Looming strike weighs on K’bridge workers
By Aimee Kuvadia
Workers at Verizon’s telephone relay station at 3001 Kingsbridge Ave. are becoming frustrated by the contract negotiations between the company and their union, which have been dragging on for more than a year.
A nationwide strike within the next two weeks is highly likely, if the 45,000 Verizon workers — which include about 800 in the Bronx, about 15 to 20 of whom work at the Kingsbridge location — do not agree with management on a new contract, according to Pat LaScala, vice president of the Communication Workers of America’s Bronx chapter who has worked for Verizon for 43 years.
Parties involved in the negotiations being conducted via federal mediators broke for the holiday weekend and resumed discussions Tuesday, according to the CWA.
One sticking point is that Verizon wants workers who currently do not contribute to health care costs to pay approximately $1,200 a year for insurance, according to the union. Verizon also wants to freeze pensions for existing workers after 30 years and to eliminate the option for a cash buyout. New workers would have pensions replaced with 401ks.
A watch engineer living in Yonkers and working out of Verizon’s Kingsbridge location for 12 years wanted to be referred to simply as Mike D. for fear of retribution from the company. He said the looming strike means a level of uncertainty about his immediate plans, his long-term job security and the future of his health care benefits.
“I’m getting older,” he said. “You work all your life and then you retire, and you don’t want to have to worry about it.”
His greatest grievance with the new contract is the health care premiums it would impose.
“I can afford it,” he said. “But it’s going to affect families with kids.”