Verizon Workers Strike In East Village

You could hear the blaring of car and air horns from two blocks away as Verizon employees continued their strike for a third day on 13th Street and Second Avenue, after the company and workers failed to come to terms on a contract early Sunday morning. The East Village's reception of the strikers has been positive so far, strikers told us early this afternoon: the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary has allowed them to use their bathrooms, stores have given out water and chief union steward Dominic Renda said two food businesses have stopped delivering to the people working inside the building who crossed the picket line.

"Yeah, the people here have been great to us," he said. "The Village has been traditionally left wing, but I've been surprised how we haven't gotten a single person berating us or criticizing us."

But while the East Village has been peaceful, Renda said, that has not been so for other places in the city. NY1 reported that union reps say Verizon workers have hit strikers with their cars, injuring three.

As drops of rains started to fall, some striking workers sat in lawn chairs, while others stood in the bike lane to encourage cars and trucks driving by to honk in support. A Budweiser semi blasted its horn to cheers as did a fire truck. The strikers held signs saying, among other things, "CWA on Strike At Verizon."

Renda, a chief shop steward for Communications Workers of America Local 1105 who has been working at Verizon since 1998, said the issues at stake include job security and protecting pensions and health care.

"We're not looking to gain so much, just to keep what we have, and keep our medical benefits, keep our pension plan and keep our vacation time, keep our sick time," said Sean Williams, a customer service representative, who is also a chief steward and a 16-year employee.

"It's not for the money," said Renee, a 15-year employee working in customer service who declined to give her last name. "They want to take away our pensions and our benefits and that's why we're out here."

The 45,000 people on strike are employed by Verizon's wireline services, meaning they work with the company's landlines and with its FiOS network. Verizon has filled their roles by putting managers on the job, among others. As two managers walked into the building on 13th Street, the striking workers booed at them in jest.

"We understand if they don't scab on us they are going to be fired, we're still not really happy with anyone doing our work," Renda said. "But we work with them every day so we understand the position they are in."

In a statement released yesterday the company says the effect of the strike on their operations for customers has been "minimal." But when we approached Renda he was on his cell phone.

"I'm just trying to call the company to see who's doing our work right now," he explained. He said it had been a 15-minute wait -- usually it is only supposed to be five minutes or less.

The strike will last indefinitely, Renda said.

Update: 12:43 p.m. Additionally, there is a rally scheduled for this afternoon in Queens where strikers will protest assaults on their members. Jerry Bulzomi, vice president of CWA Local 1106, said in Queens there have been four picketers hit by cars, one of which was a company truck.

We got comment from Verizon spokesman John Bonomo, who said: "A lot of these instances are a lot of he said she said, maybe some heated encounters but nothing that we can, at least at this point, document."


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