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Latest News - December 2011

December 6, 2011
Verizon fires 40 union employees related to conduct during August strike
Source: The Boston Globe
By: Michael Farrell

Verizon Communications Inc. has fired 40 employees involved in a contentious two-week labor strike over the summer for actions the company said ranged from acts of violence to making threats or racist comments.

The employees, including 10 in Massachusetts, received letters over the weekend saying they were terminated for violating the company’s code of conduct while picketing against cuts in their contract. The 45,000 unionized Verizon workers along the East Coast who went on strike in August agreed to return to work under the old contract while both sides negotiated a new bargaining agreement.

“We respect the rights of our employees to peacefully picket and protest during a strike. However, the actions of many individuals in the August 2011 strike violated our code of conduct and in some cases, violated the law,” Verizon said in a statement to the Globe. “This has nothing to do with their rights to peacefully picket. It has everything to do with making threats of violence, engaging in physical violence, running people off the road, making outrageous profane or racist comments and more. Many of these activities were egregious and unacceptable and as a result, we’ve taken appropriate action.”

Members of the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, including 6,000 in Massachusetts, went on 13-day strike in August that turned bitter quickly.

The company reported sabotaged cables, and confrontations on the picket lines between the strikers and Verizon managers pushed the company to seek injunctions against the unions in five states.

“We think this is a heavy-handed technique that Verizon is using to pressure us at the negotiating table,” said Paul Feeney, legislative director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

He said that while the strike did become heated, the union workers did not break the law. “The union is going to fight this through the court,” he said. “The company couldn’t prove to us that they did anything wrong.”

The unions, whose members work for the company’s landline telephone, Internet, and television services, agreed to end the strike as both sides returned to the table to negotiate on key issues such as pension, health care, and job security. The unions and the management have yet to reach a new agreement.



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