Verizon Union Talks Continue As Court Injunction Issued For Strikers
State court orders strikers in multiple states not to block Verizon entrances, worksites or to harass fill-in workers.
Potential settlement talks with unions representing 45,000 Verizon wireline operations employees, including about 5,400 in New Jersey, will continue over the weekend in search of a "fair" settlement, a Verizon spokesman said on Friday afternoon.
Near the end of the first week of the strike — called in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states immediately after a previous contract expired at 11:59 p.m. last Saturday night — talks had moved back to Philadelphia for the unions representing striking workers in New Jersey and south, said Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman.
Young said he believed that demonstrators for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, local 827, representing New Jersey, had returned twice at the end of this week to picket across North Maple Avenue from the Verizon Center, based in Basking Ridge. Young said he had heard of no problems.
However, Verizon had earlier sought an injunction against unions in multiple states against union members alleged to have blocked access to Verizon facilities, sabotaged operations and harrassed managers who have been assigned to fill in for the duties of striking wireless workers and related office personnel.
Earlier in the day, a state Superior Court judge in Sussex County issued an injunction similar to an order already issued in the past few days in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, Young said. He said a requested court order is pending in Massachusetts.
The order is applicable to all IBEW local 827 bargaining unit members, their dependents, minors, households and relatives, according to details on the injunction posted on the union local's website.
"IBEW, Local 827 does not condone any acts of violence, vandalism, or destruction," said a statement on the website from William D. Huber, president and business manager for that union.
Two days ago, in saying that top representatives for Verizon and the union were in New York trying to close a gap in disputed issues, Huber then said that the union had not received reports of Verizon's then-claims of vandalism and union workers' refusal to let non-union workers enter some work sites.
Huber was not available for comment late Friday afternoon.
The court injunction, which is statewide even though issued in Sussex County, advises employees that they may exercise first amendment rights to free speech, but face other restrictions.
"You may not threaten, obstruct, intimidate, or harass Verizon officers, agents, employees, subcontractors, or the general public," according to the reproduction of the injunction on the union website. "You may not block any ingress or egress of any Verizon vehicle or contractor vehicle," it added.
"This will provide clarity and enable our managers to do their jobs," Young said.
The injunction also prohibits "acts of violence, vandalism or destruction to Verizon property, premises, or any worksite." The court order, as per the website, allows six pickets per entrance to any Verizon property, premises and worksites, including contractor worksites.
Other stipulations in the court order allow mass picketing, grouping, and congregating, but only 25 feet from any entrance, or on public streets leading to Verizon property or worksites or contractor worksites.
In previous interviews, Huber has said Verizon's management is trying to roll back the progress that the union workers have made in almost six decades of collective bargaining. Some of the negotiated issues involve safety and a Verizon plan to scrap a longstanding health plan relied on by workers and their families, he said.
Huber also said there are documented reports of Verizon's fill-in workers violating some of the union's safety rules,
Verizon has addressed its position in an online statement on bargaining with the unions, including its contention that most union-represented employees pay nothing for health insurance costs.
"The company is proposing that its union-represented employees pay a portion of their health care premiums, much like the majority of other Verizon employees," the site said.
The two sides also are disputing whether non-union employees with temporary training are qualified to fill the union members' duties while they are on strike.