Last week, numerous Chester workers joined the 45,000 Verizon employees striking nationwide since Sunday over proposed contract cuts to health insurance and other benefits.
Verizon officials say that making full insurance coverage for its union employees is no longer feasible because its landline business has dropped significantly – by 50 percent – in the past decade.
Selecting a meeting ground just outside the company’s Weird Road location, which is adjacent to the Target in Chester, the strikers have been gathering in shifts to protest 24 hours a day. There they wore red shirts, – the color of their union, Communication Workers of America (CWA) – frequently walking up and down Jefferson Davis Highway wearing signs of grievances they have with the highly profitable telecommunications company they work for.
“We’re just fighting for the middle class; we’re just tired of corporate America making all the money,” said Daniel Davis, a Fios Technician and “splicer” who has worked for Verizon for 11 years. “Our union, the CWA, we’re not asking for a raise or anything like that. We just want to protect the people that have worked with Verizon for so many years …”
Strikers also brought along their family members to join in the strike, many of which were their children who they were afraid would be impacted the most by loss of Verizon-funded health coverage.
“It’s the face of the strike,” said Louis Barnette, a 13-year employee through the company. Barnette, currently an instructor with Verizon, said middle class workers have to be “vigilant.”
“It’s a good company to work for, but they’re changing that. Without these benefits, it’s hard for families and especially hard for their children’s future,” said Barnette, directly referring to the strain on Verizon employees’ livelihood.
Another worker, Mike, a service technician, whose last name is to remain anonymous, said too much money is filtering to the upper-level management who don’t know how to do the jobs strikers are paid to – the same people filling in while the workers strike.
“We’re not looking to make any more money,” he said. “We just don’t want to rely on government assistance. We have families to provide for.”