3 weeks of Verizon protests on Montague Street with no end in sight
‘There’s Less Parking and There’s Noise’
Since April 13, hundreds of Verizon workers from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) labor union have been on strike in front of the Brooklyn Heights Verizon store at 146 Montague St.
For more than three weeks, the protesters have picketed, marched and chanted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the store’s business hours, yelling, “Keep American jobs here,” “Fight against corporate greed” and “Help us win, don’t go in.”
The picketers are enclosed by police barricades and have occupied roughly three parking spaces in front of the Verizon store and neighboring businesses, including Happy Days Diner and M&E Candy and Grocery Store.
The demonstrators continually circle in front of the entrance to the Verizon store handing out flyers to pedestrians and holding posters that say “CWA on strike for good jobs at Verizon Wireless.” Other signs ask passing cars to honk in support of their cause.
Rolando Scott, a spokesman for the CWA, explained to the Brooklyn Eagle why the workers are on strike.
“We’re out on strike fighting corporate greed,” said Scott. “After 10 months of negotiating with Verizon, from New England to Virginia, the CWA has chosen to go on strike. Verizon makes $1.8 billion dollars a month and [is] now asking us to gut and strip away our current compensations at a time of record profits.
“Verizon is taking away middle class jobs and [is] outsourcing and offshoring American jobs,” Scott continued. “This is unacceptable. We’ll be out here for as long as it takes to get a fair and equitable contract.”
Verizon Wireless workers at the Montague Street store declined to comment. When the Eagle passed by on several occasions, few customers were seen inside.
One customer who did choose to enter the store was greeted with boos and jeers from the protesters.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) website, protesters cannot block building entrances and are required to leave at least half of the sidewalk open so as to not impede foot traffic.
The group of protesters directly in front of the store did not include more than four people at a time, and they were continuously circling. Other demonstrators waited nearby to replace the moving members.
The NYCLU website states that the Police Department may set up a “pen” for protesters, as was done on Montague Street, but they are not required to stay inside.
Scott told the Eagle that his team of protesters is abiding by all laws.
“As part of the court order, we are allowed to set up here,” Scott said. “We have not been allotted any parking spaces. Parking spaces on this street are on a first-come, first-serve basis for all residents of this community.
“We are following the rules of the New York Police Department, cooperating with local law enforcement and we are obeying all of the laws,” Scott concluded.
Maria Michael, a waitress at Happy Days Diner, told the Eagle that business has improved since the strikers arrived.
“The strikers are better for business,” said Michael. “They come in, eat and use the restroom. They’re very nice people.”
A worker from M&E Candy and Grocery Store, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Eagle that he hasn’t noticed any changes in business since the demonstrators have arrived.
A Montague Street shop owner, however, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the protesters, said that the demonstrators have adversely affected business.
“They’ve affected everyone’s business negatively,” the shop owner told the Eagle. “How can they not? There’s less parking and there’s noise. Customers can’t park in the street.
A policewoman stationed across the street from the picketers told the Eagle that no arrests have been made during the protest period and that the strikers have not shown any signs of aggressive behavior.