Verizon workers, without a contract since last August, are sending a clear message: “Can you hear me now?”
Over 300 workers, including many Communications Workers of America union members, rallied in front of the Verizon telephone building in Jamaica and in front of a nearby Verizon Wireless store.
According to Amy Muldoon, employees are currently working under an extension of their last contract, but said bargaining negotiations for a new contract are going nowhere.
“We’re trying to bargain but there’s no movement,” said President Jerry Bulzomi of the C.W.A. Local 1106. “They want to take away our medical benefits, pension fund, anything that costs them money. We want to know why they’re trying to take it off on our backs.”
However, John Bonomo, a Verizon spokesperson, said that most of the landline workers don’t pay anything for health insurance premiums.
“The telecommunications business is undergoing huge changes and the new contract should reflect those changes,” said Bonomo. “We’re not the monopoly in the phone area anymore. People are going to the cable companies for some services.”
According to Verizon’s bargaining facts web site, the number of Verizon landlines has gone down fom 55 million in 2003 to 25 million in 2011.
At the rally, workers chanted, “no contract, no peace” and, “C.W.A., we won’t go away.” A few even stood outside the Verizon store handing out flyers informing people why they were rallying and asking people to consider a switch to AT&T, which they say supports union workers.
“This is not one contract,” said one worker. “We are fighting a corporate climate across the country. Don’t be afraid to fight for your contract.”
“We’re not going to apologize for being a successful business,” said Bonomo. “Being successful means we can provide jobs and competitive wages.
According to Muldoon, Verizon workers’ last contract lasted from 2009 to August of last year and they’re looking to preserve everything they bargained for.
Bulzomi, along with many other workers, said it comes down to corporate greed. Despite already having gone on strike last year, and only making small progress in negotiations, workers aren’t ready to give up.
“People struck for us to have protection,” said one worker. “I will not give that up without one hell of a fight.”