Withstanding intense pressure from management, workers at six Verizon retail stores in Brooklyn on May 13 voted to join the Communication Workers of America (CWA).
“This vote is a huge victory for these workers and for thousands more across Verizon Wireless who want representation to address their issues on the job,” read a statement by CWA. “For more than a decade, Verizon has done everything possible to prevent Wireless workers from joining 40,000 Verizon Communications workers and 80 Verizon Wireless technicians who have union representation.”
Verizon is not alone in wanting to keep the Wireless industry union free. Except for AT&T whose wireless workers are CWA members, Wireless companies have been relentless in their efforts to deny their workers a collective voice on the job.
A case in point is T-Mobile, which has fired and harassed workers for supporting a union organizing drive.
Last year, T-Mobile went to unusual lengths to deny eight workers in Harlem their right to join a union.
The workers worked at the PCSMetro store on Lexington Avenue. T-Mobile had recently acquired PCSMetro in a merger deal.
When the workers petitioned for a union representation election, T-Mobile launched an outsized effort to keep the store union free.
John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO, travelled from the State of Washington to personally urge the workers to vote no. Other top executives also visited the store.
The company also employed more sinister efforts.
Management representatives escorted individual workers to a dimly lit basement where they interrogated about their union activity. During the interrogation, management representatives made thinly veiled threats about the consequences of joining a union.
(You can see a dramatization of what the workers endured in this video clip.)
Despite the intense pressure, workers voted 7 to 1 for the union.
The Brooklyn Verizon workers faced similar pressures from their company.
During the organizing campaign, workers were ordered to attend one-on-one captive audience meetings with management, sometimes as often as three times a day.
Top Verizon executives also visited the stores to urge workers to vote no.
The day before the election, several of the Brooklyn stores were closed for two hours while the company tried to persuade workers to vote against joining CWA.
Management’s efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
“We walked in the footsteps of our brothers and sisters who fought before us,” said Bianca Cunningham, a Verizon employee who voted yes. “We banded together in the face of adversity and combatted fear with hope. We look forward to Verizon Wireless workers stepping out of the shadows and joining the 40,000 strong in CWA who work at Verizon to continue to fight for the middle class.”
The Brooklyn Verizon workers also had help from the CWA brothers and sisters who work for AT&T.
They made and shared a video in which they talked about the advantages of having a union voice on the job.
“We work in the retail environment,” said Muhammad, who works at the AT&T retail store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. “Quotas are a part of that. What the union has definitely made sure of is that before the company can hold you accountable for quotas, (the union) makes sure that you have tools necessary to meet your quotas.”
The day after the union representation election, the Brooklyn Verizon workers wore red to work to celebrate their victory.