Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) has sought court orders in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Delaware imposing restrictions on picketing workers. Verizon complained to the courts that the strikers have been harassing and threatening its replacement workers. The company also complained that the striking workers were picketing hotels where the replacement workers are housed and blocking access to its work locations.
About 40,000 workers registered with the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have engaged in the strike beginning on April 13 to try to put pressure on the company. Most of the striking workers are those who service and install Verizon’s traditional telephone and newer FiOS cable TV and Internet service. The strikers have been picketing Verizon Wireless stores, holding rallies, and seeking support from cities and towns in the region. The two unions involved have denied they are encouraging bad behavior.
Verizon attorneys told the court in Delaware of several incidents to back up its claims. In one incident, a three-car accident occurred on I-95 in Wilmington on May 10 as strikers were following a replacement worker’s car. The state judge overseeing that case warned the CWA to keep its members from harassing replacement workers, but declined to issue a contempt order.
The National Labor Relations Board is seeking a restraining order in federal court in Massachusetts to bar strikers from picketing at hotels where replacement workers are staying. A decision in that matter has not yet been issued. In New York, a state judge ordered strikers to cease any “violence, sabotage or vandalism.” In Philadelphia, another state court also imposed strike restrictions on the workers.
Verizon and the unions continue to negotiate under the auspices of a federal mediator. The sticking points appear to be Verizon proposals that allow additional outsourcing of call center workers to the Philippines and Mexico, the reduction of health care benefits, increased use of nonunion contract installers, and the ability to assign employees to other cities for up to two months at a time. Verizon claims that the changes are needed to gain greater flexibility and lower costs.
The unions have pointed out that Verizon makes $1.5 billion a month in profits and has made that amount for 15 straight months. The company paid its top five executives $50 million a year for the last five years. Verizon’s CEO makes $18 million a year in salary. With these numbers considered, the Verizon workers see no reason to concede to the company’s demands.