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Vol. 75/No. 40      November 7, 2011

On the Picket Line

Verizon workers in New York
demand contract without cuts

NEW YORK—Some 350 Verizon workers and supporters from other unions and Occupy Wall Street marched here October 21 to protest the lack of progress in contract negotiations. The Verizon landline division workers are organized by the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Union members went on strike August 7. They returned to work August 22 without a new contract, but under terms of the expired one. Verizon is demanding deep concessions from the 45,000 workers on the East Coast covered by the contract.

“The company is still pushing a higher deductible for the health care plan,” said John Zeolla, business agent for CWA Local 1120. “They still want to freeze our pensions.”

“My father fought for what we have today,” said Kyle Mangan, with 13 years seniority at Verizon. “I won’t let them take it away.” Other unions participating included American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1537, Civil Service Technical Guild Local 378, and National Writers Union, United Auto Workers Local 1981.

“Verizon is not budging,” CWA Local 1101 shop steward Anita Long said. “We have the support of the public and we have the support of Occupy Wall Street.”

“Everything is going up: taxes, insurance, gas,” said Vinn Manger, who installs fiber optics. “It’s unfair.”

The march began at the Verizon building on West Street and went to Zuccotti Park, home of Occupy Wall Street protesters, and then to a Verizon Wireless retail store.

Along the way, they chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Verizon greed has got to go!” “We are the 99%!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting.”

—Dan Fein and Rebecca Williamson

Montreal: University workers
win support despite injunction

MONTREAL—The 1,700 staff at McGill University, on strike since September 1, are reaching out for solidarity in response to a September 23 court injunction banning “shouting, chanting, marching, picketing, displaying signs or posters, gesturing or assembling” within 80 feet of many campus locations. On October 21 another injunction was issued banning picketing “at any off-campus McGill events.”

“Students deserve to hear both sides of the issues,” said JoŽl Pedneault, vice president of external affairs for the Students’ Society of McGill University.

The key issues in the strike are parity with other universities in Montreal, protection of benefits and pensions, and shift premiums for evening and weekend work. It takes workers at McGill 37 years to reach the top of their classification, compared to 10 to 15 years at other Montreal universities.

Strikers comprise clerical workers, library assistants, IT technicians and other support workers. They are members of the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association, which is affiliated to the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

On October 15 strikers set up picket lines near the campus targeting Homecoming Week attendees. They also joined day care workers rallying for wage increases downtown that day. Some brought picket signs to Occupy Montreal actions the same afternoon.

On October 20 hundreds of strikers and supporters set up picket lines around the entrances to a university hospital construction site. Many of the construction workers stopped working or refused to cross the picket line and joined the pickets.

McGill pretends that it’s business as usual on campus. But according to strikers, students have come to the picket line with cell phone photos of library shelves overflowing with books not re-stacked. Some smaller campus libraries have been closed since the strike began.

On October 12 Bell Canada employees joined the picket lines. Hydro-Quebec workers also expressed solidarity.

—Michel Dugré and Katy LeRougetel

Related articles:
‘Without better contract, we’ll continue fighting’
1,300 battle bosses’ union-busting campaign
Victorious India auto strike unites ‘permanent’ and ‘temp’ workers
Ford vote: UAW ratifies another concession pact  
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