As 6,000 Verizon employees strike across Massachusetts this week, some Waltham business workers are complaining that the demonstrations are causing traffic delays in an already congested area of town.
Verizon Laboratories, which has two locations near Winter Street in Waltham, has hosted approximately 35 picketers between the two buildings since Monday, according to Waltham Police Chief Thomas LaCroix.
Donna Zacharewicz, a Gardner resident who commutes every day to Waltham, said she takes the 128 Business Council shuttle to the commuter station after work, but has been missing the train’s strict arrival time.
“If I miss my train then I miss my last bus and have to take a cab, which is $30 a night - an extra $150 week I can't afford,” Zacharewicz said. “The shuttle I take has no Verizon employees, the bus doesn’t go to Verizon, it has nothing to do with Verizon, so why are they making their problems our problems?”
Zacharewicz said she is not alone in the recent traffic woes – the other shuttle-goers on her 8 p.m. bus have suffered the same dilemma, she said.
“There’s 7 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. shuttles, and with every seat filled, there’s about 20 to 25 people per bus trip,” she said. “The Alewife shuttle has a good 50 or so people on each one of those bus trips.”
Zacharewicz said the Verizon striker’s goals are not worth the congestion clogging up Winter Street.
“They’re striking for $100 per month on healthcare costs, but it’s okay for me to spend an extra $150 per week to commute?” she said. “They’re not protesting in a positive way. If they want to make their concerns heard, they need to do it in a more positive way than spreading misery. They’re just making people around them mad.”
Zacharewicz said she noticed that town officials have not helped the situation.
“The police aren’t helping the buses either – it’s like they want strikers to walk around and hold up the buses,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s very irritating.”
LaCroix said while seven or eight individuals have called the police department to complain since the strike started on Monday, there have not been any predominant problems with strikers and that the week has been relatively quiet.
“The first week of a strike is usually a little chaotic,” LaCroix said. “I have been through dozen and dozens of strikes, and for the first week, this isn’t bad at all.”
LaCroix said minor congestion in the striking area is to be expected due to the picketers’ process.
“One of the goals of strikers is to draw attention to their cause,” LaCroix said. “When they’re walking across the street like pedestrians, they do it to draw attention to their cause by slowing traffic down. But we haven’t noticed any legitimate widespread traffic concerns.”
LaCroix said drivers encountering a delay on the roads were also experiencing delays for other reasons, such as the intersection already being congested, especially around rush hour.
“It’s a bad spot, and it's Rte. 128,” he said. “If there were legitimate traffic questions, it would be well-noted.”
Waltham resident Shawn Miller said he saw the strikers recently, but did not notice a traffic problem.
“I walked down by there the other day, but they weren’t causing any traffic jams,” he said. “They were on the sidewalk with a couple of cops, but I don’t know anything about a traffic jam.”
LaCroix said if any unusual backups crop up, police will evaluate why traffic has slowed down and adjust actions accordingly.