Unions Strike; Vandals Hit the East Coast

Thousands of New Yorkers have lost their telephone service in early Aug., as vandals slashed telephone cables in what police are investigating as possible acts of sabotage in support of a strike of the Communications Workers of Am. and the Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers. The waves of vandalism come amid negotiations between Verizon Communications and the two unions that represent employees who are on strike in a 13-state region from Maine to Virginia. Verizon is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest for vandalism.

There were reports of at least 455 incidents (233 of which were in N.Y.) — most of which involved property damage such as severed telephone cables, burnt trucks, slashed tires — or harassment of Verizon managers. “There have also been a couple cases of building keys broken off in the locks, or Super glue in the locks,” said John Johnson, a Verizon spokesman in Boston. “One manager received a telephoned death threat.”

N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) vowed to arrest the vandals: “I have to remind them that it’s a crime, and if we do catch them …they’re going to go to jail.”

In W. Va., Verizon filed a lawsuit Aug. 7, alleging that pickets have made threats, blocked business entrances and damaged cars during a strike.   The lawsuit seeks damages from the union, 15 members of CWA Local 2001 and others who are not identified.  Elsewhere, Verizon said it sought, and got, injunctions against the unions in Pa. and Del. Aug. 8, and was seeking one in N.Y.

Additionally, the Nat’l Right to Work Legal Defense Fdn., announced Aug. 9 that it will offer free legal aid to non-striking Verizon employees who are targeted for illegal harassment or violence during the strike. NRTW’s number 1-800-336-3600. [N.Y. Times, Daily News (N.Y.), Charleston Gazette (W. Va.) 8/8/00; Baltimore Sun, Bos. Herald 8/9/00; NRTW Media Release 8/9/00]