Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?

A Quincy mom has disconnected her support for striking Verizon workers yesterday after a group of mouthy picketers surrounded non-union repairmen and turned a phone-line fix at her home into what she is calling a “ridiculous” protest scene.

“I looked in the street and there are picketers, 10 of them or more, doing a circle around the Verizon truck,” said Karen Austin, 64, a mother of five who lives on Forest Avenue. “Every time (the repairmen) would walk up to my house they would follow them. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is ridiculous. Why are they picketing my house?”

With tensions rising in a work-stoppage now in its fifth day, Verizon filed lawsuits in five states, including Massachusetts, yesterday to limit picketing by the 45,000 striking workers.
The company claims picketers have harassed non-union workers, and has reported suspected sabotage, such as sliced cables. The union has denied sabotage.

Paul Feeney, spokesman for IBEW Local 2222, the Dorchester-based union for 6,000 Verizon landline workers, said picketers take to the streets because that’s where the work is done.

“For us to be able to effectively picket the work that’s being done we have to go out in the field,” he said.

Feeney said the union strategy is to send its message to management outside Verizon offices and stores, and to the public on main streets with high traffic volumes.

“We haven’t actively sought out residential work,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is disrupt the neighborhoods.”

But Austin, who reported the 9 a.m. protest to Quincy police, said she believes the union went too far in her neighborhood.

“I’m not on a main street ... I’m not a business. I’m a person who needed a line fixed,” she said.

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