July 27, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Angry Verizon workers fed up with what they see as a callous spate of retrogressive contract demands that threaten middle-class jobs, rallied on the streets of lower Manhattan this weekend in a raucous demonstration the communications giant was quick to dismiss as a "useless distraction."
Almost 40,000 Verizon technicians and inside staffers stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia could walk off the job later this week if a new agreement isn't reached before the current contract expires on August 1.
Dennis Trainor, vice-president for the Communications Workers of America District 1, however, told workers on Saturday that Verizon's only interest at the bargaining table so far, has been to "screw" employees.
"They offered a two percent raise in the first year of the contract, and another two percent in the second year of the contract," Trainor told all those demonstrating outside Verizon HQ on Barclay Street. "But – and there's a big but – they want to contract out all of your work."
The union says that Verizon – recipient of $10 billion in profits last year alone – is bent on contracting out union work, shifting healthcare costs, cutting pension benefits, and abandoning its FiOS obligations.
"That two-percent raise that they're promising won't mean a damned thing if you don't have a job," Trainor continued. "And they are determined to cut your pension and rob you of your retirement."
The company's top five executives, meanwhile, took home $249 million over the last five years.
"The demands that they are making are completely outrageous," Bob Master, CWA northeast political director told LaborPress. "The company made $28 billion over the last five years, they just reported over $4.5 billion in profits in the second quarter alone, and they want us to pay way more for our healthcare? They want to slash our retirement security, and they want to eliminate our job security? These people are here to say that there's no way that's happening."
Margaret Falcucci, a switching equipment technician from Pennsylvania said that she is absolutely willing to walk out later this week.
"We need a fair contract," Falcucci said. "If I've got to strike for a fair contract, I'll strike for it. It's just ridiculous. We have to stand up. I want to be a middle-class worker. I don't want to be an executive. I don't need to make $25 million. But I do need to maintain my lifestyle, and I'm not doing that with the contract they're offering."
Fellow unionists also voiced strong support for CWA and IBEW members facing the possibility of a walkout.
"Workers are standing up for two things," CUNY PSC leader Barbara Bowen told LaborPress. "They're right to a decent life, especially from a company that made almost $10 billion in profits last year, and the principal that all New Yorkers should have access to fast internet. This is a double attack that Verizon is making on working people – denying both power and knowledge, and also a decent life. When these workers stand up, they're standing up for all New York City."
Verizon spokesperson Rich Young expressed little empathy for workers, however.
"We believe their time would be far more beneficial focusing on the important contractual issues that need to be resolved," Young said in an email. "Verizon has presented the CWA and IBEW with a solid proposal that recognizes the changing communications landscape and offers a path towards success."
Young concluded by saying, "Rather than yelling on the streets of New York, we hope the unions work with us on ways that will continue to ensure solid, upper middle-class jobs for our employees and exceptional services for our customers."