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On May 10, a federal district court ordered the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to halt allegedly unlawful picketing outside a number of New York City area hotels. According to a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the court, CWA has engaged in picketing and demonstrating outside six hotels that had been housing Verizon employees. These protests started as early as 5:00 a.m., perhaps to ensure that hotel guests’ sleep was disturbed.
The TRO was sparked by a complaint from, of all places, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which argued that the pickets and demonstrations constituted an illegal secondary boycott under the National Labor Relations Act. Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled there was reasonable cause to believe the NLRB was correct.
Documents filed with the court make for alarming reading. According to affidavits, “There were families at the front desk complaining that their children were scared” and that picketers were “blocking a car from leaving the [hotel] parking lot.” Union members were reportedly walking around the parking lot of one hotel “taking pictures of all the cars with out of state plates.” One picketer reportedly told hotel staff that “they would be back at 2 am if they saw any out-of-state license plates in the parking lot” (as though out-of-state plates would be an unusual thing to see at a hotel).
One Verizon employee stated in his affidavit that protesters called him a “f*cking scab” and a f*cking a**hole” among other profanities, and were “swarming my car” and “banging on my windows.” Rather than a picket line, this individual described “a mob of 200+ people blocking the exit [to the parking lot].”
The worst aspect of the protests goes beyond just the safety of individual guests in a parking lot. At a hotel near JFK airport, hotel staff reportedly said they were receiving complaints from airline flight crews who were unable to sleep.
This adds to a number of other disturbing incidents related to the strike, which began on April 13. As this blog already reported there have been numerous acts of alleged sabotage of Verizon equipment. A May 11 news piece only amplifies those issues. In the article, Verizon reports that while there are ordinarily about five incidents of wires being cut along the East Coast annually, there have been more than 160 since the strike began. Coincidence? According to the CWA, these cut wires are the result of “natural deterioration that occurs over time” as well as the use of replacement workers.
What is certainly no coincidence is an incident that occurred in Delaware in which a Verizon picketer “rear ended a replacement worker’s car in a two-vehicle crash northbound on I-95.” The female worker’s car “ended up in a ditch” as a result, and three people were transported to the hospital. Shockingly, CWA blamed the crash on the female driver. “Beth Marvel, executive vice president of CWA 1301, claimed the contractor, not the picketer, is responsible for the crash.”
Marvel claims that the Verizon employee “stopped her car while driving along the busy highway” causing the accident. As anyone who has driven on I-95 can attest, bringing your car to a stop on the highway is an all too frequent occurrence, and police tend to issue a ticket to the driver who rear ends another vehicle, not the other way around. Yet according to Marvel: “Stopping in the middle of I-95 is aggressive driving…she was the cause of the accident, not our member.”
Whether it involves driving or other activities, it is beyond question that CWA’s tactics are becoming more aggressive. One certainly hopes things do not escalate further before the strike is resolved.