BEACON HILL – Senator Eric Lesser spearheaded the effort in the Senate to encourage the Department of Unemployment assistance to act regarding the claims filed by Verizon workers of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Senator Lesser, alongside 51 other Senators and Representatives, signed onto a letter requesting that the Department act quickly to reimburse the workers who bravely stood up for better wages and working conditions.
Nearly 40,000 Verizon employees were out on strike from April 13, 2016 through May 27, 2016, making it the largest workers strike in recent history. The workers were successful: Verizon has made significant changes, including adding over 1,000 new east coast jobs, reversing outsourcing practices, ensuring pay raises, and safeguarding bonuses, pensions, and healthcare. However, during the 45 day strike, many workers filed unemployment assistance claims with the DUA to replace lost wages that their families depend on. The DUA is still in the process of determining the eligibility of these claims.
The letter, authored and circulated by Senator Lesser, called for swift and positive action for the affected workers. “For the 3,000 men and women of the Massachusetts IBEW, this determination is more than just a yes or no decision; it is a matter of putting food on the table and paying the rent,” the Senator wrote.
Representative Paul Mark (D- 2nd Berkshire District) organized the House of Representatives to support the initiative. “IBEW/CWA union members in our region took on a gigantic, multinational corporation in a fight to protect American jobs and prevent the erosion of workplace benefits they have earned over time,” said Representative Mark. “This letter sends a clear message to DUA that many legislators support those efforts and feel that the striking workers are entitled to unemployment assistance benefits, and that DUA needs to issue a decision in a timely manner.”
The case law of Massachusetts suggests that workers are entitled to “out-of-work” eligibility and benefits, since the strike did not substantially curtail Verizon business operations. A copy of the letter is above.