HAZLE TWP. — Employees at a Verizon Wireless store voted Thursday to unionize, according to a press release from the union.
Seven employees from the location at the Laurel Mall will be represented by the Communications Workers of America, or CWA.
Beth Allen, communications director for CWA, acknowledged that retail employees unionizing is not something that’s seen every day.
“Retail workers joining a union has been somewhat unusual in the United States,” she told a Times Leader reporter over the phone.
Tens of thousands of AT&T employees are already represented by CWA, Allen said, and the union is using that as a basis to build on to begin representing other telecommunications companies’ workers.
CWA also represents many of Verizon’s landline workers, she said.
In the press release, a store employee said he thinks the union will help represent his interests in the company.
“I voted for a union because Verizon Wireless workers like me deserve a fair shake,” said Thomas Leshko, who’s been with Verizon Wireless for four years. “Through a union, we’ll be able to stand together for good, family supporting jobs at our store. Verizon is enjoying huge profits and a big tax break. Now it’s time for the company to invest in Pennsylvania workers and customers.”
The tax breaks Leshko refers come as a result of the recent GOP-led tax bill, which CWA is claiming will net Verizon a $4 billion windfall this year alone. Despite this, Verizon announced this year the closure of six call centers nationwide, leading to what the union claims is the elimination of 3,000 positions, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal. A Verizon representative neither confirmed nor denied these numbers.
The press release says the Hazleton-area Verizon store was assisted by other stores represented by CWA, including an AT&T store based in Altoona, whose staffers met with the Hazleton employees about unionizing.
According to Allen, Verizon was not supportive of the unionization effort and allegedly mounted an effort to convince the employees not to vote for it.
David Weissmann, public relations manager for Verizon’s North East Market, said in a written statement to the Times Leader that the company does not feel unionization is necessary.
“We continue to believe that our employees do not need union representation to receive industry-leading compensation and benefits and a great work environment,” Weissmann wrote. “While we respect the choice made by these few employees we’re quite confident that the vast majority of our workforce will continue to see Verizon Wireless as a great place to work and will continue to choose to reject union representation.”
According to Weissmann, unions had made other attempts at convincing local stores to unionize, claiming that employees at the Wyoming Valley Mall location had recently voted against unionization.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan