Verizon unions taking their case to the finely manicured streets of the bosses

Ivan Seidenberg , Verizon chairman, was picketed Friday at his home in West Nyack, N.Y.
Ivan Seidenberg , Verizon chairman, was picketed Friday at his home in West Nyack, N.Y. (BRENDAN HOFFMAN / Bloomberg)
Posted: August 18, 2011

The last time a union went a-marching to tiny Mendham Borough, population 5,077, a handsome piece of real estate in Morris County, it was the New Jersey Education Association and it was paying what was not exactly a courtesy call on Gov. Christie.

Christie, who wasn't even home at the time, actually lives in nearby Mendham Township, where there's no place to march. But it did give the borough's police chief, John Taylor, a chance to practice for Thursday night's march on another significant resident - the chief executive of Verizon Communications Inc.

Lowell McAdam runs a company now in the middle of the biggest recent strike in labor history, with 45,000 workers on picket lines along the East Coast.

The unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, will be dropping by McAdam's house on Balbrook Drive, a curvy dead-end road with expensive homes in a neighborhood where the median family income tops $160,000.

It is a measure of the growing tension in a strike now 12 days old.

"I'm talking with the union representatives and their attorneys and we're setting up parameters for a peaceful and safe candlelight vigil," Taylor said Wednesday.

"It's something you have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I'm hoping it's going to be the latter," said Taylor. He said had reached out to neighboring towns for backup for his 12-man force.

"One can't possibly go up to the mansions in Mendham and not be struck by the grossness of destroying the standard of living of working-class operators and technicians while living in the lap of luxury. It is worth marking the contrast," said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA's New Jersey director, who expects several hundred strikers to attend the rally.

Last Friday, the same unions took a similar rally to the home of Verizon chairman Ivan Seidenberg in West Nyack, a suburb up the Hudson River from Verizon's headquarters in Manhattan.

Verizon's reaction to these demonstrations:

"It's meaningless theatrics and a total waste of time," e-mailed company spokesman Rich Young. "They have no idea whether anyone is at home. The only thing it may do is annoy the neighbors.

"The union bosses," he said, "would be much better off concentrating on bargaining and working to reach a deal that will put the membership back to work."

So why do unions and other advocacy groups pay visits to top business executives?

Washington union media consultant Ray Abernathy said there were two reasons:

"To get their message out to the public, they have to get in the media, and the way you do it is by staging actions and marches."

The other purpose? "Part of winning the strike," he said, "is keeping the members juiced up and in a fighting mode."


Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769, jvonbergen@phillynews.com, or @JaneVonBergen on Twitter.

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