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Verizon gets picket injunctions in 3 states, seeks more
Thu, Aug 11 21:17 PM EDT
* Obtains New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania injunctions
* Seeks New Jersey, Mass. injunctions
* Legal moves may foretell long strike-lawyer
NEW YORK, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications <VZ.N>
won court injunctions in three states to prevent strikers from
blocking facilities and it was seeking similar legal protection
in two more states on the fifth day of a strike involving
almost half the workers in its wireline business.
Two unions representing 45,000 workers had called a strike
Sunday after a labor contract expired and several weeks of
talks for a new contract failed.
By Thursday afternoon Verizon said it had been granted
injunctions in New York and Delaware as well as Pennsylvania
after it accused picketers of illegally blocking garages and
work entrances. It also went to court on Thursday to seek
injunctions for Massachusetts and New Jersey.
The injunctions limit the number of people who can picket
at each location and how close they can stand to building
entrances to reduce the chances of them blocking managers from
going into the buildings to cover for the strikers.
While both sides continue to hold talks, the strike turned
into a nasty public fight almost immediately after it started.
Verizon complained about network sabotage and strikers
blocking workers while the unions accused Verizon managers of
injuring picketers with their work vehicles on day two.
But the company's move to secure injunctions so soon into
the strike could mean it is expecting the strike to drag on for
some time, according to one lawyer who has helped companies
with labor negotiations in the past.
"If they thought it was going to be over soon (or) if it
wasn't putting economic pressure on them, why go for the
injunction?" said John Hancock a Detroit-based lawyer for
Butzel Long. "I think they're preparing for the long term and
it may be having some impact on them."
The Communications Workers of America, which represents
about 35,000 of the strikers, said the injunctions would not
make much difference to their ability to picket effectively.
"We will continue to be able to conduct a militant strike,"
said CWA spokesman Robert Master.
Meanwhile, at least one rival Towerstream Corp <TWER.O>, a
small wireless broadband provider, is hoping to take advantage
of Verizon's woes. It put out a statement on Thursday offering
to waive certain fees for Verizon business customers looking to
switch to its service to avoid installation delays.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Bernard Orr)