Verizon Shareholders Meet In Huntsville; Protestors Rally Outside

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Verizon is holding its shareholders meeting today at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville.  Meanwhile, outside, several workers are voicing concerns against the company.

Workers with the CWA, or Communication Workers of America, claim Verizon treats customers and employees unfairly.  They say despite the company's record earnings, customers are facing a new $30 fee to upgrade phones.  They also continue to fight for a new contract with the company, saying Verizon wants to eliminate pensions and jobs and make workers pay more for health care.

The CWA brought its protest to Huntsville because shareholders are meeting here.

"Verizon made a decision to bring their annual shareholders meeting to Huntsville, Alabama outside the footprint of the northeast where 45,000 workers are without a new contract," said Ron Collins, the CWA's Chief of Staff.

Verizon disputes the union's claims.  Company spokesperson Bob Varettoni says the company has negotiated with 45,000 workers in the Northeast since last August.  Varettoni says union workers currently pay $0 for healthcare premiums, making them part of 1% of American workers who do not pay toward their healthcare contributions.

"The average salary plus overtime for many of these workers exceeds $90,000 – and their benefits package is already valued at more than $40,000," said Varettoni.  "These are great jobs – and the goal of Verizon in these negotiations is put the company in a position to preserve these jobs."  Here is the full statement from Verizon on the negotiations.

Collins painted another picture.

"We've been negotiating for nearly a year, and the same retro-aggressive demands are still on the table," said Collins. "They're attempting to take $20,000 from each worker."

The CWA represents 700,000 workers nationwide.  Collins said most of the employees protesting in Huntsville are not Verizon employees.

"Most of the folks, 90 to 95 percent of the folks, are not employees. There are a few," Collins said.

He said the ones who are speaking up are fighting corporate greed.

"These are folks from our society who are sick and tired of corporations like Verizon continuing to steal from us to shift jobs overseas and not help us recover from this economic crisis affecting this country," Collins said.

On Wednesday, Verizon contributed $100,000 to the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund.  The fund helps people who are recovering from the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

“We have more than 1,500 employees in Alabama and tens of thousands of customers who relied on our network in the days following the storms,” said Jonathan LeCompte, President of the Georgia/Alabama Region of Verizon Wireless. “We will not soon forget this tragedy, and we are committed to supporting Alabama.”