Tens of thousands of union members walked picket lines from New England to Virginia as the first week of the strike on Verizon came to a close.
Union negotiators met with Verizon officials on Friday, but talks broke up less than 30 minutes later when company officials increased concession demands.
| Members of East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 march on pickets to preserve decent wages and benefits and a dignified retirement.
“We did not want things to deteriorate to this point, and we hoped that Verizon would come to their senses quickly when it did. Clearly they are not ready to accept that the men and women that built this very profitable company know their value,” said Telecommunications and Broadcast Director Martha Pultar.
More than 40,000 men and women are on strike, 30,000 from the Communication Workers of America and nearly 10,000 members of the IBEW.
At the heart of the conflict is Verizon’s demand that the installation and repair technicians, call center operators and clerical workers accept draconian cuts to employee pensions, health care, job security and benefits for workers injured on the job.
Verizon is also demanding workers accept a policy that could transfer service technicians out of their service areas on only a few days’ notice for two months or more.
“If Verizon tried to send me away for weeks or even months at a time, I’d have to look for another job,” said Justin Draper, a member of Cranston, R.I., Local 2323 and a single father of two. “I’ve given 18 years to this company, but being away from my kids just simply isn’t an option for my family.”
|Justin Draper is a single dad, a member of Local 2323.
Verizon has posted profits of $1.8 billion per month so far this year, and $39 billion over the last three years. Nevertheless, it is asking for concessions by not just workers, but also retirees. Verizon’s proposed raising retiree health care costs by hundreds of dollars.
Phyllis Moniz was a Verizon service representative for 34 years before she retired in 2010.
“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, and I spend four weeks at a time on chemotherapy. My healthcare costs are already huge, and now they want to add more on top of that? I’m retired. I don’t know how I’d be able to do it,” Moniz said from her home in Portsmouth, R.I. “If the company was broke, it would be different, but they’re raking in billions of dollars and trying to squeeze every last dime out of the people who built this company.”
Across the region, striking workers watched nonunion and management replacement workers heading to do their jobs, but remained peaceful.
In Maryland, however, two CWA picketers at Verizon’s Gaithersburg office were hit by a Verizon management attorney driving a Porsche. One was taken to the hospital. Nearly 20 miles away in Silver Spring, another striking Verizon worker was hit by a management vehicle.
Verizon’s attorneys petitioned the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia for an injunction to limit the number of picketers in front of Verizon offices. The court limited picket lines to six “spaced” strikers at a time and forbid them from blocking company replacement workers.
| Warwick, R.I., Local 2323 retiree Phyllis Moniz worked for Verizon for 34 years.
Elected officials, allies from other unions and members of the public joined the strikers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island.
Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders joined picket lines Wednesday. During the Thursday night democratic candidate’s debate, Sanders called on Verizon’s CEO to return to the negotiating table.
“This is a perfect example of the kind of corporate greed that is destroying the middle class of this country,” Sanders said. “There are some great businesses. Verizon happens to not be one of them.”
Contributing to the Unity Fund
International President Lonnie R. Stephenson has announced that the IBEW Unity Fund will provide support for striking workers.
“Having to strike is the last thing anyone wants, but now that we are here, only faith and trust in each other will lead to a victory. Not just unity on the picket, but from all members of the IBEW and organized labor,” Stephenson said. “Making sure there is a financial insurance policy for the striking workers is the best way the rest of the IBEW can support their brothers and sisters.”
A collection was taken at the Construction and Maintenance Department annual meeting, taking place Friday in Washington D.C. Hundreds of members pitched in, raising more than $11,000 in a single day.
Donations can be made online or checks made payable to the IBEW Unity Fund can be mailed to:
IBEW Unity Fund
900 Seventh Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
*Please note that donations to the IBEW Unity Fund are not tax deductible for individual federal income tax purposes.*