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Striker flash mobs surprising workers, customers at North Jersey Verizon stores

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A strikers flash mob appeared as if from nowhere moments ago at a Verizon store on Route 4 in Paramus, after a similar surprise visit in Butler, as “barnstorm picketing” by IBEW Local 827 continues.

Flash mob of strikers in Paramus (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo)

Amid the turmoil, important questions are emerging.

The primary one: How are customers being affected?

YOUR voice is the one that needs to be heard. Otherwise, it’s just the usual complaining among friends, family and folk down at the convenience store.

And speaking of convenience: How is it, some workers are asking, that Verizon’s prices don’t go down — instead of up — given all the cost cutting?

And why in a 24/7 world, they ask, is Verizon one of the few service providers that is closed to customer calls on Sundays? CLIFFVIEW PILOT , for one, relies on Verizon service. With such a heave breaking-news emphasis, the site cannot afford to go dark for even a minute, much less hours or, worse, a day.

The unions warn that network security could be compromised if they can’t back to work and scabs continue to do their jobs: If a blackout or other catastrophe hits, they ask, will the strike-breakers be able to handle the service demands? That doesn’t mean only private customers, the strikers say, but also large companies that rely on Verizon service.

The striking workers are in their second day of protesting what they say are the company’s attempt to change the terms of a collectively bargained contract. This time, though, they are suddenly emerging at once at various Verizon North Jersey stores.

The laborers have emphasized that they haven’t reached an impasse in negotiations, an important distinction: Federal law prevents the company from unilaterally changing terms of a collectively bargained contract under those circumstances.

The 45,000 East Coast strikers from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C.– all from the wireline division — make up a fifth of Verizon’s workforce.

Many of them returned to area Verizon facilities today in New Jersey, following a day in which the retail stores were closed in Bergen County because of blue laws.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page they created continues to swell, virtually with non-stop postings.

There’s genuine concern over how the walkout will affect landline operations, as well as installation of services like FiOS, its fiber-optic television and Internet lines. The dispute does not affect Verizon’s wireless operations.

Verizon insists on more than 100 concessions on health care benefits and pension and work rules, which the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers say was more than reason enough to strike after their contracts expired at midnight.

Verizon said it has “activated a contingency plan to ensure customers experience limited disruption in service during this time.” The company – which says its position is dictated by more customers moving to full-time cellphone lines – didn’t go into detail, however.

Verizon wants unionized workers to begin contributing the same to health-care premiums as their non-union counterparts and is both freezing and reconfiguring pensions. It also wants to cut the unlimited cap on sick days to five.

“You can apply for unemployment insurance benefits,” Paul Levinson, the general counsel of Local 827, told the strikers on Sunday. “However, be aware that if it is ultimately determined that the strike prevented the company from providing its services at 80% or more of its normal levels, you will not be entitled to it and you may be obligated to pay it back if you had already received it.”

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