From a strike management point of view, there's nothing like having 45,000 picketers to deploy and the unions striking Verizon Communications Inc. are making the most of it.
In some strikes, the picket lines get a little thin after awhile, but the unions have bodies to spare and they are sending them out to follow Verizon repair trucks operated by managers and subcontractors. The result is a mobile picket lines.
It was a beautiful day Friday and I was in no hurry to get back to the office, so I hung out on the picket line at 9th and Race Streets in Chinatown talking to picketers who had gathered there to see Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, in town to rally the troops.
That's where I met a service technician, who was leaning up against the Verizon building, telling an amazing story to a fellow picketer. The first technician has been a service technician for 15 years.
Last week, he and another picketer were assigned to wait outside the Navy Yard, where Verizon is storing some of its trucks during the strike. They followed one to a location near City Line Avenue. It sounded like a comedy of errors.
First of all, the technician said, the driver couldn't manage to parallel park the truck, even though there was plenty of room fore and aft. Then, the two guys in the truck couldn't find some sort of networking box located on one of the street corners. Finally, they spotted it. When one went to grab the tool bag, they grabbed the bag upside down and all the tools fell out. They managed to park on the wrong corner, so they had to cross all different intersections to get to the box. When they got to the box, they couldn't open it, so they had to go back to the truck to get the tool. Finally, they got the box open, but couldn't figure out how to do the repair, so they kept studying the paperwork. After awhile, they pulled out a phone, but they held the phone upside down.
"I can't get a dial tone," the technician joked, mocking the worried look on the replacement workers face.
Of course, there's no way to know whether the technician's tale is true, but then that's the case with many things we reporters hear.
The company has obtained injunctions to keep people from getting too close to picketers, particularly to the drivers who are out on the road, away from the intense security at the plants. Picketers must stay 15 yards away from any Verizon work site, which probably means these repair places. The Pennsylvania injunction even forbids the "following of non-striking union employees or business invitees as they travel to and from Verizon facilities," but then says "nothing in this paragraph shall be deemed to prohibit lawful ambulatory picketing."
Five Philadelphia picketers were supposedly arrested Friday for getting too close to a truck at 3901 Conshohocken Road. I'm not sure what happened. I heard about it from both the union and the company, but then couldn't get much more info from either group.