Verizon strikers picket in Hadley

  • A group of Verizon workers on strike picket in front of the Hadley store on Russell Street, Friday. JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of Verizon workers strike in front of the Hadley store on Russell Street, Friday. JERREY ROBERTS—

Published: 4/16/2016 2:33:52 AM

HADLEY — Dozens of Verizon Wireless employees have spent the past three days outside the Verizon store at 360 Russell St. in Hadley, holding signs that declare “FIGHTING CORPORATE GREED.”

On Wednesday, more than 36,000 Verizon Wireless employees — stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia — started what Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates is the largest strike in the United States in five years.

Employees said they have been working without a contract since the most recent one expired last August, and negotiating a new one since. However, the most recent talks collapsed. 

The strikers in Hadley, who are members of the Communications Workers of America union, hail from all over New England and work in various capacities for the telecommunications giant, though most are technicians and customer service agents. They said that Verizon continues to insist that call centers be shut down, more jobs be outsourced overseas and that employees pay more in health care costs.

“I think a show of progress would be the company willing to negotiate in good faith,” said Rufus Chaffee, 41, who was picketing in Hadley on Friday.

Chaffee, a customer service representative, added that  Verizon “can claim to trying to compete within the marketplace, but it’s important to remember this is a fiber-optic corporation that stretches well beyond phone lines.”

According to the Communications Workers of America, Verizon has outsourced 5,000 jobs to the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Mexico while continuing to increase the number of lower-wage, nonunion contractors.

Strikers replaced

Verizon spokesman Rich Young said Friday that as many as 20,000 interim non-union workers replaced those who are striking.

“Our position stands that we’re ready to do what it takes to reach an agreement,” he said. “The unions need to come back to the table with a better understanding of our company and how it works,” adding that there was a brief meeting between union and company representatives Friday in Philadelphia that yielded no resolution.

There was nothing new presented by executives at the meeting, union spokeswoman Candice Johnson said.

After 30 minutes of discussion, she said, “The executives went home for the weekend.”

Many employees on strike — particularly those with families — have expressed great concern after learning from the company last week that health benefits will be terminated by month’s end if the strike continues.

Jamey Waitkus, 40, stood alongside other strikers in Hadley on Friday as vehicles zoomed by on Route 9. Nearby, a group of men threw hands and fists into the air at the sounds of honking horns.

Waitkus said the strike heightened his anxiety, especially at the thought of his health benefits being stripped.

“My son’s 14,” Waitkus said. “I’m paranoid he’ll get hurt. It’s awful.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.

 




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