Felony Charge for Burned Unionists

An attempt by two striking unionists to reportedly sabotage Verizon Communications backfired when one mistakenly cut into a power line he thought was a phone line in Baldwin, N.Y. As 13,200 volts of electricity surged through Joseph Hertzel’s body Aug. 17 and threw him to the ground, his shirt caught fire and one of the blades on his tree-pruning sheers melted. His girlfriend, Joanne Pender, was also injured by the explosion.

“They picked the wrong cable,” said Nassau Detective Robert Winter. “They cut the main feeder for … electricity for that area.”

The two members of Communications Workers of Am. Local 1108 were charged with felony tampering and criminal mischief and were arraigned on Aug.18 in the hospital. Hertzel was ordered held on $1,500 bail and Pender on $750.

Nassau police said 20 similar acts of sabotage were been reported during the Verizon strike. For example, another striking unionist was arrested Aug. 17 for allegedly trying to run a Bell Atlantic van off the Long Island Expressway while driving his 2000 Lexus. [Newsday 8/18-19/00]

“One thing I’ve concluded over the last 20 years is the labor problem has an image problem. Most labor stories focus on greed, corruption, large settlements and violence. If people read about unions in this context, it’s not surprising they have a negative image of labor.”

-Paul F. Clark, pro-union Penn State professor, lamenting the lack of public support for the recent Communications Workers of Am. and Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers’ strike, which has been accompanying by violence and vandalism, against Version Communications. [Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) 8/18/00]