Local Verizon workers join regional strike

Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter
Geno Alfonso and Beth Fronczek stood outside the Verizon Wireless store with other Verizon workers in Clifton Park Tuesday April 19 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. striking for a contract all parties can agree upon.Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter Geno Alfonso and Beth Fronczek stood outside the Verizon Wireless store with other Verizon workers in Clifton Park Tuesday April 19 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. striking for a contract all parties can agree upon.

By Cady Kuzmich
Gazette Reporter

Clifton Park — As thousands of Communications Workers of America members continue to strike across the northeast after contract negotiations stalled last week, about a dozen Verizon workers and their family members gathered to protest outside the Verizon store between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Route 146 in Clifton Park Tuesday, April 19.

Passing cars honked to show their solidarity as the group walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the Verizon store with signs which read, “CWA on strike for good jobs” and “On strike fighting corporate greed at Verizon Wireless.”

According to Beth Fronczek, a Halfmoon resident who has worked for Verizon for 24 years, the current strike began Wednesday April 13.

A press release from Verizon’s corporate office stated, “Despite Verizon’s good faith efforts to get to new labor contracts, CWA and IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] leaders, unwilling to make an agreement or even seek the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), have called a strike as of 6 a.m. today. Verizon has activated its business continuity plans as customer service remains the company’s top priority.”

The company’s business continuity plan includes reassigning employees to different posts and training thousands of non-unionized employees to fill in for those striking.

Fronczek works as a central office technician for Verizon. Her mother also worked for the company while raising her five children single-handedly. Fronczek is concerned that some of Verizon’s plans for its workers, including potentially relocated employees out-of-state for months at a time, will force many workers to choose between family and work. “This impact’s families,” she said, noting that relocating would be nearly impossible for some single parents. She thinks this policy was designed to get people to quit and break up the union.

Fronczek said their contract expired in August and “any offer we were given [since then] has been worse than the one before.”

Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter Geno Alfonso and Beth Fronczek stood outside the Verizon Wireless store in Clifton Park Tuesday April 19 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. striking for a contract all parties can agree upon.

Cady Kuzmich/Gazette Reporter
Geno Alfonso and Beth Fronczek stood outside the Verizon Wireless store in Clifton Park Tuesday April 19 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. striking for a contract all parties can agree upon.

“We’re fighting to keep our benefits,” said recently retired Geno Alfonso, who has 42 years under his belt at Verizon. Alfonso began working for Verizon in 1973 and said he’s taken part in several strikes including the 1989 strike which lasted 17-weeks.

“Negotiations haven’t gotten far. We don’t want our jobs to be moved out of state or overseas,” Fronczek said. “They want to freeze our pensions and do away with our job security,” she added.

Noting Verizon’s booming earnings, the company has brought in $1.8 billion each month of 2016, Fronczek said, “They want to take away from us and we can’t let that happen.” She said she’ll continue picketing until the union and the company can agree upon a contract.

“We’re not asking for a lot. We just want to keep what we have,” said Fronczek.