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Striking Verizon Employees Picket in Hartsdale

HARTSDALE, N.Y. --Wearing red T-shirts and carrying boards that read “CWA on Strike,” Ardsley resident Butch Cote and more 35 others Monday picketed in front of the Verizon Wireless store on North Central Park Avenue.

“What do we want?” they shouted.

“Contract!”

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

They joined the thousands of Verizon employees, from Rhode Island to Virginia, who began picketing with the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions Sunday after derailed negotiations left 45,000 with expired contracts.

“It was either strike or agree with things that were not reasonable,” said Cote, who has been working in Verizon for 13 years, the last 11 as a field technician.

Bob Shannon, a vice-president of the Communications Works of America, listed the union’s priorities: job security, pension, decent wages and benefits. He added that job security is the most important.

“You can have anything you want, but if you don’t have job security, benefits mean nothing,” Shannon said.

Shop steward Ralph Saragiotis, who was leading the picketers, agreed with Shannon.

“We look for Verizon to sit down and negotiate fairly with us and keep middle-class jobs in America,” Saragiotis said.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo however said the unions halted negotiations and that Verizon is eager to begin scheduling meetings with them.

"We, Verizon, are ready, willing, able and look forward to getting back to the table to discuss these serious issues to make sure that we do get a contract finalized," said Bonomo.

Verizon trained thousands of managers and retirees to fill in for picketers after learning that the unions planned to strike about 10 days ago. Still, the company has struggled to deal with protesters blocking traffic flow by striking across Verizon driveways.

"That's creating some havoc and preventing those managers and retirees from doing their job so what we've had to do is get in touch with local law enforcement agencies and courts, in some cases," said Bonomo.

The police did show up Monday to the plaza where the store is located, but just to tell the picketers to remain on the sidewalk, which they did.

“We do things by the rule,” Cote said. “We do things fairly and we expect to be treated fairly.”

What do you think of the Verizon workers' strike? You can join the discussion in Facebook .

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