The nearly two-week old CWA and IBEW strike against Verizon is beginning to get heated.
As 36,000 Verizon employees continue to strike the telecommunications giant, the company offered a $10,000 reward for information “leading to the arrest and prosecution of individuals who intentionally damage Verizon cables or facilities.”
There have been at least 24 suspected incidents of sabotage over the past week in five states in which services were cut off for thousands of residential and business customers, including a local police and fire department in New Jersey.
“We will find out who’s behind these highly dangerous criminal acts and we will pursue criminal charges,” said Michael Mason, Verizon’s chief security officer. “These reckless perpetrators are risking the lives of countless Americans by cutting access to key lines of communications, especially to local police, fire and rescue personnel. If someone has an emergency and needs to contact local authorities, these malicious actions could prevent that from happening.”
Among the incidents:
- Sliced fiber optic cabling at a network facility box in New Jersey that cut services to customers and local emergency personnel, including police and fire departments.
- Sabotage in Massachusetts in which phone services were cut off for customers for 16 hours.
- Cut fiber optic and copper cables in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York that disabled voice communications and internet connectivity.
“These perpetrators are putting lives at risk and these dangerous acts need to stop,” said Mason, a former top official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “It’s a violation of federal law to damage critical communications facilities. We have dispatched additional Verizon security teams in all states where this illegal activity is taking place. We’re also working with law enforcement to ensure our networks and facilities are secure so that our customers can connect where and when they need to.”
These malicious actions take place as Verizon is experiencing a strike involving about 36,000 employees, primarily in its wireline business, in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States plus Washington, D.C. Verizon Wireless operations have had very minimal impact from the strike.
Meanwhile, the IBEW is angry over a letter the company sent to striking employees giving them information on how to return to work during the strike.
The letter from Karyn Stetz, Verizon’s human resources vice president, came in an envelope labeled “Important Strike Information,” IBEW said. Inside, however, there was no employment related information, “only a mock Q&A that answers questions like ‘What if I choose to work during the strike?’ and ‘If I choose to resign my union membership, how do I do so?’” the union said.
“I have worked for Verizon for 35 years and been through five strikes,” said Bob Speer, East Windsor, New Jersey, Local 827 business manager. “I have never seen anything like this letter before. This letter is not the communication an employer has with an employee. This is not a company bargaining about pensions or money. This is a company telling our unions how to destroy itself and I take this very personally.”
The accusations and counter accusations between the parties are a familiar refrain as, during the 2011 strike, union strikers were accused of similar acts of sabotage.