Verizon Workers Protest Outside Customer Service Center
Workers line the side of Eisenhower Parkway to protest after talk for a new contract falls through.
Joining the regional movement, Verizon wireline employees picketed alongside Eisenhower Parkway in Livingston on Monday after their unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), broke off talks of a new contract with the company for 45,000 employees early Sunday.
Despite, the high temperatures, the turnout was large, with many of the employees having been protesting since the early morning hours. Throughout the day, passing motorists frequently sounded their horns to show their support for the workers.
When asked about the key issue behind the strike, many employees could not pinpoint a single source of their discontent.
One worker, who asked not to be named, said that she felt there was an overemphasis in the news media about health care being the sticking point in the negotiations and that there were many more issues at play as well.
Similarly, Renita Bogan, a 14-year company employee explained there are a multitude of issues at hand.
"It's about everything," she said. "They don't want us to have anything: benefits, pension, pay, job security, sick days, vacation.... everything that we have fought for in the past they want to take away," she said.
During the contract talks the company has called for workers to make an increased contribution to their health care, cuts to benefits and the elimination of pensions for future hires — none of which has sat well with its employees.
"They're trying to take the middle class and rip us to shreds," chimed in another 18-year veteran of the company. "They're greedy pigs and we're not standing for it and that's why we're out," added Bogan.
Employees also expressed frustration about the company's contingency plan to use managers to do work on the poles. Many felt upon the dispute being settled they’d have to 'clean up the mess' left by these individuals who normally do not do this particular kind of work."
He [Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam] doesn't even care about his management team that had never been on the poles," said Bogan.
"We are confident that we have the talent and resources in place to meet the needs and demands of our customers," said Marc C. Reed, Verizon executive vice-president of human resources in a statement released on Sunday.
Bogan disagreed. "They're not trained properly," she said and noted she felt having managers on the poles was a dangerous proposition.
There wasn't much optimism among those at the rally that a deal between the company and the union would be made soon.
One worker, who did not want to be named, explained she had never seen such a wide gap between the union and the company throughout her tenure with the company. As one employee summed it up, "Verizon sucks."