Verizon Wireless Workers to Hold Rally in Bensonhurst Tonight

Photo: AFGE/Flickr Creative Commons

Verizon Wireless, a company that boasts increasing profit margins and a consistent place among the world’s top telecommunications services, grossly mistreats its technicians and retail workers, according to a press release co-issued by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America. Citing a failure to reach a fair contract that outlines a medical plan and ample benefits, staff at a Verizon retail location in Bensonhurst plan to stage a rally tonight at 6pm.

Workers at Verizon’s Bensonhurst location are protesting management’s refusal to “offer fair raises, benefit increases or other improvements for its technicians,” in addition to the firing of Bianca Cunningham, a former solutions specialist who was recently sacked by the company in what the CWA has called an “act of intimidation.” Cunningham is one of the leaders behind the Bensonhurst workers’ efforts to formalize a contract with Verizon Wireless, which so far has proven to be a daunting task. Cunningham, who’s been vocal about leading the fight for sixty-five Brooklyn workers to negotiate a contract, has spoken at various rallies. A video posted to the Facebook page of the group Verizon Wireless Workers Rising last May shows her leading colleagues in pro-union chants.

The CWA claims Verizon has mounted some pretty egregious policies to subvert a contract negotiation. The company’s bargain demands, according to the CWA, include the following policies.

  • Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
  • Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
  • Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs.  This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of jobs in recent years.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Reducing overtime and differential payments.
  • Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides unpaid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

Verizon retail employees typically receive an average wage of $13.73/hr, as per the job listings and reviews site, Glassdoor. Although the starting wage at Verizon retail locations might be better than New York State’s minimum wage of $8.75/hr, it’s still not livable by any means in New York City.  Tonight’s rally will be held at the Verizon Wireless store on 86th Street in Bensonhurst, and will see speeches given by State Assembly Members Peter Abbate and William Colton and City Councilmen Mark Treyger and Daneek Miller.

Retail workers aren’t the only New Yorkers who have come down on Verizon recently. Last summer, a scathing audit greatly criticized the company’s failure to rollout its high-speed FiOS internet service to all New York City neighborhoods under the timeline it had originally proposed. The city of New York routinely citied Verizon’s various “failures” in the audit, published June 18th of this year.

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 

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