Covering

Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Verizon Employees Strike Against Company's Greed

Promising politician lends support.

Several employees of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest communications companies, marched for the third straight day outside the Fairfax, Virginia location, many wearing signs that read ‘CWA (Communications Workers of America) Strike Against Verizon’s Corporate Greed’.

Verizon employees strike for workers' rights in front of Fairfax, Virginia's office building.   Jack Dobbyn (far right/blue shirt), Virginia’s Democratic nominee for the 42nd House District  lends his support for the workers.  Photo/CD Brown
Greed that employees like Frank Helmes, a 41 year veteran Verizon employee, claim cut to heart of their employee benefits.  Benefits they he and other employees have fought for years to maintain.
 “One of the main things they’re trying to take away is the medical benefits we have now”, Helmes said. 
“They want to strip away the PPOs, the Managed Care Networks and put us into some other health care plan they say will give us the equivalent, or close to the equivalent plan that we already have”.

We caught up with an employee who share why he's striking against Verizon's corporate greed.

Under the new proposed plan employees would have to pay out-of-pocket between $1500 to $3,000 dollars before the company paid a dime.
According to Helmes, spokesperson for striking Fairfax group of employees, Verizon also plans to freeze current employee pensions after December 31st, 2011.  Newly hired employees won’t have a pension at all.
“They’ll have to get a 401K, buy some gold, or whatever they got to do”, said Helmes.  “They’re on their own.”
Among other proposed benefit cuts are the number of paid holidays.   Employees currently receive nine holidays, which could soon be cut to six, or seven.  Employees may also see their sick day and FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) benefits dwindle to just five days per year.  Anything thereafter employees would be asked to use vacation days.
Also at risk is employee overtime hours. Employees currently have an agreement that supports overtime pay for 39 hours.  This, too, could change.
All this seems unfair in light of the fact that Verizon made more than $6b in profits last year.
“As our signs say, we’re on strike against Verizon and their corporate greed.  They don’t give us the benefits we got because they’re kind and nice, and they love us.  The only reason we got the benefits we’ve got is because we fought for them for years, and years, and years", Helmes said.
Finding Support In Unlikely Places
President Obama isn’t the only politician fighting for the rights of American workers.
Among those supporting the plight of Verizon’s striking Fairfax, VA employees is Jack Dobbyn, Virginia’s Democratic nominee for the 42nd House District, who said he wanted to stand with the workers, and the CWA.
“It’s important to support people that are banning together for fairness”, Dobbyn said.
Dobbyn said in light of the success Verizon has made the last two quarters the concessions they’re asking their employees to make are unreasonable.
Sounding a bit Obama like, Dobbyn said “I think it’s unreasonable to ask working people to make a sacrifice when people in charge of the company aren’t willing to make one themselves.”
Even though he’s campaigning for election, Dobbyn said he plans to continue to support the strikers whenever he has the opportunity.
“I can come every two or three days, which is what I plan to do.”
Dobbyn, who grew up in Fairfax County, currently serves as the President of the Fairfax County Young Democrats.  (See video)
Verizon’s Top Brass Not Happy About Strikes
Reports that Verizon managers have harassed and even tried to run over strikers have been surfacing around the country.
When asked if the Fairfax strikers have experienced this treatment, Helmes replied, “We had a problem this morning where somebody came in, almost hit one of our strikers.  I informed the gentleman as he drove by that if he continued to behave like that he’s probably going to be going to jail”.
A picture of the driver was taken and the incident reported to CWA headquarters.
“We just want them to be patient with us, be considerate, be professional.  We’ll extend the same courtesies to them. 
Related
A rally is being held today at 5pm at the Ashburn, Virginia complex.  Expected to attend are several politicians, head spokesperson for the CWA, and a spokesperson from the AFL-CIO.

More
Video:  Verizon employee says he's "eager to get back to work".  
Verizon's 2011 Bargaining Facts.
A word of note
Our call into Verizon on the current strike was not immediately returned.

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