Verizon strike continues

It has been nearly a week since 45,000 unionized Verizon workersfrom the U.S. Northeast wireline unit went on strike after theircontract expired at midnight on Saturday, August 6, but there areno signs of either side letting up.

On one side, there is the wireless communications giant’s stancethat its declining landline business requires workers to give uptheir pensions, work rules and raises, and to contribute at least$1,200 a year to their healthcare plans. Many employees, however,consider these terms as not even a contract and an attack on themiddle-class by yet another greedy corporation.

For Edward Ruggiero, a father of two from Dyker Heights, themotivation behind going on strike is as personal and simple as itis for his fellow co-workers: to protect his family.

Everyone has families, children, and are living paycheck topaycheck, said Ruggiero, outside the Verizon wireless store atKings Highway and East 17th Street on the second day of the strike.Medical benefits are important. I have a 15-year-old and a10-year-old [and] these are benefits we don’t want to lose. Wedon’t want layoffs. We want job security and to maintain ourlifestyle.

Even though striking does make him nervous, what with tuitionand mortgage payments to make, it is a way to get that pointacross to fellow New Yorkers and Americans, Ruggiero explained.We want to say that this is not about money – it’s about keepingour job and not losing what we already have.

This sentiment was made even clearer and louder at rallies inManhattan and Gravesend, Brooklyn, which drew thousands of Verizonfield technicians, engineers and other employees with theCommunication Workers of America (CWA), which represents 35,000workers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers(IBEW), which represents 10,000 strikers.

At the Gravesend rally on Thursday, August 4, at Shore Parkwayand Bay 41st Street – near one of the largest Verizon garages inthe city – CWA workers from across the five boroughs and thetri-state area stood across from a giant inflatable pig on loanfrom their Long Island CWA 1102 counterparts and promised to sticktogether against corporate greed.

We’re fighting for a fair contract because… they’re trying totake away our job security, pensions, hours – it’s really nocontract, said Rachel, a chief steward with CWA 1109. Meanwhile,[Verizon is making] billions of dollars in revenue. They saythey’re doing it to get in line with others, but they’re in theblack, so it’s pure greed.

Tom Cararo, a retired Verizon worker from Marine Park, said thathe felt compelled to join the rally because after working for themfor 36 years, I would think I would keep my retirement benefits…dental and eye plan. I know it costs a lot [to pay for employeehealthcare], but retirement is when you can least afford it.

But, Verizon denies requesting more from its retirees than theyalready do of retired executives, according to its online list ofbargaining facts.

Also expressing their support for the workers were CouncilmemberVincent Gentile, Assemblymember William Colton and AssemblymemberAlec Brook-Krasny, who spoke at Thursday’s rally.

This is a direct attack on the middle class, said Gentile, whowas clad in a red CWA 1109 T-shirt over his shirt and tie. Verizonis trying to throw out 60 years of bargaining by union-busting anddemanding concessions from the very workers who have made thecompany one of the most profitable companies in America!

Working families all over our city are facing a very hard timeand we keep taking from the same people, agreed Colton. Familieshave to start saying that theses sacrifices can’t keep coming fromus. CWA families are the backbone of our communities… That’s whyI support CWA and the workers.

The strike is shaping up to be at least as long as previousstrikes by Verizon workers in the last two decades, the longest ofwhich, in 2003, lasted around two weeks. A strike in 1989 lastedsix months.

Customers are noticing only minimal impact from the strike,said Verizon in an August 8 press release.

Our contingency plan is in full effect and our managementemployees are stepping in to cover our workload, explained BobMudge, president of consumer and mass markets for Verizon, whoadded, We are committed to delivering excellent customer service,and that’s exactly what we plan to do.

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