Verizon Workers in the Bronx Take Picketing to Job Site in the Field (VIDEO)

Verizon Bronx.jpg
Striking Verizon employees confront workers on a pole on Alexander Avenue in the Bronx
As the Verizon strike enters its fifth day, we've come across various picket lines near Verizon buildings, here in the East Village and around the city. But what we hadn't witnessed until today was a scene we stumbled upon in the South Bronx, where members of the Communications Workers of America confronted "scabs" in the field.

The scene involved a group of picketing CWA workers in red shirts, surrounding a pole where two men in yellow vests, apparently from management (they did not seem to want to talk) were working as 45,000 CWA workers are striking. We heard the CWA workers yelling to the elevated worker that what he was doing was unsafe, the way he was on the pole untenable, and they were trying to warn him about how to do his work more safely.

According to Verizon Fios field technicians Christian Mariella and Brendan Haugh, the replacement labor began working on the wrong utility box, one that didn't even belong to Verizon. They described the incident this way:
They noted that while they certainly didn't like these guys, they didn't want to see them get hurt, either.

The two men, CWA shop stewards, also talked about negotiating contracts in the AT&T/Ma Bell days (long before Verizon considered itself primarily a wireless company). They did not have kind words for the company's cries of poverty: For their part, Verizon has turned to the courts to dissuade exactly this type of activity, with some success. Verizon is seeking an injunction against picketing in Massachusetts and New Jersey today, after successfully getting partial ones in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and here in New York State.

As for what the New York injunction means, according to WIVB:

"[S]triking Verizon workers were shocked and frustrated when police met them at the picket line in Amherst Thursday morning, telling them the usual 70 workers on the line has to be limited to 15 here. The statewide injunction also sets other limitations, brought on because the company says workers were taking the picketing too far."

According to CNET:

"The injunctions follow what Verizon claims are more than 70 incidents of sabotage, including cut fiber-optic lines, incidents of harassment of management sent to fill in, and vandalism. Verizon said it was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for these acts. The injunctions limit the number of people who can picket near the entrance, forbids strikers to enter the facilities or block access, demonstrate too closely to private property, and commit acts of harassment or sabotage".

According to LaborNotes.Org:

"An injunction delivered to strikers Thursday limited the number of picketers, from six to 50, based on the size of the location. Mobile picketers in New York are limited to six, and while in traffic they must follow 45 feet behind the scab van"

Meanwhile, as the Fios workers in the Bronx protested the replacement labor (maintaining that they were following the guidelines for picketing in the field), WIVB reports that CWA and Verizon have returned to the bargaining table.

Previous: Verizon Workers Strike in the East Village by Esther Zuckerman

sthrasher@villagevoice.com | @steven_thrasher


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3 comments
Guest
Guest

One thing that the striking union workers might not realize is that some of those "scabs" are other, non-union Verizon employees who have been forced to leave their homes and their families to go work in jobs they aren't properly trained to do.

If they refuse to go, they are fired. If they leave their assignment, they are fired. They don't want to be there any more than the union wants to strike. And they certainly aren't being treated all that well. In the case of someone I know, employees are working 12 hour days (plus add on time to get though the picket lines). Their first day off will be somewhere between the 7th and 14th day of work. They are not allowed to go home until after 20 days of work, and then it's only for 3 days before they have to go back. These employees had no say in where they were being sent to or what job they were doing.  I sympathize with the union workers and most of my anger is directed at Verizon, but I think the union workers should try to understand that their replacement workers are only working under threat of losing their jobs.

I've seen some comments from the union supporters saying tht non-union employees should just quit to show their support. Couldn't the reverse be asked of the union members too? Why don't they quit to show support for the rest of the Verizon employees? As far as I can tell, they are both stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Svoellinger
Svoellinger

You are dead on.  And yes, the non-union vz employees who are working those poles got a whopping one week of training before the strike.  My best friend is held up in a hotel working a job he wasn't trained to do, has no experiance or background in and really doesn't want to do.  But he's been with VZ/Worldcom for nearly 13 years starting now starting in the call center as customer support to move into managment, just to find himself stuck on top of a cherry picker with a crowd of strikers yelling profanity up at him while he does his best to not get hurt.  The two gents in this article seem to be the exception rather than the rule with these strikes. 

Guest
Guest

Thank you for sharing this. My husband got "lucky" if you can call it that, and got assigned to customer service, rather than a line job. All training before starting took place over the phone on confrence calls, no actual hands on training. How it's ethical for Verizon to have their non-union employees working dangerous jobs, jobs that require specific safety instructions and skills is just beyond my comprehension.

On Friday our local paper ran a story saying that Verizon could not confirm if employees from my area were sent East to work during the strike. I could ahve confirmed that with one phone call, if I wasn't afraid of the union members harassment.

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