THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel
A demonstrator pokes fun at Verizon executives.

Verizon employees banded together Thursday in a rally outside a Bayside building owned by the company during ongoing contract negotiations over benefits and additional job demands.

Nearly 300 people were estimated to be at the rally, which attracted approving honks from passing cars and had its own on-site DJ. Union members sang pro-union chants cheering for district leaders and supportive politicians, including state Senator Toby Stavisky, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

According to union leaders, Verizon workers were having similar demonstrations all over New York and across state lines as far away as Virginia. Labor force organizers charge that pension plans and health care co-pays may be changed under the proposed new contract, and job security may be threatened by initiatives that would enable Verizon to transfer workers to job sites far from their homes.

“The company basically wants to eliminate the entire contract,” said Michael Ciancarelli, president of the Local 1106 chapter of the Communications Workers of America. “They want to take away things guys have had for 30 years.”

Jeff Branzetti, a field technician who works as the district steward of a Verizon garage in Hollis, said that many of his co-workers are especially concerned with proposed changes to pension plans.

“We’re all getting older,” Branzetti said, adding that every worker in his garage had been with the company for at least 17 years. “You don’t yank the carpet out under people like that, who’ve worked their whole career for you.”

Sen. Stavisky said that she would be supportive to the cause for as long as it took to get a living wage for the working men and women of Verizon.

“We’re here today to let you know that we care,” Stavisky said. “I sent a letter to Verizon letting them know they’ve got to bargain in good faith because people need a job, and they need a job that pays a decent wage and has proper benefits.”

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A spokesperson for Verizon said the communications giant was committed to reaching a contract that is fair to both employees and customers. Representatives have had discussions this week with union leaders and state that they are willing to meet with them again to continue the discussion.

“We respect the rights of our employees to hold rallies, but we truly believe the best way to achieve a new contract is not at a [street] rally, but through serious and meaningful negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

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