The Boston union representing many of the 40 Verizon Communications Inc. workers who were fired last week will mobilize hundreds of members to Verizon Wireless stores today and tomorrow to protest the terminations.
The pressure comes after Verizon let go employees it accused of making violent threats to managers and harassing them during an acrimonious 13-day strike after contract talks stalled in August.
In Massachusetts, home to 10 of the fired workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said its members will distribute fliers and talk to customers outside stores, similar to what union members did during the strike. The union also is planning a Dec. 20 rally in Boston.
“It’s been the union’s goal since day one of our strike to educate the public on unfair labor practices from Verizon,’’ said Paul Feeney, legislative director of the IBEW Local 2222 of Dorchester. “We feel that Verizon is going out on a PR campaign to somehow turn the public tide against the unions. The only thing we have to rely on to tell our story is our members.’’
Both the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America, which together represent 45,000 unionized Verizon workers, filed unfair labor practice charges to the National Labor Relations Board this week in a bid to fight the terminations.
Phil Santoro, a Verizon spokesman, said the fired workers were terminated for egregious behavior. During the strike, Verizon reported violent confrontations between picketers and managers, and that some of its cables were damaged. The company sought injunctions against strikers in five states.
“It’s unfortunate that union leadership has chosen to condone these outrageous, egregious, and despicable acts of violence, threats, and acts of racism,’’ he said.
The unions have disputed those claims, saying that while the strike did become heated, the picketers did not engage in violence.
“This is an unresolved issue that will be resolved at the bargaining table,’’ said Bob Master, legislative representative for CWA District 1.
The unionized Verizon workers, members of the company’s landline telephone, Internet, and television services, walked off the job to protest proposed cuts in benefits, such as freezing pensions and loosening job security provisions. About 6,000 workers went on strike in Massachusetts.
The workers returned to work without a new contract, and negotiations continue. Verizon said it needs to cut costs on the landline side of its business since it has lost some 35 million customers over the past year.