Members of the Communications Workers of America union who work for Verizon were picketing today outside a Verizon Wireless store in Manhattan. They are joined by about 45,000 other Verizon workers who are on strike over a new contract agreement.
"They're taking away 60 years of negotiation. They're dictating to us what they want to do, instead of negotiating," said Patrick Cristo, one of the New York picketers. "If we lose this battle, who is next? The middle class has to stand up today."
Even though Verizon is making record profits, union members argue, the company is trying to cut back on workers' health care benefits and employee pensions.
"I'm not going to apologize for our company being profitable," said John Bonomo, a spokesperson for Verizon. "A lot of those rules were put in place when we were a monopoly. Consumers had to come to us, but all those things have changed, so we must change as well."
Bonomo insists that Verizon takes care of its employees: "We spend four billion dollars a year for health care benefits for retirees, employees, and employees' families."
The contracts up for negotiation are on the company's land-line side, not the wireless side.
Inside the store where workers were protesting, (I know, I'm sorry Barbara Ehrenreich, I crossed the picket line... but it was just for a comment from the other guys!) a salesperson said, "It's ridiculous. We're Verizon Wireless, not land-line. We have nothing to do with them, and they're affecting us."
But the picketers said the location was all about visibility. And with trucks honking in support, the union certainly is being seen, and heard too.