•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

NYC rally stands with Verizon workers

Published Aug 24, 2011 2:09 PM

Local 1199 SEIU’s Henry Singleton: ‘Mess with them and see what happens. We will shut you down!’
WW photo: Mike Otto/PVN

If Verizon management was present at the Aug. 17 meeting of New York City’s Panel on Education Policy, where a $120 million contract with Verizon was voted on, it might have helped them to see that they had to sit back down and start negotiating with the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. These unions represent the Verizon workers, who went on strike on Aug. 7.

Members of the CWA and their supporters rocked the meeting, denouncing a sweetheart deal with this union-busting company at a time when Verizon is already under investigation for massive fraud in its contract business with the NYC Department of Education. This multimillion-dollar deal makes the city’s billionaire mayor and the DOE the biggest strikebreakers

PEP officials admitted there is a freeze on payments to Verizon while the investigation proceeds, but they still insisted they had to approve the new $120 million contract “to improve and maintain phone and Internet service for the city’s 1,600 schools.”

But the audience wasn’t buying it, and the hall rang with chants of “Delay the vote, delay the vote!”

Leonie Haimson, director of Class Size Matters, a teachers group, denounced the deal, mentioning “at least four good reasons to vote no” — that Verizon is engaging in unfair labor practices with its workers; that it has already engaged in a multimillion-dollar fraud of the city; that our kids are suffering from huge cuts causing increased class size, the loss of 2,600 teachers, and decreased educational achievement; and that the deal is “probably illegal.”

Teachers United, a progressive caucus in the 100,000-strong United Federation of Teachers, called the rally, which got an overwhelming response from the CWA, together with the Grassroots Education Movement, Service Employees union Locals 1199 and 32BJ, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37. Many community groups and activists also participated.

Henry Singleton, Local 1199 SEIU delegate, brought the crowd to its feet when he said the 45,000 Verizon strikers “got about 30,000 people ready to come join them! We’re getting ready to march. If you don’t want your bridges shut down and your streets shut down, mess with them and see what happens! We will shut you down!”

Tony Murphy, of the Bail Out the People Movement, spoke for the New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts coalition, and said, “This is a rubber-stamp committee, with the exception of some borough presidents, that is helping billionaire Bloomberg funnel billions of dollars away from our children and into banks.” He turned his back on the PEP members to say, “This is really a CWA rally,” as the hall rocked with chants of “CWA!”

At a street rally next to Verizon’s corporate headquarters – across the street from the high school where the meeting was held – People’s Video Network interviewed Derrick Echevaria, Bronx organizer for the Transport Workers union Local 100. The local represents the 38,000 NYC subway and bus workers. “This is the last stop,” Echevaria said. “If they go down, we all go down.”

Sandy Pope, president of Local 805 of the Teamsters, told PVN: “They’re trying to break down the contracts we’ve fought for over so many years to get where we are today. In the Teamsters, we’re fighting the same battles – with UPS, Pepsi-Cola, and others. That’s why it’s very important that we fight for each other.” Pope is a candidate for Teamsters international president, and has broad support among progressive Teamsters.

Sebastian Natera, a NYC high school teacher, denounced the whole city education budget. He said: “These budget cuts are racist. You want to come after our contracts next? I’m on their side. The workers united will never be defeated!”

Lennie Dick, a delegate to the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York, said, “The 28,000-strong PSC supports the CWA all the way!”

Many private individuals spoke, as well as numerous members of community organizations. They all had one message that came through loud and clear: They declared unity in support of the Verizon workers and against the fraud.

Despite all this support for the Communications workers, the pro-corporate PEP voted for the sweetheart contract with Verizon. However, it’s very likely that Verizon got the message that the strikers are far from isolated.

A People’s Video Network video, “We Are One with Verizon Workers,” covering the events above can be viewed on YouTube.