Union fact finders confronted by SWAT team; unions return to bargaining table with VZ

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.”

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Mom explains to Verizon CEO why she is on strike

Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s CEO, is a dollar and cents kind of a guy.

Over the last three years, Verizon booked profits totaling $39 billion, but that’s not enough dollars and cents for McAdam–he wants more.

To get more, he is demanding that Verizon’s union employees, who belong to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), accept steep cuts to their health insurance plan, allow Verizon to close some of its call centers and move some of those jobs overseas, and accept job assignments that would require them to live away from their families for months at a time.

As a result of McAdam’s demands, Verizon’s union workers went on strike nearly four-weeks ago.

A few days into the strike, McAdam, whose 2015 compesation was 243 times greater than the average Verizon employee, visited a CWA picket line in DeWitt, New York and told those on the picket line that he didn’t understand why they were on strike–it didn’t make dollars and cents to him.

A video showing McAdam’s befuddlement went viral, and Amanda Poe, a CWA member who works for Verizon in Willmington, Delaware, wrote him a letter explaining why she is on strike.

The letter contains a powerful message that even a clueless multi-millionaire should be able to understand.

Poe, a single mother of two teenage daughters, said that the strike is about more than dollar and cents; for her, it’s about being able continue being a good mom.

One of her daughters was born with a severely cleft palate and lip that required several expensive surgeries. The operations have been a success, but years later her daughter continues to receive expensive follow up treatment.

Fortunately, Poe has health insurance, won by her union through hard-fought struggles, that has covered most of the expenses.

But Verizon, even though it is flush with profits and facing a profitable future, wants its striking workers to accept steep health care cuts.

“Changes to the health care coverage offered by Verizon could prevent us from getting the help (my daughter) needs to compete her health care plan,” wrote Poe to McAdam. “Affordable health care is not an option–it is a necessity. Is she worth it? Absolutely.”

Verizon also wants to close call centers such as the one where Poe works.

If McAdam shuts down her call center, Poe may still have a job, but in order to keep her job, she will have to commute hours a day to keep it.

Instead of spending time with her daughters at home and during their extra-curricula activities, Poe will be driving to and from work.

“Changing my work location would take away much of what I hold dear — spending my time with my children. I am sure that is not the intention of the move, but please realize it is the result. I am not just a number Mr. McAdam. I am someone’s mom.” wrote Poe.

Poe was joined by thousands of other Verizon striking workers as they took to the streets to explain to McAdam and his Wall Street bosses why Verizon’s workers are on strike during a nationwide day of action on  May 5.

In New York, 2000 Verizon workers marched to Verizon wireless store on Wall Street to demand a fair contract.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, 250 Verizon workers and supporters demonstrated at Verizon’s annual shareholders meeting. Fifteen union  members and community supporters were arrested in an act of civil disobedience to protest Verizon’s greedy contract demands.

“As long as corporate executives put short-term profits ahead of the workers who make those profits possible and the communities they promised to serve, the calls for a change of course at Verizon will only grow stronger,” said protester Bianca Cunningham before she was arrested,

Cunningham is a former Verizon Wireless worker who was fired in September while helping her fellow employees form a union.

In all, 400 actions, mostly at Verizon wireless stores across the country, were held to demand a fair contract.

As part of the day of action, the striking unions set up a website where you can show your support for Verizon workers standing up to corporate greed by donating to a solidarity fund.

Money in the fund will help workers facing financial difficulties while they remain on strike.