On the morning of April 13, 2016, about 40,000 CWA and IBEW union members working for Verizon from throughout the Northeast went on strike. As they began walking the picket line, members of the Association of BellTel Retirees stood and continued to stand united with them. Since August 2015, the workers have been without a contract.
The union opposes Verizon’s effort to outsource jobs overseas to low-wage, non-union contractors, consolidate call centers and mandate commutes for union workers as long as three hours, while regularly requiring the workers to accept out-of-state assignments lasting up to eight weeks at a time.
We have asked all BellTel Retiree members to decline to replace striking workers should the company ask. These union workers are fighting for their livelihood, for the future of their wages, healthcare and pension protections for themselves and their families. Unity is critical.
The Association believes that when the union workers healthcare is threatened, it foreshadows what is likely to come for retirees. The results achieved by CWA and IBEW leaders on behalf of their members may determine the future of 200,000 retirees, so what happens at the bargaining table now is critically important to all of us.
Robert W. Speer, President/Business Manager of IBEW Local 827 has expressed his union’s thanks for BellTel’s support. “Having the support of the Association of BellTel Retirees during this difficult time sends a clear message to Verizon that we stand united in demanding the respect we deserve from the company we all helped build,” he said.
At our own annual member meeting, Mary Hogan, a CWA retiree and BellTel member who worked 37 years for the New York company, said that it’s disgraceful that workers have to go on strike again, and gave very clear examples of how the workforce is called upon in an emergency. In a new video on BellTel’s Facebook and YouTube channel (or http://bit.ly/21r2V3g), Ms. Hogan recalls that following the 9-11 attacks on New York City, Verizon union workers sprang into action, leading the restoration of emergency communications. Mary, thank you for helping spotlight this.
At the Verizon shareholders meeting in Albuquerque, BellTel Chairman Jack Cohen delivered a powerful presentation on our proxy opposing outlandish executive golden parachutes. BellTel’s proxy gained a respectable 31.3% of the vote, which translates to perhaps 1.275 billion shares voted with us. Congratulations to our proxy team for its continued and impressive efforts, which also gained significant attention in news outlets including Reuters News Service, National Public Radio, Marketwatch, Record of North Jersey, The Journal News and many more.
BellTel also held its 20th anniversary annual member meeting in Tarrytown, NY where over 200 members attended and another 50 joined via video streaming. It is just so impressive that the Association has been able to secure a strong crowd of retirees every year for the last two decades. In those years, we have also rotated the meeting to 14 different towns and cities, close to where we have members nearby.
Our federal litigation, Pundt. V. Verizon, is still progressing. As we heard from our Special Counsel Curtis Kennedy at the Tarrytown meeting, the chances of our case being heard have grown as the Justices have taken extra time to study the details and national importance of our case.
In March, the Association of BellTel Retirees’ was very honored to be spotlighted in one of the largest and most prominent places in our land, New York City’s Times Square. Our name and logo was reflected on massive video screens 8 ½ stories tall, above Broadway, in recognition of our 20 years of successful and strident retiree advocacy. Even after 20 years, we have not slowed and continue fighting to protect all Verizon retirees, their pensions and benefits.
In closing, I ask that if you agree with me, that the Association is critical to continue defending our benefits now and in the future, I urge you to speak up and do so prominently by making a financial contribution to the Association of BellTel Retirees today.