A week after a union fact-finding team was confronted by a SWAT team carrying automatic weapons, US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez called leaders of the unions representing 39,000 striking workers to Washington DC to meet with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.
As a result of the meeting, the two sides agreed to return to the bargaining table on May 17.
Secretary Perez said that time was of the essence for the two sides to reach a “mutually beneficial resolution to the strike.”
The unions have established a website where strike supporters can show their solidarity by donating to a fund that provides financial assistance to striking workers.
Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) who work for Verizon in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have been on strike since April 13.
They want to protect their good-paying jobs and maintain some control over job assignments that affect their home life and the quality of their life away from work.
Verizon wants to close call centers, offshore more work, and impose work rules that would force workers to accept work assignments that require them to live away from home for months at a time.
CWA recently learned that Verizon has already begun the process of offshoring more customer service jobs.
According to CWA President Chris Shelton, Verizon call center workers in the Philippines contacted CWA to inform the union that Verizon was routing customer service calls to call centers in the Philippines.
The Philippine workers, who are paid $1.78 an hour, said that they were required to work one to two hours of overtime five days a week and a sixth eight-hour day without being paid for overtime.
McAdam had previously denied that the company was extensively offshoring customer service calls; although he did admit that a few business calls for service were being routed overseas.
CWA sent four representatives on a fact finding mission to uncover the truth.
They talked to workers at the Verizon call centers and found out that they were indeed paid $1.78 an hour and were working unpaid overtime to handle the upsurge in calls from Verizon’s US customers.
When the fact finding team visited a Verizon office in Alagang and asked to speak to company representatives, they were confronted by armed security personnel and local police carrying automatic weapons.
The fact-finding team returned to their car, but as they were driving away, their vehicle was pulled over by a police vehicle.
Masked SWAT team officers, dressed in black, and carrying automatic weapons exited the vehicle and confronted the union fact finders.
After several harrowing minutes, the union fact finders were allowed to leave.
“When our members uncovered how Verizon is padding its incredible profit margins by replacing good paying American jobs with poverty-wage jobs abroad, Verizon sent armed guards and a SWAT team after them,” said Shelton.
Verizon has reported profits of $39 billion during the last three years, and its first quarter, pre-strike profits for 2016 were $4.3 billion; however, the company warned investors that the ongoing strike would likely lower profits in the second quarter of the company’s fiscal year.
Commenting on Verizon using armed guards and police to confront union fact finders, CWA District 2-13 Edward Mooney said that “Verizon is going to great lengths to try to hide their strategy of outsourcing middle-class American jobs in favor of poverty wages abroad.”