A group of about 15 Communications Workers of America (CWA) union members walking from Occupy Albany to Occupy Wall Street stopped in Cortlandt Manor around 5 p.m. Monday as part of their campaign to “fight corporate greed,” by rallying near Verizon stores.
The group is protesting potential new contracts with Verizon that would freeze pensions and require employees to pay thousands more into their health care plans, the CWA said. They say they are also fighting against Verizon’s attempts to eliminate pensions and to offshore and outsource union jobs. The union representatives say they are part of the 99 percent fighting the one percent and they want to bring the public’s attention to the "destructive power of corporate greed," which is why they have decided to join the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Verizon spokesperson John Bonomo says that the company is asking for “meaningful contract changes that are strikingly similar to what this same union has already agreed to at other companies. Verizon is trying to make the wireline part of the business more competitive, so we can preserve and even grow good middle-class jobs.”
The CWA members left Albany on Thursday and have made stops throughout Northern New York. They arrived at the Verizon garage on Arlo Lane around 5 p.m. Monday and will depart from that location this morning. Today they are walking to a Verizon location on North Broadway in Tarrytown. They will stop in the Bronx on Wednesday and arrive at Zuccotti Park in New York City Thursday to join a larger rally, which is part of a national “occupy” day of action.
“Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers are the 99%, and we are joining the Occupy Wall Street movement’s campaign to focus the world’s attention on the destructive power of corporate greed,” said Chris Shelton, District One Vice President of the Communications Workers of America.
"We are having a labor dispute and at the bargaining table they are trying to take everything away from us that we have bargained for over the last 50 years," said CWA retiree Pat Como from Albany.
The union members said that Verizon is the 16th largest corporation in America with one of the nation’s largest unionized workforces. They say that Verizon made $22.5 billion in profits in the past four and a half years, but is now trying to eliminate pensions, and is asking workers to pay thousands more for health care and cut sick time.
Verizon spokesman Bonomo said that the union-represented employees currently pay nothing toward their monthly premiums and an average technician in New York makes $91,000 and has a benefits pacakge worth more than $50,000.
Union members are adament that the company is pushing contracts that will eliminate job security and unnecessarily ask workers to pay more for their health care.
"We are not greedy...we are trying to maintain our way of life," CWA Local 1103 (Peekskill) Vice President Kevin Sheil told the group as they enjoyed a barbeque perpared for their arrival.
"Anything we are looking for has not been important to their bottom line," Sheil said.
Several CWA members had walked the approximately 100 miles from Albany to Cortlandt and will continue through to New York City. On Nov. 17, a national day of action will occur in 30 major cities across the country to raise awareness of corporate greed.
Click through the photos for more.
The CWA directs the public to this website for more information on their march. Verizon directs the public to this website, which they say was "established to clear up some of the misinformation put out (by the union.)"