Portland-based Verizon Express workers ramp up organizing efforts following historic union win by Verizon Wireless retail workers in Washington earlier this year
Verizon workers are the latest to join the wave of retail worker union organizing in the U.S. despite the company's aggressive union-busting efforts
PORTLAND, ORE — Verizon Express retail workers at two stores in Portland, Ore., are organizing to form a union with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) after facing years of poor working conditions including understaffing, unlivable wages, and disrespect by management. Verizon Express workers have requested voluntary recognition from the company and filed for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. These workers are the first Verizon Express store workers in the country to file for formal union representation and the latest to stand up to one of the most notoriously anti-union companies in the U.S.
If Verizon Express workers successfully form a union, they will join hundreds of thousands of telecommunications and customer service employees with CWA, including Verizon Wireless retail workers in Everett and Lynnwood, Wash., who formed a union with CWA in April, despite Verizon’s aggressive, anti-union tactics. Verizon Wireless flew their in-house union-busting team to Seattle the day after workers in Everett and Lynnwood publicly announced their organizing efforts and asked for voluntary recognition.
“I have worked for Verizon for three years, and the treatment we receive from management has only gotten worse. We are severely understaffed, underpaid, and have no work-life balance,” said Hannah Borstel, a Consultant at Verizon Express in Portland. “We are so understaffed that we go through extended periods without a supervisor, burdening workers with managerial tasks that we do not get paid for. It is very clear that we are not a priority for this company. After seeing Verizon workers in Washington win a union, we felt inspired and motivated to demand a voice and fight for the respect and dignity we deserve.”
Inspired by the groundbreaking union win in Everett and Lynnwood, Wash., Verizon workers in Portland are demanding a voice on the job and remain united in their efforts to form a union, while Verizon continues to force anti-union rhetoric on them. Fair compensation, comprehensive health benefits, wage increases, appropriate staffing levels, and safe working conditions are among workers’ demands.
The latest organizing efforts signal a growing movement among Verizon workers and add to the labor momentum taking place nationwide, especially amongst retail and hourly workers.
“Every day, we try to keep the stores running as best we can, but when you are understaffed and have little support, it’s hard to provide the best service possible to customers. Change is possible, and we know that by standing together and organizing, we have an opportunity to make both our workplace and our lives better,” said Antonio Orellana, who has worked as a Consultant for the last three years at Verizon Express in Portland. “We are proud to be part of the larger movement of Verizon retail workers across the country taking action and demanding better from the telecom giant.”
Verizon has a long history of union-busting. In 2014, corporate executives and upper level management at Verizon Wireless launched an aggressive anti-union campaign targeting organizing efforts at its retail stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., the first Verizon Wireless retail store to form a union.
Despite workers in both New York and Washington ultimately triumphing and forming a union with CWA, Verizon Wireless has continued to retaliate against workers interested in forming unions at its stores. In fact, CWA filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the NLRB against Verizon Wireless on behalf of Jesse Mason, a retail worker at Seattle’s Northgate and Aurora Village stores who was illegally fired after joining with his coworkers to organize a union. The retaliation firing happened days after Mason attended the Everett and Lynnwood workers’ union vote count in solidarity. Mason is now supporting union organizing efforts at Verizon Wireless stores across the country.
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.