Verizon employees continue to picket the company’s High Street office, despite over a week of nationwide protests and negotiations.
Over 35,000 Verizon employees went on strike the morning of Wednesday, April 13 due to contract disputes, with protests and picket lines stretching across the Northeast. Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers picketed outside the company’s locations.
“The company, despite their profits, is unwilling to put any profit our way,” said Michael LaRose of Valley Forge.
LaRose worked at the South High Street Verizon building prior to the strike. He is one of many employees who form a picket line outside the store on a daily basis. LaRose held a sign that read: “CWA and IBEW on strike fighting corporate greed at Verizon.”
“We want the work generated in our states to stay in our states,” said Mike Davis, the international staff representative for the Communications Workers of America. “The company is refusing to do anything about any proposals we have.”
Davis began working as the staff representative in 2011 when the CWA organized another strike against Verizon due to contract disputes. Davis sits at the bargaining table during negotiations. Davis represents union members involved in the local district, which includes Pennsylvania and Delaware workers.
“We want to have a contract that keeps jobs in our hometown, that keeps our families in our hometown,” said Davis.
Wayne Tucker of Overbrook, a Verizon employee for 30 years, shares this sentiment.
“I used to work in the Center City office, then they moved me out to West Chester.”
Tucker relocated as a result of a previous contract, which allowed the company to transfer employees up to 35 miles from their previous location.
In the newest version of the contract, the transfer radius would widen further, which would result in another relocation.
“We want to have a contract that keeps jobs in our hometown, that keeps our families in our hometown.”
“They might transfer me to Lancaster,” Tucker said.
“In the proposed contract, they had a call center in Roanoke Virginia being forced to move 120 miles away,” said Davis.
The new contract would not require Verizon to provide any financial assistance for relocation, according to picketers.
Over the last 18 months, Verizon trained nearly 15,000 non-union workers in preparation for the strike. These workers handle the day-to-day operations usually taken care of by union workers.
“While these aren’t their normal, full-time duties, they’re doing a great job,” said John O’Malley, Verizon’s public relations manager for upstate New York. “Our goal is to reach an agreement that reflects the new realities of the competitive marketplace we’re operating in, and that ensures our unionized employees continue to have great jobs with outstanding compensation and excellent benefits.”
Verizon sought to involve a federal mediator, but Davis said, “The union was never contacted by a mediator.”
The representative at Verizon told a different story.
“The mediator reached out the day before the strike and offered to get involved. We said yes, the unions said no,” said O’Malley.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service issued this statement:
“Consistent with the law, FMCS has offered services to both parties since the beginning of this dispute.”
Negotiations halted Tuesday and no new negotiations are scheduled.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities (APSCUF), the union associated with the WCU faculty, has shown their support at the picket lines.
“The building used to have two call centers in it,” said Lisa Millhous, former president of the West Chester chapter of APSCUF in the past. “There used to be 150 workers who worked there, had good jobs, and healthcare. There are 60 jobs left.”
Verizon has been outsourcing their call center jobs to places like Indonesia, India, and Brazil.
“It’s a clear situation where decent, full-time jobs are leaving our local area” said Millhous.
Dean Johnson, coordinator of the peace and conflict studies program, also showed his support.
“I think the reason for the strike is legitimate in terms of employee concerns,” Johnson said.
Doug Myers is a fourth-year student majoring in liberal studies with minors in philosophy and journalism. He can be reached at DM793099@wcupa.edu.