CAN YOU HEAR THEM NOW?
A blood-red flooded Post Office Square last Thursday night: thousands of Verizon field workers and their allies, shouting demands in the shadows of their financial-service-industry oppressors. At the time, contracts for nearly 45,000 laborers — represented by the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) — were two days from expiring, forcing those people off the job until the telecom behemoth and its employees reached agreements on pensions, job security, and sick days.
>> SLIDESHOW: Protests of Fox News and Verizon <<
(By press time, Verizon workers had gone on strike. They continue to refuse the company's demands for significant concessions, arguing that Verizon earned nearly $7 billion in profits so far this year, and crying foul about the hundreds of millions in compensation that top executives continue to take home.)
The Post Office Square showdown wasn't the week's first action relative to this cause. The day before, about 100 workers and civil-rights organizers gathered outside of another Verizon building — on Cambridge Street, near the Bowdoin T stop — to picket a related management proposal for eliminating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a paid holiday. But Thursday;'s grand-finale protest dwarfed all of the week's prior demonstrations. Held outside of the Franklin Street building that housed much of Verizon's local workforce until earlier this year, this one delivered a backdrop and theatrics to match the media attention.
"They're on the way with a coffin full of old contracts," Paul Feeney, legal director for the Local 2222 chapter of the IBEW, announced to the arriving crowd. Standing on a makeshift stage beside a riled roster of Massachusetts union stalwarts, Feeney took the first shot of the evening at Verizon fat cats. "Maybe," said Feeney, "by the end of the weekend, [Verizon president and CEO] Lowell McAdam will be in [that casket], too."
LOUD AND CLEAR The week’s biggest protest was aimed at Verizon, over contract disputes with its
now-striking workforce about pensions, job security, and time off.
The music set the mood. As old friends mingled in the moment, waiting for more buses to arrive, Guns 'N Roses lit up the sound system, followed by Quiet Riot, Dropkick Murphys, and some requisite AC/DC fire-starters. It was the type of tough horde that knows how to fight — Rosie the Riveter and Lenny Clarke look-a-likes who whistle with their fingers and take shit from no one. Warned by their HR departments, many local businessmen steered clear of the scene, prudently avoiding angry rallygoers in SCAB HUNTER T-shirts.
As more than two dozen supporters rolled up on choppers, the massive inflatable union rat effigy beside the dais appeared to be actually smoking the cigar between his chompers. And then came the American flags, followed by the National Anthem and several screeds against Verizon's move to make employees work on MLK and Veterans Day. "They have some fucking audacity," said Bob Haynes, outgoing president of the commonwealth contingent of the AFL-CIO
Though pols and bureaucrats often disappear in August, scores of officials rallied with the workers. City councilors Tito Jackson, Mike Ross, and John Connolly stood in the thick of all the action, as did community leaders like Reverend William Dickerson, of Dorchester's Greater Love Tabernacle, who served up some humor along with his spiritual guidance. "Can you hear me now?" asked Dickerson, rhetorically, referencing Verizon's eternally irksome advertising campaign.