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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

Suffolk County lawmakers rally with striking Verizon workers

Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on Feb.

Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory on Feb. 29, 2016, at the legislative building in Hauppauge. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

A bipartisan group of Suffolk County legislators rallied with more than 150 striking union workers who are in the seventh week of their walkout with Verizon.

“Let me be clear so there will be no misunderstanding, we stand with the Verizon workers who are on strike,” said presiding officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). “They are fighting the good fight and for the right reasons ... maintaining our middle class.”

Nine of the 18 legislators — five Democrats, three Republicans and one Working Families Party member — took part in the late morning event outside the legislative building in Hauppauge.

“You never get anything if you are not willing to fight for it,” said Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), minority caucus leader and president of Teamster Local 707 president. “You have already won the strike because you are wiling to stand up to fight for yourselves.”

McCaffrey said he and Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) will file a resolution calling for the county to seek a new request for proposals on the county’s $5.6 million a year contract with Verizon.

McCaffrey conceded that such an initiative may not be legal amid a strike, but said Verizon may “not qualify to bid on the contract because they do not treat you with dignity.”

Company officials say they want to preserve good jobs, and have offered a “common sense” proposal to increase company efficiency and curb rising health care costs.

Officials of the Communications Workers of America, with 39,000 members, said they are fighting to keep Verizon from gaining concessions which would allow the company to transfer employees at will, move jobs oversees and require workers to commute as far away as a 100 miles daily.

Michael Gerndon, CWA Local 1108 executive vice president, said while Verizon’s top five executive make $249 million over the last five years, Verizon has cut off union health benefits during the strike.

Gerndon also said the union is fighting to prevent local workers from being sent off to Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany for months at a time, leaving their families behind. “We’re fighting for our future and we’re not going to give in to these attacks,” he said.

Richard Young, Verizon spokesman, said “We’ve seen many fabricated and factually incorrect statements from union leaders about our contract offers over the past year. It’s happened from the beginning and nothing has changed.”

Young said Verizon has offered wage hikes of 7.5 percent and continued health benefits.

Verizon and its unions have resumed contract talks in Washington, D.C., and a blackout is in place over ongoing bargaining.

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