Verizon Seeks to Rein in Aggressive Picketing

     NORFOLK (CN) — Verizon is suing union employees for aggressive and inappropriate picketing outside its facilities last month.
     Members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off the job on April 13, upset the negotiation of a new contract with the communications giant have gone nowhere.
     The last contract between the company and its union workers expired in August 2015.
     The union has said they can’t make a deal because Verizon wants to freeze pensions while making layoffs easier.
     Verizon countered by saying it wants greater flexibility in how it manages its employees. It also said it needs to reign in health care costs for both current employees and retirees.
     The strike effects nine Eastern states and Washington, D.C.
     In a lawsuit filed in the Norfolk City Circuit Court, Verizon claims that since they’ve been on strike, union members have created several disturbances, and blocked deliveries, contractors and employees who have tried to enter its buildings.
     Verizon claims the picketing is being carried out “with intent to hinder delay, prevent, threaten, intimidate, and put in fear all Verizon employees, vendors and suppliers, and others desiring to enter Verizon’s premises throughout the Commonwealth for the purposes of doing business with Verizon.”
     The company claims union members have also made threats and tried to intimidate temporary workers hired to replace them, in some cases, by taking photographs of them or filming them as they come and go from Verizon’s buildings.
     According to the complaint, on April 18, about 50 picketers carrying CWA signs blocked traffic in front of its Norfolk, Va. facility.
     Verizon says it called the Norfolk police for assistance, but the first officers to responded merely told the picketers to stay off the street and made no attempt to keep them from blocking the garage entrance closest to the company’s building.
     The complaint says it took a second call to police before the situation was gotten under control.
     Verizon says similar incidents have occurred on two subsequent occasions.
     Alex Long, vice president of Local CWA 2201, says he doesn’t believe the picketers are doing anything wrong.
     “We haven’t blocked any vehicles, we’ve been running normal picket lines,” Long told Courthouse News. “What we noticed when picketing was that the vehicles would just stop once they approached the picketers. We always opened up to let them pass. We dispute any claims that we blocked the drivers. The drivers were content to sit and wait.”
     Verizon also claims in the suit that a union member deliberately stepped in front of a moving vehicle and then claimed that the vehicle hit him.
     Long offered a different perspective of the alleged event.
     “My understanding is that the driver didn’t give the moving picketer the time to move before he gunned it and hit the picketer, and then took off,” he said. “The driver was completely reckless. He had to be stopped by the police and brought back to the scene.”
     Verizon is seeking injunctive relief, including a restriction on how many people can picket its facilities at a time.
     Betty Graumlich, an attorney for Verizon, said she was not authorized to comment on the lawsuit, directing inquiries to Verizon. A representative for Verizon could not be reached for comment.

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