Verizon employees protest on Route 9

By Rhiannon Snide

Wailing car horns have overwhelmed the 100-meter strip on Route 9 passing by Hadley’s only Verizon Wireless store for the last week in support of the numerous Verizon Wireless employees protesting corporate greed within the company.

On April 13, dozens of local Verizon employees joined 36,000 others on the east coast in protest of recent contract negotiations and job outsourcing.

The protesters are members of the Communications Workers of America union, and have been working without a formal contract for the last 10 months. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the most recent talks concerning a contract have collapsed.

“They’ve been negotiating since August,” said Rufus Chaffee, 41, a customer service representative. “Really what we’re asking for is the same contract, but they want to cut benefits.  We’re not asking for wage increases or anything, this is just about keeping what we already had.”

Various other unions have rallied in support of the Verizon protests. Participants from nurses unions, teachers unions and members of the Raging Grannies have all made appearances picketing alongside the Verizon workers. According to the Gazette, Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates it is the largest strike in the United States in five years.

“Over the years the number of people in this union has gotten smaller, so having that support both physically and mentally is great,” explained Jessica LaFleur, 51, chief steward of the Verizon division of CWA Local 1400 in Springfield.

Outsourcing of jobs within the Verizon company has also worried many workers alongside their lack of a tentative contract.

“It’s about job security,” Chaffee said. “We want to keep our jobs within America. We’ve lost over 5,000 call center jobs in the last few years to the Dominican, Philippines and Mexico.”

If the protests proceed, all members of the CWA union will lose their benefits by May 1.

“Nobody here can afford to be out of benefits,” LaFleur said. “A lot of these people are single incomes. I’ve got one woman here who supports her two daughters and three grandkids, so it’s a leap of faith that we can get what we’re aiming for by then.”

Rhiannon Snide can be reached at [email protected]