Verizon Protest Today: The Unions And Activists Are Rallying, Can You Hear Them Now?

As Verizon union workers enter their second week of protest against Verizon company executives, strikers are now joining forces with other community organizations and education advocates who have similar grievances against the telecom giant. Signs and chants with a refrain of “Can you hear me now” will now descend upon Murry Bergtraum High School near City Hall in New York city, to protest a $120 million contract the Department of Education plans to make with Verizon. Today at 5pm, an hour before the scheduled vote, teachers, students, education advocates and community leaders will gather to voice their disapproval of the two year contract that may also be illegal.

Verizon’s egregious proposed cuts and over all attack on collective bargaining rights are well documented. Now a coalition of education advocates take their fight alongside striking workers to defend teachers, students and communities from the same policy of disregard and disrespect the company has launched on the working and middle class.

From the coalition of education advocates:

Please vote no on the $120 million contract with Verizon. Here are five good reasons:

1. 45,000 Verizon workers are currently on strike, as management has demanded a long list of concessions, including cutting their health benefits, pensions, and sick time – givebacks amounting to $20,000 per worker. Meanwhile, the company has $100 billion in revenue, net profits of $6 billion, and Verizon Wireless just paid its parent company a $10 billion dividend. The top five company executives have been paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the last four years. Why should the city be contracting with such a greedy and unethical company?

2. Verizon is implicated in the recent scandal in which the Special Commissioner of Investigation found that a consultant named Ross Lanham in charge of school internet wiring stole $3.6 million dollars through a false billing scheme, and that Verizon profited from and “facilitated this fraud.” Though DOE admits that “Verizon is in discussion with the DOE regarding repaying of the overcharges,” the company has not yet agreed to pay back any of this money, and the case has been referred to the US attorney’s office for possible prosecution. Why should DOE reward Verizon by paying the company more millions?

3. In the same document in which the DOE outlines the contract, there are twenty other instances listed of suspicious or illegal behavior on the part of Verizon, triggering numerous investigations.

4. All NYC public schools are already wired for the internet; but according to the DOE, this new round of wiring is forhigh-speed internet and hi-definition video to facilitate the expansion of online learning and computerized testing. This is occurring at the same time as budgets are being cut to the bone, schools are losing valuable programs, and class sizes are rising to the highest level in over a decade. A quarter of our elementary schools are so overcrowded they had waiting lists for Kindergarten. It is outrageous that in the midst of this budget crisis, the DOE should be spending $120 million for unnecessary technological upgrades when children do not have seats in their neighborhood schools.

5. Finally, this contract with Verizon began on January 1, 2011, and DOE is only now asking for the PEP to approve it “retroactively.” But there is no allowance for retroactive contracts in state law, unless the chancellor finds that due to an emergency, it is necessary for “the preservation of student health, safety or general welfare” and provides a written justification. This was never done. Thus this contract with Verizon is likely illegal on the face of it.

Join the rally today at 5pm at Murry Bergtraum HS, 411 Pearl Street, in lower Manhattan. Go here to learn more.

AlterNet / By Rae Gomes

Posted at August 16, 2011, 5:44pm

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