HALIFAX– Jamie Fitzgerald of Halifax and Jerry Hunter of Whitman, both unionized Verizon workers (IBEW Local 2322), joined in solidarity by Dennis Desmaris, of another company and union, were seen picketing on the sidewalk in front of the new Verizon Wireless store on Plymouth Street on Tuesday, May 10, with a steady stream of cars honking their support.
The men claimed that Verizon was attempting to export jobs, such as those in call-centers, to foreign countries, including Mexico, India and the Philippines. Hunter says that Verizon doesn’t have to pay foreign employees as much as Americans. “They are stealing our jobs. We have to fight back,” he said.
Fitzgerald mentioned that Verizon was trying to create a more mobile workforce, moving workers from their normal workplace for up to two months at a time without any extra compensation or any longer commute. He said that this was for non-emergency work.
They both also complained about the increasing use of contractors by Verizon, who they say don’t have to be compensated as much as union workers nor do they have to provide benefits.
Yet the store being picketed by the union members was not even a company-owned store, but a franchised retailer. Why were they picketing in front of the Halifax Verizon Wireless store?
According to Hunter, while it’s not the major focus of the strike, some believe that Verizon is franchising more stores, and closing company-owned stores, with cost-cutting in mind. The employees of a franchised store work for the franchisee, not Verizon, which they say is another form of outsourcing.
They were quick to note that they were not blocking any access to the store, and were not personally upset with the store’s owner or workers, just at Verizon.
The striking workers are part of a larger union action against Verizon that has been going on for a month, involving about 40,000 workers and the two unions that they are members of, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).