Tag Archives: unions

Verizon workers protest contract changes in Bayside rally

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Verizon employees banded together Thursday in a rally outside a Bayside building owned by the company during ongoing contract negotiations over benefits and additional job demands.

Nearly 300 people were estimated to be at the rally, which attracted approving honks from passing cars and had its own on-site DJ. Union members sang pro-union chants cheering for district leaders and supportive politicians, including state Senator Toby Stavisky, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

According to union leaders, Verizon workers were having similar demonstrations all over New York and across state lines as far away as Virginia. Labor force organizers charge that pension plans and health care co-pays may be changed under the proposed new contract, and job security may be threatened by initiatives that would enable Verizon to transfer workers to job sites far from their homes.

“The company basically wants to eliminate the entire contract,” said Michael Ciancarelli, president of the Local 1106 chapter of the Communications Workers of America. “They want to take away things guys have had for 30 years.”

Jeff Branzetti, a field technician who works as the district steward of a Verizon garage in Hollis, said that many of his co-workers are especially concerned with proposed changes to pension plans.

“We’re all getting older,” Branzetti said, adding that every worker in his garage had been with the company for at least 17 years. “You don’t yank the carpet out under people like that, who’ve worked their whole career for you.”

Sen. Stavisky said that she would be supportive to the cause for as long as it took to get a living wage for the working men and women of Verizon.

“We’re here today to let you know that we care,” Stavisky said. “I sent a letter to Verizon letting them know they’ve got to bargain in good faith because people need a job, and they need a job that pays a decent wage and has proper benefits.”


A spokesperson for Verizon said the communications giant was committed to reaching a contract that is fair to both employees and customers. Representatives have had discussions this week with union leaders and state that they are willing to meet with them again to continue the discussion.

“We respect the rights of our employees to hold rallies, but we truly believe the best way to achieve a new contract is not at a [street] rally, but through serious and meaningful negotiations,” the spokesperson said.


Cuomo steps into MTA, LIRR union negotiations

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined negotiations between the MTA and Long Island Rail Road union officials just days before a looming strike deadline.

“The possible LIRR strike would be highly disruptive to the people and economy of Long Island, Cuomo said. “The parties returned to the negotiating table yesterday morning at my request. Late yesterday, when the conversations had not been fruitful, I began participating in them directly. Those conversations proceeded until late into the night.”

Both sides were scheduled to meet at the governor’s Manhattan office at 10 a.m. Thursday to continue discussions, according to Cuomo.

“Time is very short. We are less than 48 hours from the point at which the railroad would commence closing procedures. I want to make sure I have done everything I can possibly do to avert a strike,” he said.

LIRR union lead negotiator Anthony Simon was optimistic that a deal could be reach before the 12:01 a.m. Sunday strike deadline now that Cuomo has joined the negotiation table, Newsday reported.

“He’s ready to get this resolved,” Simon said, according to Newsday.



Despite criticism, local members say unions still needed

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC District Council of Carpenters

For those alive today it’s difficult to imagine the American workforce without unions. They not only represent trades, such as brick layers and electrical workers, and teachers, but there are also unions for actors, postal workers, air traffic controllers and many other professions.

But many question their role in the workplace. They say years ago unions were necessary because there were few laws that protected employees. Others, however, say they are still needed to protect workers’ rights.

One of the most famous unions is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Founded in 1903, it is one of the world’s largest unions, with 1.4 million members. As it says on the Teamster website, it represents “everyone from A to Z – from airline pilots to zookeepers.” Some other industries that have members in the union include food processing, rail, freight, and motion picture and theatrical trade.

According to the Teamsters Constitution, the union’s main purpose is to educate and organize workers so they can have a better standard of living and have a voice in the workplace.

John Sagona, 45, of Ozone Park, is a 25-year member of the union. He is also a second generation Teamster. His father was in Local 553 from the early 60s until the mid-80s. Sagona has been a member of the same Local, which represents workers in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, since he began driving fuel oil delivery trucks for Petro.

Whether or not his father was a former member, he still would have joined the Teamsters, said Sagona.

“The unions can protect you,” he said.

That protection includes making sure members have medical benefits, pensions and paid vacations.

Unions are beneficial for both employees and bosses because benefits and better pay means harder, more dedicated workers, said Sagona.

Health insurance is a major reason that father of two Joseph Reilly, 45, of Bellerose, is a member of the New York City District Council of Carpenters, a regional council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Reily is a 13-year member of Local 45, which covers Queens and some of Nassau County. He is also recording secretary of Local 45’ s executive board. Previously he was in the Teamsters electrical union.

When I didn’t work union I had no benefits,” he said. “I just saw the benefits the union members were getting and [they] didn’t compare to non-union,” he continued.

Those benefits follow him to each job whether it’s doing sheet rocking and framing at a school or installing cabinets, said Reily.

One union criticism that he has heard is that they are anti-American, but unions are part of America’s roots, he said.

The 13 colonies under British rule were like workers before unions, said Reilly, but then they united and fought for their rights.