For the past 43 days, the metal barricades outside of the Verizon headquarters building on the Flatbush Avenue Extension have become a makeshift base for Verizon workers on strike in Brooklyn.
However, these workers striking in Fort Greene are only some of the nearly 40,000 strikers from Maine to Virginia protesting what the Communication Workers of America union calls Verizon’s ”corporate greed.”
According to the union, Verizon has outsourced jobs to low-wage contractors and overseas workers, closed call-centers across the country, and refused to negotiate a fair contract for retail workers and technicians.
After a standoff that has lasted more than a month, Verizon and the union have only recently agreed to sit down for negotiations. These negotiations, which started last Tuesday, are being mediated by US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. With both sides sworn to a media blackout, there have not been updates on how these negotiations are going. Meanwhile strikers are left in the dark while they hope for a better contract.
For one Fort Greene striker, who asked not to be named in fear of retaliation from Verizon, being on strike for so long is “devastating.” For the mother of two, the seven weeks on strike has meant seven weeks without a pay check. Until they can apply for unemployment on June 1, the strikers have to rely on a $300 weekly stipend from CWA.
For strikers this only goes so far. “From April 13 to June 1, what do you do? How do you feed your kids? How do you pay the light bill? How do you pay your mortgage,” a striker asked? “Chase doesn’t care that Verizon is on strike. Your landlord, Con Edison doesn’t care that Verizon is on strike.”
Despite the strain the strike has created, these Verizon workers are trying to remain positive. The strikers erupt in cheers whenever passing truck drivers see their signs and honk in support, and they applaud strangers who offer them words of encouragement.
The strikers assert that this is not about money. It is about protecting their jobs and sending a message. One striker who has worked for Verizon for 17 years said, “We still fight because we can’t let them get away with it. Because if Verizon gets away with it, I’m sure all the other companies are going to try to follow suit.”