Union workers rally in rain for fair contracts from Verizon

What do they want? Contracts.

When do they want them? Now.

Union members across the East Coast congregated at dozens of Verizon Wireless stores – including the one on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue – on Thursday, November 19 to fight for fair labor contracts.

The joint rallies came just one day after the National Labor Relations Board slapped Verizon with a violation for breaking federal labor laws when it fired CWA Local 1109 member Bianca Cunningham—whom supporters rallied for back in September—in an alleged attempt to silence and terrify Brooklyn Verizon Wireless workers.

“Verizon’s CEO makes over 200 times the amount the average Verizon employee makes, but the company still has the gall to demand deep concessions from its workers,” said Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District One. “They’re also trying to create a culture of fear by firing and threatening employees who try to organize.”

According to Trainor, 65 Verizon workers in Brooklyn—led by Cunningham—became the first retail workers in the entire company to form a union. Meanwhile, since forming, the union has been refused raises, improvements and benefits from the multi-billion dollar company.

“We’re out here today to show that we will not give up our job security and our families’ health care just so that Verizon can boost its massive profits even higher,” he went on. “It’s time for Verizon to abandon its hardline tactics and give its employees the fair labor contracts they deserve.”

Local elected officials came out—in the pouring rain—to join CWA in its fight.

“[Myself and my colleagues] know what you’re up against,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who has gone after Verizon Wireless already this year for dragging its feet when it comes to bringing Fios service to the district. “We put the Verizon people on the stand in the City Council a couple of weeks ago, and we made them answer some questions about the Fios rollout and—guess what—they couldn’t answer those questions because they know they have failed their franchise agreement, and we’re going to hold them to it

“Lo and behold, you have to hold them to their contract promises,” he went on, stressing that, “unless you push Verizon to the wall, they will not be fair to their employees.”

Assemblymember William Colton—joined at the Bay Ridge rally by Democratic District Leader Nancy Tong—agreed.

“It is time that working people get justice; that working people get what they’re entitled to, and it’s time that Verizon start dealing fairly with working people and with families,” he said, pledging his full support to the CWA. “The rain can’t silence us.

“That company makes billions of dollars in profit,” he went on. “They can’t say they don’t have money; they can’t say they can’t afford it. Verizon has got to do the right thing. It’s got to give a contract with fair wages, fair pension and fair healthcare benefits. There’s no other answer that is going to be accepted.”

According to Verizon rep John Bonomo, Verizon’s contracts with more than 37,000 employees expired on August 1 of this year. Negotiations began in June and still continue.

“This is another agenda-driven attempt by the CWA to try and divert attention from the real work that needs to be done at the bargaining table,” said Bonomo. “Rather than having our employees outside in the rain, it would be far more productive if union leaders focused their time and attention on the important issues that need to be addressed.

“What’s needed now is for union leaders to negotiate with a realistic view of the status and challenges that our business faces,” he went on. “If the CWA truly wants to look out for its members, rather than holding rallies in the rain, they should work with us on achieving a new contract that’s good for our employees, fair to our customers and puts the company on a path toward success.”

Bonomo said that he hopes that, at the end of this process, all parties will be happy.

“Verizon offers our employees outstanding jobs, with excellent salaries and highly competitive healthcare and benefits,” he went on. “At the end of the bargaining process, that will still be the case.”

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