As the Verizon strike enters its fifth day, we’ve come across various picket lines near Verizon buildings, here in the East Village and around the city. But what we hadn’t witnessed until today was a scene we stumbled upon in the South Bronx, where members of the Communications Workers of America confronted “scabs” in the field.
The scene involved a group of picketing CWA workers in red shirts, surrounding a pole where two men in yellow vests, apparently from management (they did not seem to want to talk) were working as 45,000 CWA workers are striking. We heard the CWA workers yelling to the elevated worker that what he was doing was unsafe, the way he was on the pole untenable, and they were trying to warn him about how to do his work more safely.
According to Verizon Fios field technicians Christian Mariella and Brendan Haugh, the replacement labor began working on the wrong utility box, one that didn’t even belong to Verizon. They described the incident this way:
They noted that while they certainly didn’t like these guys, they didn’t want to see them get hurt, either.
The two men, CWA shop stewards, also talked about negotiating contracts in the AT&T/Ma Bell days (long before Verizon considered itself primarily a wireless company). They did not have kind words for the company’s cries of poverty:
For their part, Verizon has turned to the courts to dissuade exactly this type of activity, with some success. Verizon is seeking an injunction against picketing in Massachusetts and New Jersey today, after successfully getting partial ones in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and here in New York State.
As for what the New York injunction means, according to WIVB:
“[S]triking Verizon workers were shocked and frustrated when police met them at the picket line in Amherst Thursday morning, telling them the usual 70 workers on the line has to be limited to 15 here. The statewide injunction also sets other limitations, brought on because the company says workers were taking the picketing too far.”
According to CNET:
“The injunctions follow what Verizon claims are more than 70 incidents of sabotage, including cut fiber-optic lines, incidents of harassment of management sent to fill in, and vandalism. Verizon said it was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for these acts. The injunctions limit the number of people who can picket near the entrance, forbids strikers to enter the facilities or block access, demonstrate too closely to private property, and commit acts of harassment or sabotage”.
According to LaborNotes.Org:
“An injunction delivered to strikers Thursday limited the number of picketers, from six to 50, based on the size of the location. Mobile picketers in New York are limited to six, and while in traffic they must follow 45 feet behind the scab van”
Meanwhile, as the Fios workers in the Bronx protested the replacement labor (maintaining that they were following the guidelines for picketing in the field), WIVB reports that CWA and Verizon have returned to the bargaining table.