As many as 100 local telecom union workers converged on a Verizon Wireless storefront on Sports Arena Boulevard Thursday afternoon (May 5) in support of striking Verizon workers. The workers they're supporting, however, are call-center and telecom workers based on the other side of the country.
"We're doing what's called an informational picket. It's a nationwide effort in support of Verizon workers on the East Coast, where over 10,000 workers are on strike," said Christopher Roberts, president of the Communication Workers of America local union.
"Verizon is trying to paint a picture that we're extremely overpaid, but our hourly wage is consistent and fair despite their asking us to take on a larger burden with regard to healthcare cost; and instead of providing real jobs they want to create 'contractor' jobs that are temporary and don't come with the same benefits as typical employees."
At issue — Roberts explained as non-striking picketers marched, chanted, banged drums, and garnered honks of support from passing cars — is a move to outsource jobs either overseas or to contract workers, temporary employees who don't receive union wages or benefits.
"Communication companies like Verizon or AT&T have two sets of workers — technicians and call-center workers. The call-center workers are asking for a guarantee that a percentage of jobs will remain in the United States, rather than be outsourced to vendors in South America, Jamaica, the Philippines, Egypt, other places where they're able to pay people much lower wages," Roberts continued.
"Unions aren't bad — we want to work for a fair wage, and we're talking about middle-class jobs that are going away. Verizon is one of the most profitable companies in the country; they can afford to pay good wages."
The actual striking workers, now entering their third week off the job, have been negotiating for a new contract for approximately ten months. While union leaders say their members remain firm, Verizon claims that replacement contract workers have been able to handle operations without significant service delays.
Business at the Sports Arena Verizon store, which only services mobile customers here in San Diego, seemed to continue mostly without disruption.