March 2, 2021

Sides in Verizon Strike Trade More Accusations

Verizon said on Monday that there had been 143 acts of sabotage to telephone facilities since 45,000 of its workers went on strike Aug. 7.

Verizon officials did not offer definite proof that any particular act was sabotage. But they said it was suspicious that there had been three times the number of incidents in the last eight days as in the previous six months.

“It just isn’t feasible that there is not a connection because there’s been such an uptick since the calling of the strike,” Mike Mason, Verizon’s chief security officer, said. “Whoever is doing it, I consider it un-American and unpatriotic to attack critical infrastructure.”

Verizon officials said phone lines had been deliberately cut in Washington, D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York and other places. Washington’s police chief has urged residents to keep an eye out for such acts of sabotage.

Among the places affected were a nursing home and two police departments.

Verizon officials said the huge storms on the East Coast last weekend also caused some damage and failures, without specifying where or how many, but they said the company was fully focused on repairs.

Union officials said they opposed all sabotage and had repeatedly told their members not to engage in such acts. They also said that Verizon was exaggerating the number of incidents.

At the same time, the unions have their own complaints about Verizon, saying that several strikers have been struck by managers’ cars.

Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, said Verizon was highlighting the sabotage to turn the public against the strikers, who are members of the C.W.A. and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“This really does take away from what is the big issue in this strike: that Verizon is refusing to bargain and instead is demanding $1 billion in concessions from workers who earn middle-class wages,” she said.

Verizon is pushing the unions to accept far-reaching concessions, including a pension freeze, fewer sick days and having workers contribute far more toward their health coverage.

With the negotiations barely inching forward, the sides have accused each other of refusing to bargain in good faith. Verizon’s top spokesman, Peter Thonis, said the union’s $1 billion figure for concessions was exaggerated.

The communications workers union said a picketer in Massapequa, N.Y., had been hit by a private security guard leaving a Verizon facility, and another striker had been hit in the head by the side mirror of a manager’s van in Howell, N.J.

Mr. Mason said he had never asserted that the unions were responsible for the sabotage, suggesting that individual strikers may have acted on their own. “What’s important is the impact isn’t to a faceless company,” he said. “The impact is to the customers we serve, to government facilities, to individuals.”

Michael Ward, special agent in charge of F.B.I.’s Newark office, said the agency was “looking at this matter” because “critical infrastructure has been affected.” He said the F.B.I. was not taking sides in the strike.

David Zielenziger, whose 88-year-old mother lives in the assisted living facility at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, said he was unable to reach his mother on Friday. Employees there later told him that sabotage had cut off service to many residents, although one suggested it may have been tree- cutters gone awry. Verizon officials later said it had been sabotage, providing photos of a neatly sliced three-inch-thick cable nearby.

“There was no service Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning,” Mr. Zielenziger said, “It was really annoying.”

Robert Varettoni, a Verizon spokesman, said the company had obtained court injunctions in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania that set rules for picketing to make it easier and safer for managers and other workers to enter and leave Verizon facilities.

Mr. Mason said Verizon had repeatedly told its managers and other employees to respect the strikers and certainly not to hurt them. He said many picketers had banged on employees’ car hoods as they approached Verizon facilities and that some picketers then pretended the vehicles had hit them.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind