Verizon Strike Update: Union Heads Honor Worker Killed in '89 Picket

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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | August 16, 2011 7:36 AM EST

*UPDATE*

Hundreds of Verizon workers in red shirts have placed a wreath at a site in suburban New York where a colleague was fatally injured on a picket line 22 years ago, all so familiar to the union workers who began striking last Sunday after failed bargaining over their pensions and healthcare.

The Associated Press reports, many were returned to their own picket lines on Monday, the ninth day of a strike by 45,000 workers for issues including pensions and health care payments.

"Kevin Sheil, a union spokesman, says the late Gerry Horgan is honored every Aug. 15. He says the ceremony has special meaning this year because of the strike. Horgan's friends spoke about him and the workers sang "Amazing Grace." Horgan died during a strike on Aug. 15, 1989," reported the news wire service.

Police said he jumped on the hood of a replacement worker's car and fell off, striking his head, although no charges were filed.

A ceremony for the fallen worker was reportedly held in Valhalla, N.Y. on Monday.

About 45,000 workers in Verizon Communications' (VZ.N) U.S. Northeast wire line unit, which provides traditional phone as well as high-speed Internet and FiOS television services, called a strike on Aug. 7 after contract negotiations failed largely over the amount that union employees would be required to pay for health care and pension and retirement contributions.

Verizon claims that since the strike began, it has suffered more than 70 incidents of sabotage, including cut fiber optic lines, incidents of harassment of management sent to fill in during the strike, and vandalism, according to CNET.

The company complained of network sabotage cases in the same statement where it said some picketing workers were unlawfully blocking Verizon managers' access to work centers.

A spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, representing 35,000 of the strikers, said the union "does not condone illegal action of any kind."

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, representing 10,000 strikers, also said members "are expected to obey the law."

However, the CWA said some picketing workers were hurt by Verizon managers' cars and that one worker was knocked unconscious when he was clipped by the mirror of a manager's car that was speeding past a picket line.

Verizon said it was working with the police to investigate what happened, but noted that it believed the allegations are "totally inaccurate."

The CWA also cited a case in which a security guard hired by Verizon had punched a worker and knocked him to the ground on Monday morning.

Verizon did not have an immediate comment on this accusation.

Meanwhile, the company said it was working with authorities to investigate at least 12 cases of sabotage, including deliberate cutting of fiber optic lines in 10 places and a case of stolen equipment that caused an outage.

Verizon said it did not know who was responsible for the sabotage, but noted an unusually high number of incidents since Saturday, the last day of the contract.

The CWA said it would not condone network sabotage.

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