Verizon Workers Fighting Layoffs Liken Themselves to War Heros

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NEW YORK ( -- In ads likening its members to the police, firefighters and rescue workers of Sept. 11, the union representing nearly 4,000 telecommunications workers in New York state stepped
One of the print ads in the union campaign. Click to see larger image.

up its anti-layoff campaign against Verizon Communications today.

The campaign's TV ads use real Verizon employees who worked around the clock to restore the telecommunications infrastructure of the New York Stock Exchange three days after last year's terrorist attacks.

$1 million campaign
The latest salvo in the Communications Workers of America's estimated $1 million TV, print and radio campaign hit today on the op-ed page of The New York Times. The quarter-page ad's headline -- "Verizon gave one executive $78,000,000. Now, they want to give 4,000 workers pink slips" -- refers to salary and bonuses given to Verizon Vice Chairman Larry Babbio over a five-year span. Employee pink slips are expected by Dec. 31.

The ad copy mentions Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's $56 million payday, included in more than $365 million in salary and bonuses given to nine executives over the last five years.

'Can you hear us now?'
The ad urges consumers, opinion makers and shareholders to call Verizon or contact Mr. Seidenberg. The campaign's tagline: "Verizon, can you hear us now?" is a not-so-subtle dig on sibling company Verizon Wireless' campaign featuring a character scouring far-flung locales testing Verizon's wireless signal with the refrain "Can you hear me now?"

The union's campaign, created by Greer Margolis Mitchell Burns & Associates, Washington, broke Nov. 12 in print. Ads boke Nov. 8 on cable TV and Dec. 2 on broadcast. It will run through the end of the year across the state. The union hasn't yet determined whether the effort will be extended to other Verizon markets nationally, said Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the CWA.

"We have issues with Verizon in its other locations, but for now, the campaign is in New York," she said. "While saying it must layoff 4,000 people in New York, it still gives huge salaries and bonuses to its executives and it makes considerable profit." Ms. Johnson said layoffs will mean less reliable service and possibly longer waits for installations.

Stock options
Responding to today's ad, Verizon spokesman John Bonomo in an e-mail said: "A large part of so-called executive pay consists of stock options. These have no value unless the company stock increases. If it does, all employees benefit. Further, Mr. Seidenberg and Mr. Babbio lead Verizon in establishing the 10th largest company in the country and the nation's largest communications company."

After a story about the ad campaign that aired Dec. 4 on NBC's Today Show, Verizon in a statement said the union was "running a smear campaign that grossly distorts executive compensation and service levels." The telecom went on to say that some media outlets declined to run the ads because of alleged "misinformation and slurs they contain."

The union said it didn't know of any outlets that declined to use the ads, and that it tweaked radio ads to include Verizon's general switchboard phone number, rather than that of the office of the CEO after a request from Verizon.

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