Sunday, October 21, 2007

Verizon's $5.4 Million Hang Up

Over the past two years, the city of Greenfield, Mass., has helped Verizon hire 60 new employees, acquired a state grant so the company could build a parking lot and even paid the lease on that parking lot. Verizon also does not pay taxes to the city.

So how does Verizon pay the city back for its largesse? By packing up and moving out, a decision that could cost the area as much as $5.4 million a year in lost personal income, according to a recent report.

Verizon announced in August it plans to move its call center and 85 employees to Gardner—37.5 miles away—by early next year. The service center will remain in Greenfield.

Mayor Christine Forgey told the Greenfield Recorder that Verizon made a commitment to stay in Greenfield when it designated its building there a future ”megacenter.” Much of what the town did for Verizon was based on its promise to stay, she said.

A study by the economic development consulant ICA Group for the Electrical Workers concludes the move also could result in a loss of 181 jobs, taking into account all jobs lost in Greenfield and the surrounding communities if employees and their families decide to leave the area.

John Rowley, business agent for IBEW Local 2324, which represents the call center workers, says in a statement:

The research shows that the cost of Verizon’s callous decision to relocate these jobs goes far beyond our membership.

Verizon has benefited from a great workforce in Greenfield and from financial support from the town. It should not be allowed to just walk away without facing the consequences of its actions.

Last month, more than 100 Verizon employees and union members and their families and friends marched through downtown Greenfield, protesting the move.

Verizon workers—members of the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—are fighting to keep the company from abandoning communities across New England. The two unions and members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont all have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put the brakes on Verizon’s proposed sale of its land lines in those states.

Verizon workers across the country are trying to form a union with CWA and IBEW—despite a vicious anti-union campaign by the company. In September, two National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional directors charged Verizon Business with “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights” to join a union that are protected by federal labor law.

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