. Because bullies focus on their targets one at a time, co-workers often fail to understand what's going on behind the scene. It's difficult for a target of this sort of abuse to get legal representation, even when a case is well documented. It's much easier if a boss throws you down the stairs, but psychological injuries leave no visible scars. Despite FBI reports warning employers of the dangers of ignoring workplace abuse, it still continues. I thank people like Neal and his lawyer for standing up for what is right. It will hopefully help others.

September 21 2012 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al Thomson

Bullying and other forms of abuse are becoming more common both in our workplaces and schools. I never knew about it until it happened to me, working in a public park of all places! Through contact with several organizations and lobbying, I've learned how prevalent extreme bullying is in both private sector and public employment. Bully tactics are used by managment, as well as "freelancers", i.e. sociopathic individuals who simply enjoy persecuting subordinates, especially when given to opportunity to work with them in private situations. Most targeted individuals would be very happy if the abuse just stopped. Since bullying is an "equal opportunity" pursuit, targeted individuals are not protected by Human Rights Laws. They're targeted often, just because they're vulnerable in an opportunistic situation that's ideal for the bully, rather than because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Agencies and companies usually avoid acknowledgeing a bully's actions. Most of them have extensive legal resources available to blame the target and sometimes, even reward the bully. In Verizon's case, and perhaps my own, defending or explaining away a bully's abuse often causes a target to resign or flee in disgust or even terror. It can prove to be a convenient way to get rid of older workers or force them to retire prematurely. Because bullies focus on their targets one at a time in most cases, co-workers often fail to understand what's going on behind the scene. It's extremely difficult for a target of this sort of abuse to get effective legal representation, even when a case is well documented. It would be much easier if my boss threw me down the stairs, but psychological injuries have no visible scars. Despite FBI reports that warn employers of the dangers of ignoring workplace abuse, the cycle continues. I thank people like Neal and his lawyer for standing up for what is right. In the long run, it will hopefully help others.

September 21 2012 at 3:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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