Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – The union representing Verizon employees began a new week with renewed and intense focus on Monday.
Communications Workers of America 1123 is sending picketers to Taft Road and Erie Boulevard East locations to hand out informational pamphlets to Verizon wireless customers and others.
Meanwhile, across the Northeast, the desperation is clear from a message left on a phone hotline set up for members of a union chapter in Brooklyn. The voice of a representative encourages members to deal harshly with “managers and scabs.”
"It is open season. Follow them safely, but when you get to a location, torture them, torture them with chants and noise. Be so loud that they can't concentrate and wish they never got out of bed,” says the recorded voice.
Another part of the message states:
"They are trying to break our union. Understand brothers and sisters, we can never let these [expletive] piece of [expletive] pigs break us. So, we are stepping up our efforts."
The message stopped short of calling for physical violence, but it was removed after a NewsChannel 9 reporter called the CWA for comment.
The recording was removed because a union representative said he didn't want any misconceptions about their intentions, which may sound crude, but always stayed within the boundaries of the law.
"The language is very harsh because people are upset and angry that their job and their living standards are being threatened. Having said that, there was never any intention to encourage any illegal activity,” said CWA Political Director Bob Master. "Strikes are difficult. Strikes are tense. But, there is nothing wrong or undemocratic or un-American about militancy. It's part of our tradition. We don't want anyone to violate the law, but people have made sacrifices and we need to fight for what we believe in.”
Verizon spokesperson John Bonomo said that the company has encountered several instances in which the striking workers’ behavior was less than “peaceful.”
"We don't have an issue with peaceful picketing and demonstrating done in a respectful manner. But, there were many cases where we were finding that was not happening,” he said.
He added, however, that the company doesn’t believe extreme behavior is something endemic to the striking employees.
"We think that a lot of this harassment and violence and bad behavior is frankly just by a set of bad actors if you will in our ranks. By and large, most employees just want to have a contract settled,” he said.
The recording from a Brooklyn branch was not meant for Syracuse workers.
Local 1123's representative says the local message has always focused on respectful picketing.
"Managers have a right to come in and do their job, just like we have a right to be there. Sometimes, unfortunately, people get angry and it's passionate," said CWA Local 1123 Executive Vice President Christopher Ryan.
Verizon has received injunctions, laying some ground rules for striking workers in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. Another request is being considered in Massachusetts.
Both sides say negotiations are continuing, but progress had been hard to find.