2011-2012

PICTURES, NEWS AND VIDEOS FROM The PICKET LINE, VERIZON WIRELESS & Workplace mobilizations

 

 

Send photos & videos to:

Kcusson1400@yahoo.com or clocal1400@aol.com

 

 

 

Verizon: Putting Corporate Greed Ahead of Retirees

Verizon's retirees built the network and the company's multi-billion dollar profits. But Verizon's executives are demanding health care and pension cuts for both current workers and retirees.

 

August 11, 2012: Philadelphia, PA Rally

 

August 2012 - Workplace Mobilizations

8/9/12 - Standing Up For A Fair Contract - Members United!

 

August 2012 - Leafleting at Verizon Wireless Stores:

 

Londonderry, NH

Leominster, MA

Peabody, MA

Hanover, MA

 

June 22, 2012 - 1 year of Bargaining with Verizon:

 

June 2012 - Leafleting/Bannering at Verizon Wireless Stores - MA

 

May 10, 2012 - Informational Picketing - Andover, MA

May 3, 2012 - Informational Picketing - Taunton, MA

May 2012 - Leafleting/Bannering at Verizon Wireless Stores - MA

April 2012 - Leafleting/Bannering at Verizon Wireless Stores - MA

 

2/14/12: Activists Deliver ‘Say Anything’ style Valentine to Verizon

 

In a display of affection reminiscent of John Cusack's performance in Say Anything, activists delivered a special Valentine's Day message to Verizon Wireless in Boston this afternoon. Invoking the 80’s classic film, forlorn citizens brought candy and flowers to a Copley-area store - complete with an overhead boom box blaring Peter Gabriel's “Your Eyes” - hoping to coax Verizon back to the table in long-stalled bargaining discussions with local workers.

  

The romantic gesture is the latest attempt to highlight Verizon's unwillingness to bargain with workers over wages, health care, retirement benefits and job security issues. To date, the corporate giant has pushed unacceptable contracts that would result in mass layoffs, diminished retirement plans, and skyrocketing healthcare costs - refusing to engage employees in any meaningful dialogue on cost-saving alternatives. At the same time, Verizon has rewarded its chief executives with outrageous salaries - sums that have outpaced the company’s tax bill in recent years.

 

Just as Diane Court denied the outdoor overtures of John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, the group of amorous activists left empty-handed, but undeterred. “Show some love, Verizon!” exclaimed one love-struck activist. “We brought you flowers and candy - we hope you’ll come back to the table.”


Jason A Stephany
Communications Director
MASS
UNITING

 

 

 

Mike O'Day, Vermont CWA Members and Vermont Workers' Center Stand in Solidarity with Verizon Workers:

 

 

 

This is a spoof from Saturday Night Live on Verizon Wireless & Verizon:

The old person's nightmare...

 

For the holidays, CWA created a spoof video of Verizon's ridiculous DVD. Here's the spoof:

The video is a joke, but this fight isn't.

Members should join the mobilization at VZW stores and at VZ work locations.

 

 

Fairpoint Workers Picket in support of Verizon Workers!!

 

vt1 vt2 vt3 vt4 vt5 vt6 vt7 vt8

Labor peace on horizon for employees, Verizon

By Donna Goodison
Sunday, August 21, 2011

Verizon Communications workers abandoned picket lines and their two-week strike yesterday, agreeing to resume work beginning tomorrow despite the absence of a new contract agreement, as both sides signaled progress in talks.

“We told the company that when they got serious about bargaining, we would send our people back to work,” said Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400 in Portsmouth, N.H. “We feel, based on the conversations over the last 48 hours, that is what’s going to happen. The attitude at the bargaining table and their commitment to be reasonable . . . led us to believe that this would be a correct decision.”

Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro said both sides knew in the past few days that they didn’t want the strike to continue.

“So I think they worked in earnest and hammered out how we’re going to go forward on these negotiations and how we’re going to get everybody back to work,” he said. “Both sides were making progress on local and regional issues.”

The 45,000 union employees will work under the existing terms of their expired agreement, which will remain in force for an indefinite period as their leaders prepare to resume negotiations with the nation’s No. 2 telecom provider in about a week.

All major contract issues, including medical benefits — Verizon pays 100 percent of the workers’ health-care premiums — as well as job security, pensions and attendance policy, remain unresolved. But the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said Verizon has agreed to a more meaningful and narrowed dialogue at the bargaining table.

Verizon hadn’t previously offered to let the employees continue working under their existing contract, according to Ed Fitzpatrick, president of IBEW Local 2222 in Dorchester.

“That was not the deal that was on the table the night we went on strike,” he said. “It was a take-it-or-leave-it deal — take it or have no contract.”

Workers for Verizon’s landline and FiOS Internet and cable operations — who walked off their jobs Aug. 7 from Massachusetts to Virginia as contract negotiations stalled — left picket lines as of 12:30 p.m. yesterday after a contentious work stoppage.

The New York-based Verizon has found more than 200 incidents of alleged sabotage to its cables since the strike began, according to Santoro. On Friday, it won an injunction in Suffolk Superior Court that prohibited picketers from blocking access to its offices, stores and parking.

It’s too early to tell if there is a winner or loser in the back-to-work agreement reached, according to Seth Borden, a labor and employment attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge in New York.

“The short, trite answer would be: If they’re going back to the bargaining table, everybody is winning in some respect,” Borden said. But the extremely cooperative tone of both the unions and Verizon yesterday is a marked departure from their public relations machines of the last two weeks, he said.

“What it suggests to me . . . is the parties must have had to reach at least some understandings on their other positions on some of these issues,” Borden said.

Neither side was winning “hearts and minds,” according to Borden. As much as Verizon denied it, the company was having understandable customer service pressures, and the unions didn’t get the PR traction that they likely expected, he said.

“They went on a strike in a very difficult environment to garner public sympathy,” Borden said. “There were people without jobs every day walking past those picket lines.”

-— dgoodison@bostonherald.com

In Verizon fight, let's pick sides: With workers on strike, the city should question its contracts

By Bill De Blasio

Friday, August 19th 2011, 4:00 AM

Andrew Savulich/News
Verizon workers continue to strike, pictured here outside of the company's headquarters.

Our city's middle class has a lot riding on the picket lines outside Verizon's offices. Ever since the assault on unions in Wisconsin earlier this year, we have witnessed a disturbing trend of workers being pushed out of the middle class-simply because the current political environment makes it expedient to do so. Government needs to draw a line in the sand when companies like Verizon assail working families.

From city contracts with Verizon worth hundreds of millions to the federal tax loopholes that the company exploits, government - which works for the people - should be using its leverage to protect the middle class from corporate excess.

Those who say we should simply stand on the sidelines and let this corporation and its workers fight it out are wrong. We live in an era where corporate profits are growing at the expense of working people. The salaries of America's workers are in sharp decline even as many corporations rake in record profits. In 2009, working and middle class American wages represented only 1% of our economic growth; corporate profits comprised nearly 90% of that growth. Household incomes are dropping. Here in New York City, they slid more than 4% in 2009 alone.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stepped into the national spotlight by pushing legislation through his state that stripped government workers of many long-held collective bargaining rights and scaled back pension and health care benefits. Even iconic American companies like Harley-Davidson have been on the attack against working people, threatening to shutter factories unless workers agree to layoffs, roll-backs in job security and replacing full-time jobs with part-time positions.

Verizon is the latest company to hop on the bandwagon. The company raked in $19 billion in profits and gave $258 million to its top executives over the last four years. Yet in current contract negotiations, it is pushing to eliminate job security provisions, pensions for future workers, childcare subsidies, accident disability benefits and several paid holidays. If Verizon is successful, tens of thousands of workers could be pushed out of the middle class.

In the face of growing inequality, government needs to stand up for the middle class. We have tools. Despite its substantial profits, Verizon has been able to collect $1.3 billion in tax benefits over the past two years. Here in New York, the company holds hundreds of millions of dollars in city contracts, including a multi-year $120 million contract with the Department of Education rubber-stamped by the Panel for Educational Policy this week.

All of these should face increased scrutiny, including a hard look at the company's labor practices, its record of meeting responsibilities to city agencies, and any history of fraud and abuse. City government already appraises a contractor's financing, contracting history and other factors to gauge its overall reliability as a counterparty in awarding contracts. That evaluation should include the net impact of a contract or procurement decision on New York's economy.

We need a more proactive policy that uses our $17 billion in annual procurement in the best interests of our tax base and of New Yorkers as a whole - and that means actively seeking to do business with companies that grow our city's middle class.

Let's send a message to corporations that seek to benefit from the decline of the middle class in America and New York City that treading on their workers will have real consequences.

Bill de Blasio is public advocate of the city of New York.

Verizon Cuts Off Strikers’ Health Care, as Service Outages Rise

Mischa Gaus | August 18, 2011

Noisy picket lines are turning away customers at Verizon’s wireless stores as the largest strike in the country weathered a rainy second week. Some service was disrupted throughout the Northeast though the scale of the outages was hard to define.

The strike covers 45,000 members of the Communications Workers (CWA) and Electrical Workers (IBEW) from Massachusetts to Virginia. Verizon wants to eliminate pensions and job security, as well as limit raises and force big health care costs onto current workers and retirees.

On the eve of the strike, Verizon announced it would pay a special $10 billion dividend to shareholders. At the same time, its negotiators were pushing for $1 billion in concessions from workers. The company has made $3 billion already this year, and nearly $20 billion in the last four years.

End Insurance

Verizon announced it would end strikers’ health insurance on August 31. Asked if members had the reaction management hoped for—fear—CWA Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi said, “Not yet. People are pretty fired up. This is the most successful mobilization strike CWA or IBEW has ever experienced. Members’ involvement has been unbelievable.”

CWA has promised to help strikers with medical needs through its defense fund, either by paying monthly premiums through COBRA or by paying for health care services “as needed.”

In addition, it’s possible members could be back on the job before the August 31 deadline. Trementozzi said CWA had said since the beginning that once negotiators saw movement at the bargaining table, members would go back to work, rather than staying out till a definitive agreement is reached.

Meanwhile, his members, who are residential service reps and clerical workers, are flocking to help out at the union hall, even though for many who live in Massachusetts, it’s a long drive up to New Hampshire.

“A lot of my people are so angry at Verizon for how they’ve been treated over the last couple of years, how conditions have deteriorated,” Trementozzi said. “They are holding their own.”

Even in a precarious economy with 9.1 percent unemployment, only 400 of the 45,000 strikers have crossed picket lines, CWA President Larry Cohen reported.

The unions call the strike a defense of stable, decent jobs. They point out that besides pensions and health insurance, the company wants to attack sick leave and disability—while it has shipped tens of thousands of jobs overseas and paid no federal taxes in 2009-10. In fact, Verizon actually claimed a $1.3 billion tax refund.

Stop the Contract

Yesterday a thousand red-shirted New Yorkers rallied loudly near Verizon headquarters, and 200 overflowed a hearing on the New York City Department of Education’s renewal of a $120 million contract with Verizon for school phones and internet.

The mayor-controlled panel voted up the deal 9-4 but not before members were blasted from the microphones by strikers and supporters for enabling union-busting. “Shame!” yelled the crowd after the vote.

Verizon has tried to drive a wedge between union members and the millions who are just hanging on in the fragile economy. The company has claimed that some union workers make $150,000 per year in wages and benefits. “Are you kidding me?” asked James Stone, a CWA Local 1101 member. “I’d be in Saint-Tropez, not on a picket line.”

Tashauna Jackson, a CWA Local 1105 steward in Brooklyn, said call center service reps start at $40,000 and top out at $63,000.

Justin Harrison, a unit secretary in Pennsylvania’s CWA Local 13000, said only a few techs with high seniority could earn close to Verizon’s “average”—and only if they sucked up hundreds of hours of overtime. “Your family wouldn’t know what you looked like,” he said. “You’d kill yourself.”

Verizon’s concession demands would funnel millions out of workers’ pockets and send it up the income ladder to top execs—who already took a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation in the last four years.

“We can never end this recession by cutting the wages of workers,” Cohen said.

Injuries, Arrests, Injunctions

Bob Master, CWA District 1’s legislative and political director, said cars driven by scabs have struck 25 picketers so far, sending at least two to the hospital.

Jimmy Tarlau, a CWA staff rep covering Virginia to Pennsylvania, said 15 picketers were arrested in the first week for blocking strikebreakers’ access to buildings and trucks. The arrests are spontaneous and not coordinated, Tarlau said.

Verizon has secured several injunctions limiting the number of picketers in front of offices, stores, and mobile work locations.

CWA attorney Gay Semel said that to win an injunction the company needed to claim that police can’t protect Verizon scabs and property, and that the company produced 20 instances of alleged violence. While courts are no friend of the worker, Semel added, she called these injunctions among the least restrictive she’s seen.

The company claims disgruntled strikers have cut wires, including a fiber-optic cable in upstate New York that served hundreds of thousands of customers.

Members point out that rain harms wires (and downpours have soaked the East Coast recently), while an exec from a fiber-cable provider admitted that squirrels have a strange fondness for chewing through lines.

Whatever the cause, the telecom network is feeling some impact. A premier Manhattan grocer posted signs Monday insisting on cash purchases since the Verizon service fueling its debit transactions had failed.

Supportive Verizon managers are telling strikers that the company has cancelled all fiber-optic installations for a month. Verizon spokesman Ray McConville declined to confirm that but said, “The focus has been on repair.”

The Pennsylvania injunction says one side’s lawyer must notify the other side’s lawyer of any alleged violation, which starts a 10-day clock to resolve the issue before law enforcement is involved. But some sheriffs, tired of fielding calls all day from managers irritated by mobile pickets, are just locking up strikers.

“From our point of view, the sheriff is overinterpreting the injunction, and the company is violating it,” Harrison said.

The union dispatched its negotiators back to the table, where Verizon has submitted new proposals that the union was evaluating yesterday. Verizon removed its proposal that attached wage increases to management-determined productivity measures this week, but union officials say the company is still stalling. They filed charges saying so with the labor board.

Customers Feel Some Ripples From the Verizon Strike

Bay Area union workers in San Francisco marched in solidarity with striking Verizon workers on the East Coast.

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: August 18, 2011

As a strike by 45,000 Verizon workers approaches the two-week mark, the company’s customers are beginning to feel the impact — and are complaining about it.

Verizon acknowledges “minor” disruptions since the strike began on Aug. 7. But some customers of its landline telephone, Internet and cable television service are reporting significant delays getting current lines repaired and new ones installed.

Craig Schiffer, chief executive of a boutique investment bank in Midtown Manhattan, said his firm’s telephone service had been down for nine days, and he could not get an estimate from Verizon for when the phones would be working again — a big problem for a business that relies heavily on phone calls with clients.

Joey Kreger, a recent college graduate moving from Illinois to Morristown, N.J., said he was stunned when he ordered Verizon’s FiOS television and Internet service for his new apartment — and the company wrote back that it could install the service on Dec. 30, more than four months from now.

Competitors like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision have mobilized to take advantage of Verizon’s problems.

Time Warner, which operates in some of the East Coast markets affected by the Verizon strike, is running ads promising speedy service, and it has increased the number of field technicians so that it can do cable installations within 48 hours.

“When folks are in a time when they might not be able to get service, we are emphasizing not just the price but our high level of service,” said Todd Townsend, chief marketing officer for Time Warner’s eastern region.

Officials at the two unions on strike — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — say they are certain that the walkout is causing delays in repairs and installations, but they acknowledge they do not know by how much.

“Historically we know that you can’t pull out of any system 45,000 people who are the hands and minds of the company’s product and expect to provide the same level of service as before,” said George Kohl, special assistant to the president of the C.W.A. “The managers who are replacing them don’t perform these functions nearly as efficiently.”

Verizon said that problems for existing customers had been minimal.

“We’re seeing some minor delays on a few repairs and installations,” said Christopher M. Creager, Verizon’s senior vice president for consumer and mass business markets. “The vast majority of our customers are not seeing any impact.”

Verizon officials acknowledge, however, that they decided not to take any new orders for the first two weeks of the strike so they could focus on serving their current customers.

“We are seeing some delays on the installation side if it’s a brand-new installation that requires technicians to come out,” Mr. Creager said. He explained that it was a mistake to tell Mr. Kreger that his installation date would be Dec. 30, saying the date would be well before that.

That has upset potential customers like Dylan Marsh, who are complaining about delays in obtaining FiOS service, which offers Internet, cable TV and phone service over high-speed fiber optic lines and competes with the services sold by cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast.

Mr. Marsh, who just graduated from Buffalo State College with a degree in urban planning, wanted to order Verizon’s FiOS Internet and television services for his new apartment on West 49th Street in Manhattan.

“They let me go through the whole signup and then at the end they said, ‘There are no installation dates available. Someone will contact you,’ ” Mr. Marsh said. “That was probably a week ago. They were trying to make it seem like everything is O.K., like the service is there but it’s not. I thought it would be a couple of weeks, but it might end up being a couple of months. I decided to go with Time Warner instead.”

Verizon said the company’s efforts to keep up had also been set back by numerous incidents of sabotage and by the huge rainstorm that struck the East Coast last weekend.

Verizon is pushing the unions to accept far-reaching concessions, including a pension freeze and fewer sick days, and asking that workers contribute far more toward their health coverage.

Negotiations between the two sides are continuing, but at the same time, both are preparing for a protracted strike.

In a recent move, Verizon has sought to step up pressure on the strikers by informing them that the company will cut off their medical, dental and optical benefits on Aug. 31.

Since the strike began, union officials have been eager to make the case that the company’s operations were being badly hurt. Meanwhile, the company has sought to bolster its position by asserting that the strike is having little impact on service.

“We have been preparing for this for months, and when the strike took place, we deployed thousands of managers from across the country to be able to handle customer service requests,” Mr. Creager said. “We made a commitment to take care of the customers we have.”

Mr. Schiffer, the boutique bank’s chief executive, said most phones at his nine-person firm, Sevara Capital Markets, had not been working since Aug. 9.

“This is really affecting our business,” he said. “Clients have been telling us they can’t get through.”

Asked about the repair delays faced by Sevara, Mr. Creager of Verizon said, “That is not typical of the vast majority of our customers.”

Richard Young, a Verizon spokesman, said the company had received hundreds of supportive e-mails from customers.

In one e-mail shared by the company, John Ness, a councilman in Townsend, Del., wrote last Sunday to thank two field technicians who repaired his phone, Internet and cable service several days before a scheduled appointment.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 19, 2011, on page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: Customers Feel Some Ripples From the Verizon Strike.

August 17, 2011

Strikers picket near Londonderry Verizon store

By Doug Ireland-direland@eagletribune.com

ALLEGRA BOVERMAN

LONDONDERRY — A strike involving 45,000 Verizon Communications workers from Washington, D.C., to Massachusetts has now moved to Southern New Hampshire.

Several dozen workers from the company's Andover call center picketed outside the Verizon Wireless store on Nashua Road yesterday as they wait to hear if company and union negotiators agree on a new contract.

The picketers, wearing raincoats and holding umbrellas, stood along the sidewalk and the roadside in the pouring rain. They held up signs, receiving frequent honks of support from passing motorists.

Although the strike isn't occurring in New Hampshire, one-third of the 350 workers at the Andover center live in the Granite State, union steward Karen Whittier said.

Many of the picketers were from Londonderry, including Eileen Doyle.

"It affects a lot of us who live in New Hampshire," Doyle said. "We want to keep our jobs so we can continue living here."

The picketers, members of Communications Workers of America Local 1400, have been on strike since Aug. 6. They are concerned about pay cuts, losing pensions, more expensive health insurance and job security, expressing fear their customer service positions will be outsourced.

"We want a fair contract and we want to keep our jobs," union steward Carrie Gugliotta of Manchester said. "We want to go back to work. We work very hard for this company and their profits show it."

Although Verizon is the country's largest wireless provider, the three-year contract that expired earlier this month only affected workers in its land-line division.

The New Hampshire workers picketed throughout Massachusetts until Monday. Then they began picketing at the Londonderry store and will continue from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day until the dispute is over, Gugliota said.

While many Massachusetts residents were familiar with their quest for a new contract, many Granite Staters do not know why they are picketing, Doyle said.

"A lot of people don't think it has anything to do with up here," she said.

Gugliotta said most passers-by support their cause and only four voiced disapproval.

"There are a few people telling us to go back to work, and we're ready to," she said.

But Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro said a deal won't be reached until workers agree to concessions, none of which include outsourcing. Contract negotiations began in June and recently resumed after breaking off.

"We hope it will lead to fruitful discussions and we will get a contract soon," Santoro said. "The main issue is health care."

He said the company is asking workers to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums for the first time. The company also believes workers should no longer have both pensions and 401k retirement plans.

Verizon can no longer afford to have longtime workers receive "lifetime job contracts" at a time when its land-line business is declining, he said.

"The business they work in has changed over the years," Santoro said. "It's a much different world we live in today."

Santoro said he didn't know of any problems with the Londonderry picketers.

There also has been picketing at Verizon sites in Methuen, Andover, Haverhill and Lawrence.

No one from the Londonderry store would comment on the strike.

But several passers-by said they support the strikers, including Dawn Macomber, 40, of Derry. Macomber said she has a friend who is a Verizon operator.

"I feel with the bills that Verizon charges, they should be able to pay their operators more money," she said.

Mike Roberts, 31, of Derry agreed.

"Verizon is the biggest company out there; they shouldn't be downgrading their people," he said. "I think Verizon charges way too much. They should at least be able to pay their people and not take anything away."

 

Verizon strikers organizing through Facebook

By: August 11, 2011 1:04 PM PDT

From a Verizon worker-created page on Facebook listing companies to boycott.

Verizon Communications workers on strike are taking to Facebook to organize demonstrations and call out companies and individuals who cross the picket lines, CNET has learned.

Workers have set up a Facebook page that has already garnered more than 5,400 members of the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The primary aim is to educate employees on the issue, create a level of solidarity among workers, and organize demonstrations.

While the use of social networks to rally people to a cause isn't new--Facebook was a catalyst in the Egyption revolution--it appears this is the first time workers have used it to coordinate strike activities in any major way.

"As far as I know, this is a new phenomenon," said Doreen Davis, a labor attorney for law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius. "In a big strike like this, we haven't seen this kind of activity on social media."

While the main page is largely innocuous, there are documents posted that call for a boycott of specific businesses such as Pepsi and Fed-Ex, which continue to do business with Verizon. The page calls for employees to avoid restaurants run by Darden, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and The Capital Grille because the chief executive is a Verizon director.

The page has also become a place to coordinate mass picket lines, which are illegal. Davis noted that because they were posting the plans on a public forum, the workers were likely unwittingly helping Verizon crack down on the demonstrations.

Another page lists out "scabs," or employees who cross the picket line and continue working. On the "T Scab Hunter Cwa," Facebook page, there was a document listing employees who crossed the picket line. The document, which was available to the public as recently as yesterday, has been disabled. Some of the names still appear in the comments displayed under where the document used to be.

"In a big strike like this, we haven't seen this kind of activity on social media."
--Doreen Davis, labor attorney, Morgan Lewis & Bockius

That's a concern as the dispute turns uglier, with Verizon claiming acts of sabotage, harassment, and large picket lines that block the entrances to its facilities. The company has won injunctions in New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to limit the union's picketing activities, and is in court in Massachusetts and New Jersey today for similar motions. Picketers in Randallstown, Md., were arrested for blocking a facility.

Verizon said today it has encountered more than 90 acts of sabotage against network facilities, some of which have temporarily affected service to thousands of customers in certain regions. The company said it was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for such acts of sabotage. It is also working with the FBI to investigate these incidents.

"Verizon urge strikers to express their views in peaceful fashion and in accordance with the law," said Verizon Chief Security Officer Mike Mason. "Some are engaging in criminal intimidation of Verizon employees, and we will not tolerate that."

Given the number of employees and the geographic range of the strike, the activities are expected, as these incidents have played a part in prior work stoppages.

"It didn't shock me," Davis said. "It's not unusual to have a lot of sabotage and petty incidents."

Candice Johnson, a representative for the CWA, said she was looking into the Facebook pages. She also urged restraint, but from Verizon, noting there have been reports that replacement workers and managers have been "too aggressive" with their driving, and said there have been two dozen reports of picketers getting struck by vehicles.

Verizon's push to change the terms of its contract with 45,000 workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states sparked the strike, which began over the weekend. While Verizon has argued that the eroding landline business justifies the cut in benefits, the unions have pointed to the company's profits--largely from the wireless end--and rejected the changes.

The decision to strike was a surprise tactic by the union given the state of the economy and the high unemployment rate, Davis said. She added that in prior negotiations, unions have preferred to drag their feet in negotiations and extend the talks because it would keep the benefits in place a little longer.

Verizon, meanwhile, issued a statement today saying that the company continues to "provide solid service" despite the loss of its workers.

Both sides say they are continuing to talk, meeting in Rye, N.Y., and Philadelphia, although it appears they are far apart in their stances.

 

 

STEVE EARLY AND DON TREMENTOZZI

On the picket lines The Boston Globe

Issues in strike affect more than Verizon workers

 

August 9, 2011

GIVEN THE low level of labor unrest in the United States lately, the regional walkout by 45,000 workers at Verizon may strike some as a “man-bites-dog’’ story. The reasons for this conflict are not new or unusual, however. This powerful corporation has clashed with its unionized employees repeatedly over the last 25 years, making it a poster child for labor and management militancy in New York and New England.

As participants in past or present phone company battles, on the union side, we don’t pretend to be objective observers of the current fray. But the issues at stake and the strike’s economic context clearly affect far more workers and their families than those now manning picket lines in the largest US work stoppage in the last four years.

All across the country, blue-collar and white-collar workers have been badly battered by the recession. They’ve lost jobs, fringe benefits, equity in their homes, and a good deal of their retirement security.

In the public sector, workers have paid a heavy price for budget shortfalls exacerbated by recession conditions, tax cuts, and a trillion dollars worth of federal spending that went to foreign wars instead of meeting human needs at home. As a result, some states, including Massachusetts, have even curbed or eliminated the collective right to bargain about pay, benefits, or working conditions.

This grim negotiating climate creates a great opportunity for Verizon to take back what it can. Yet, as The Wall Street Journal noted last month, the telecom giant “isn’t under any financial stress.’’ Verizon reported $10.2 billion in profits in 2010 and its net income for the first half of this year was $6.9 billion. Over the past four years, the company earned nearly $20 billion for its shareholders.

This enviable record of profitability has been used to justify the $258 million spent on salaries, bonuses, and stock options for just five of the company’s top executives over the past four years. CEO Lowell McAdam’s compensation works out to about $55,000 per day, according to the Communication Workers of America. Compare that to the per-employee cost of all the pay and benefit concessions currently being sought by Verizon, which is $20,000 or more.

If the two unions on strike - the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - agreed to Verizon’s proposed contract changes, workers with families would pay up to $3,000 a year in medical premiums. Group pension coverage would be frozen, sick days would be limited, and job security protections would be eliminated.

A victory by Verizon would send a powerful message of encouragement to every other unionized employer seeking “contract relief,’’ based on balance sheets far less impressive than Verizon’s. In the majority of workplaces, where pay, benefits, and personnel policies can be changed unilaterally by management - without any prior discussion with affected employees - non-union employers would be similarly emboldened to lower their employment standards. On the other hand, if widespread labor and community support helps Verizon strikers maintain a model contract, all Massachusetts workers would have something to celebrate on Labor Day, for the first time in a long while.

Steve Early is a retired organizer for the Communications Workers of America, who has aided past Verizon strikes. He is the author of The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor and Embedded With Organized Labor. Don Trementozzi is a Verizon customer service representative from Worcester and a CWA local union president involved in the current Verizon strike. 

 

August 9, 2011

Local Verizon workers join picket line

By Jonathan Phelps jphelps@eagletribune.com

ANDOVER — A group of striking workers from Verizon Communication Inc.'s landline division walked a picket line and rallied yesterday at the company's call center on Shattuck Road.

The workers circled the entrance of the facility wearing red shirts and holding various signs, including some that read "Verizon = Unfair Practices" and "CWA on Strike Against Verizon's Corporate Greed." Some yelled messages into megaphones and a large inflatable rat was present.

The workers were represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 and International Brothers of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2321. About 300 workers joined the picket line at different times throughout the day, union officials said.

Some of the workers walked down the road and stood at the corner of Shattuck Road and River Road to wave at cars. Other picket lines took place in Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill, according to Ed Starr, IBEW business manager.

The contract for 45,000 employees from Massachusetts to Virginia expired at midnight Saturday after the company and the workers were unable to come to terms on issues including health care costs, wages and pensions. The dispute does not affect the wireless division at Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier.

Several hundred striking workers demonstrated outside the company's headquarters in lower Manhattan, most wearing red shirts and chanting, "Union busting, it's disgusting!"

"We are out here fighting for our bargaining rights," Sharon Bleach, 52, who has worked at Verizon for 25 years, said at the Manhattan rally. "They want to take away our pensions, our medical; they want to cut our pay."

Starr said he doesn't know when the unions will begin negotiations with the company again.

"It could be a long strike with all the company has put on the table," Starr said. "We never negotiated a thing, they weren't willing to negotiate any of the provisions."

He called the changes to the contract are "major concessions," including call sharing which means union members could lose their jobs because of outsourcing overseas, Starr said. He said there's also a lack of information and the unions are waiting for hundreds of pages of documents.

Sheila McGillicuddy, an organizer for CWA local 1400, said she agrees with Starr.

"There is no conversation, no negotiations, no bargaining on good faith," McGillicuddy said at the Andover rally. "And that is why we are out here."

She said she doesn't know what having 45,000 workers striking will accomplish for Verizon.

The striking workers are responsible for maintaining and repairing traditional landlines, as well as installing the company's fiber-optic FiOS service, Robert Master, a Communications Workers of America spokesman.

Verizon spokesman Richard Young said thousands of managers have been sent to help work in the affected states. New York-based Verizon has 196,000 workers; 135,000 are non-union.

"We've been preparing for a strike or other adverse job action for many months. We always knew a strike was a possibility," Young said. "We're 100 percent prepared. We're confident in our ability to continue to provide the best possible customer service."

Verizon said it was asking for changes in the contract because its wireline business has been in decline for more than a decade as more people switch to using cell phones exclusively. It had 25 million landlines at the end of the second quarter, down from 26 million at the end of 2010. It has been selling off some of its landlines to other phone companies.

Master said Verizon wanted worker concessions at a time when it's making billions in profits and top executives were making millions in salary.

Contract negotiations began June 22.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

 

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