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OT: Thanks For The Support!!!

Old 08-03-2003, 04:20 PM
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Thumbs up OT: Thanks For The Support!!!

For those of you that made it by Saturday and there were many, I would like to thank you for the support.

Special thanks to the WRAT 95.9 Radio for supplying everyone with bottles of water and bringing the BIG RAT with them!

Here is the story for yesterday's gathering:

Verizon goes down to the wire on talks

Published in the Asbury Park Press 8/03/03
BRICK -- An inflatable rat -- representing nonunion labor -- joined nearly 100 members of two labor unions who picketed yesterday on the street outside the riverfront home of Lawrence T. Babbio, Verizon Communications Inc.'s vice chairman and president.

"We just want to maintain what we have, and all the company is looking for are give-backs," said Rich Spieler, a chief steward for Local 827 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, based in Audubon. As picketers marched up and down Princeton Avenue, the large gray rat sat on the back of a truck across from Babbio's home.

Spieler spoke yesterday only hours before Verizon's three-year contracts with 79,200 members of the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America were set to expire, at 12:01 a.m. today. Among those union members are 10,700 workers from New Jersey.

The employees work in the company's core business of traditional telephone service and include customer-service representatives and technicians who repair phone lines and install new phone service.

The average technician makes $59,000 a year.

Service in 12 states in the East and mid-Atlantic, as well as the District of Columbia could be affected if negotiations fail to reach an agreement. The last Verizon strike, in 2000, lasted 18 days and caused a lengthy backlog in service calls, although phone service was largely unaffected.

Verizon officials and union representatives resumed negotiations yesterday with Peter Hurtgen, head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent federal agency that serves a neutral third party to try to resolve labor disputes.

On Tuesday, Hurtgen asked to enter the contract talks in an attempt to avert a strike.

The company has said that tens of thousands of nonunion managers have been trained to replace union workers in the event of a strike.

Babbio did not come out of the house during the first hour of yesterday's demonstration in Brick, and it was unclear if he was even at home. Two Brick police officers and at least one Verizon security employee stood watch as the picketers marched up and down the street, wearing placards that read: "IBEW Local 827 protesting Verizon layoff. Corporate greed or customer need."

Car horns honked frequently, and several motorists waved at the picketers.

"His house should say courtesy of IBEW and CWA 1022," said Brick resident Kathy Katchur, a 34-year employee who works in the customer sales and service center in Hamilton.

Katchur said she participated in the demonstration yesterday to support the company's younger employees, who she said would be most affected by potential changes to union contracts that would give Verizon more flexibility to lay off workers and transfer work to outside companies.

"The only thing we're out here for is our benefits and job security," she said. "It doesn't affect me directly, but if they take all the jobs out of New Jersey, New Jersey is going to be down the tubes."

Verizon has said it needs changes in the union contracts to help the company stay competitive in a changing industry, but union officials said yesterday they believe the company wants the changes so that jobs can be eliminated and much work moved out of state.

Verizon has waged an aggressive public relations campaign, aimed at showing that the company provides its employees "with among the best compensation and benefits in the telecommunications industry," according to the Verizon Web site.

The company has also been running print and broadcast ads in major media outlets throughout the affected area to make its points with customers. Union members claim the ads are misleading.

Spieler said the ads inflate the amount of money that union employees make while underestimating Verizon's own earnings.

Verizon's Web site touts the company's service record, saying more than 92 percent of its residential customers and more than 91 percent of its business customers were satisfied when ordering a new service from the company last year.

Technicians last year handled 2 million fewer service visits, while call-center workers handled 17 percent fewer calls last year, Verizon said, attributing the drop-off to a slow economy and increasing competition from other companies, cellular phones and the Internet.

Several employees said yesterday they believe the level of service the company provides has slipped noticeably in recent years.

Betty Hrubash, a Brick resident who has worked for three years in the company's repair section in Mount Laurel, said she has become frustrated by the slow pace at which some repairs are completed.

"I took the job so I could help the customer," Hrubash said. "They won't let me help the customer."

Photo by Bob Bielk
Union members, and an inflatable rat, picket Saturday at the Brick home of Verizon executive Lawrence T. Babbio.
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Old 08-05-2003, 05:25 AM
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With the amount of boats coming by, they shifted some of their Security to the back of the house.
Police have been hired 24 hours 7 days a week to watch the house, as well as their own Security personnel inside and out video taping and writing down everyone's license plates.
I came into work yesterday and asked who the people were in the all black Hondas with the Temp ID's hanging from their mirrors. Boss tells me it was Temp hires for Security. They were doing a fine job with their seats reclined all the way back, curled up and sound asleep.
One time I wish I had a camera.....

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