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Union Demonstrators Return to Verizon Center

Labor leaders say that talks on expired contract are not progressing, and layoffs loom.

Members of two unions representing thousands of Verizon workers in New Jersey had dozens of demonstrators gathered across from the Verizon Center at the end of the work day on Thursday, showing their discontent with eight months of unresolved contract negotiations and pending layoffs.

Thursday was a show of support with rallies down through Florida as talks continue on a new agreement to replace a union contract that expired on Aug. 6, 2011, said Bill Huber, president and business manager of New Jersey Local 827 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Workers in red shirts, and an inflated large balloon rat surrounded by signs accusing Verizon of corporate greed, were on property along North Maple Avenue, across from the Verizon facility at 1 Verizon Way. were along North Maple Avenue, monitoring the gathering.

The union workers—— returned to their positions last Aug. 23, and have been attempting to close the gap in negotiations ever since, said Huber. Wearing a red shirt along with the others, Huber stood among union members from the IBEW and Communications Workers of America at about 5 p.m. on Thursday.

But, he said, "We still are under the old collective bargaining agreement."

"At some point in time, we think the company is posturing to lay down their last best and final offer," Huber said. He said the unions — representing about 5,600 wireline workers and a similar number of back office employees who are members of the CWA — fear the company will declare impasse in talks, and would no longer comply with the terms of the previous contract.

Under the agreement that brought the unions back on the job last Aug. 23, the employees still are covered by the previous benefits package and other terms of the contract that expired in August, Huber said in January.

On Thursday, Huber said contract talks have been going on for five days a week in Rye, N.Y., and he expected to return to the bargaining table on Friday morning.

Workers also wore slogans on shirts, carried signs and otherwise protested what Huber said are the pending April 3 layoffs of 336 out of 354 union employees within New Jersey who work on repairing phone lines connected by copper wires. Huber said many of those customers are senior citizens, who have no interest in switching to the fiber optics phone connections that, according to Huber, are now being pushed upon customers whose copper wire landlines aren't working.

Those copper lines, unlike cell phones or fiber optic lines, do not rely on battery power during a power outage, Huber said.

Huber also accused Verizon of not been bargaining in good faith during negotiations.

Verizon's response to rally

Later in the evening, Richard Young, a spokesman for Verizon, responded with a statement that began, "The union’s various rallies and 'Day of Action' have no impact on the bargaining process. Verizon’s wireline business needs to make meaningful changes to its contracts in order to be competitive." 

The Verizon statement said progress towards a new contract "can only be achieved through engagement at the bargaining table — not at a union rally."

The statement from Young affirmed that about 300 Verizon technicians in our “Verizon Connected Solutions” unit were "let go" about six weeks ago.

"With this workload in our wireline unit continuing to decline, we had to adjust our headcount to meet the downward trend," the statement said.

Huber and other employees at the site, said that points of contention include benefits, safety, salary and other main contract issues.

Full health benefits had been a major source of dispute in the negotiations, both sides have said repeatedly.

The workers, who continued to arrive after 5 p.m., had union leaders at the location showing support, including Charlie Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey AFL-CIO.

"We are here to support our affiliates," Wowkanech said. He said that Verizon had built its success in large part because of the many highly trained employees represented by the union.

He added that he is disappointed with Verizon on a personal basis, because the company had often asked for — and had received — the unions' support on regulatory issues that improved Verizon's position.

Both union leaders accused Verizon of corporate greed. Huber said that Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam earns as much as the combined annual salaries of all the copper line workers to be laid off.

Huber said the workers expect to return to rally by Verizon at some point in the future, but he did not specify when.

Skip March 23, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I drove past these demonstrators yesterday. They were heckling other Verizon employees as they drove away from the building. Some of the demonstrators were wearing ridiculous looking masks. It amazes me that these are adults and that they are not completely embarrassed. They should be happy to have a job and if they do not like their current working conditions then they should seek other employment.
jon March 23, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Skip... If you aren't informed, which clearly you are not, those employees that you claim were being "heckled" are all upper management. We the REAL employees, are not even allowed in that building at all. Go to youtube and type in verizon cribs, take a look at where they work and claim they are not profitable, the multiple "cafeterias", the gyms, the huge flat screen TV's and so on. Not to mention that 2 executives made a combined 50 million+ last year, never mind all their perks and the fact that one of the two retired half way through the year. So again, get your facts together, that lunch you get, vacation time, guess what brought to you by the UNIONS of America.
Bunny Faber March 23, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Let's face it, Verizon landline is a dinosaur. That whole company is held up by Wireless.
jon March 23, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Wireless is held up by wireline...and have you forgotten FiOS?
clarke March 23, 2012 at 11:41 PM
I am sure they can find work elsewhere if they don't like it, they should stop their complaining, there are millions upon millions of unemployed people, many of which would be happy to take their jobs.
John Smith March 24, 2012 at 02:13 AM
OK... @ Bunny Faber.... do you really know anything about telephones and "wireless" at all??? Let me inform you the wireless side NEEDS the wireline...how do you think the signal gets from point A, the Switch "a giant computer" to point B, that little device you hold in your hand??? It has to go thru miles and miles and miles of WIRE and FIBER!!!! So you can say it till your blue in the face,,,it wont chnage the fact that wireless NEEDS the wireline network at one point or another. I know, I am a TRAINED, QUALIFIED network tech. I am NOT lazy or greedy. I want to work-I want to do my job-and I want to do it well. And what is wrong with me fighting for a decent pay and benefits??? Isnt that what we all want....WE are Verizons BEST INVESTMENT...we built this network and we try to make it run after pushing through the bs and red tape they throw at us!!! Read any article you want...read how many millions our "leader" makes- he earns 63,000 a DAY, 365 days a year regardless.... have you EVER read Verizon NOT making money.all the while they claims we dont make THEM enough money.
Terri Mesterhazy March 24, 2012 at 02:46 AM
To those uninformed people ! I retired with 3i years and I was one of those people out there on Thursday. Verizon forgets where they got their money for the building. They got that building from the sweat og Union backs. Lineman, Splicers ,Frame Attendents CO Techs and the list goes on . Ever cell cell tower is run by someones wire work. Lowell Mcadams fired 336 techs so he could give himself his multi-million dollar raise. He is trying to destroy Union workers, the Middle Class and American Values...Tell me, if someone robbed your house would you just sit there and do nothing or stand up for whats right an try and get back what you legally worked for? I'm going to fight for what I earned
Dave Ex March 25, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I wonder if Low McAdam has ever climbed a pole? Not a sissy one, one with gaffs strapped on his legs. His pay and compensation has tripled in less then 9 months. WOW! Christie & McAdam, Perfect Together, but for what I am not allowed to type. When we get time, we will all sing a hymn for him!
Current March 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM
http://newscenter.verizon.com/2011-bargaining/
Ron Periti March 31, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Thank goodness there are managers, Cause the craft employees get away with next to murder, a very few and I mean VERY few do a good job the rest couldnt qualify to milk a cow, Overpaid protected ignorant slackers, that actually start working when the overtime kicks in, Never mind what a CEO Makes, Do you actually think your gonna take a piece of that on top of your overcompensation? Like ceo pay = Be A CEO, therefore so could you only imagine if there was no supervision on the unions Cry babies, Its all in the cards your free meal ticket is at a near close, Trust me
Terri Mesterhazy March 31, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Hey Ron, you one of those bosses ? I bet you never had to work in the snow, rain dark, climb a pole or go into a manhole. I worked for this company fr 31 years and I guess I'm one of those "slackers" that got zapped while trying to fixed on phone line and fell off a ladder ! 3 foot surgeries ,2 back surgeries and 1 knee surgery from lousy floors and constant bending. But what do I know, right ? If it wasn't for THE UNION , you would have lousy woking conditions. And by the way, we do pay for our benefits. So when you open your mouth , get your facts straight so you don't put your foot into it again. I'd love to see you do one of these jobs for a day...you wouldn't last an hour
rocco castellano March 31, 2012 at 03:09 PM
lol, fiber optics (fios) is a dinosaur? and for the record cell phones would not work without the wirelines these union workers work on. So maybe you need to read up on technology before making yourself look like a fool. Your obviously a kool aid drinking puppet for mr mcadams and im embarressed for you for making such an ignorant misinformed comment.
rocco castellano March 31, 2012 at 03:17 PM
i see you are part of the lowell mcadams brainwashed cult of misinformed morons ron. you know who really needs the supervision? The theives and tax cheating board of directors and their gustapo units at verizon. These guys in charge have given verizon such a bad name for the way they treat their employees.
ken h March 31, 2012 at 03:21 PM
it amazes me when people say we should be happy to have a job. this has nothing to do with a job. this is about pride in yourself and standing with your brothers and sister to get what you deserve. not only for us but for all of the world. for those people that curse us and tell us to go to work. i feel sorry for you. whoever you work for must of broke your spirit.so please next time you choose to curse and call us names think about why your really angry. someone took your pride and motivation.so when you see us out here were fighting for you as well. but i have faith in you that one day that you will see the 1%er sitting on your back taking what you deserve. and you will kick him or her off you and become that stallion horse you once were. wake up people its time to say enoughs enough.
unkown March 31, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Thank goodness for whoo managers well let me tell you something ron you know all about free meal tickets you have no clue what u r saying and then u talk about employees get away with next to murder let me tell you something thanks for all the stress caused by this want to be CEO and MANAGERS THE LOST OF MY UNBORN CHILD DO TO STRESS AND ALL THE AGRAVATION so i think u should think twice about bashing the employees they work beyond hard and deserve a fair contract AND THE FUNNY THING ABOUT IT ALL I DONT EVEN WORK THERE
Anoneeemus March 31, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Hey ron. Did you have a really hard conference call today in your comfy office chair? Did you get a leg cramp from sitting on youd duff questioning techs about a job you know nothing about? How many days have you sent a worker home without a paycheck for his family? You want to see lazy? Look at management.
Phone Tech.. April 02, 2012 at 03:44 AM
@ Ron it's managers like you who couldn't handle outside work. Like all your co-workers who couldn't carry a ladder or climb a pole or even the weather. Pretty funny I've worked for this company for 16 years and had probably 20 foreman and maybe 1 old timer who knew the job. So climb back under your desk and kiss that ass....

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