Proposed Verizon building sale irks union

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The proposed sale of the 60,000 square foot Westchester Square Verizon building has employees and elected officials demanding answers, requesting reconsideration.

 “They’ve always told us if the price is right, any building they own is for sale,” Robert Shannon, vice president of the Communication Workers of America, said, referencing the 2510 Westchester Avenue site. 

CWA is the union that represents Verizon, which just recently averted a strike that could have crippled the company. 

While Shannon said Verizon alerted him of the sale proposal in April, they assured him the space would be leased back for at least five years to prevent the move of the facility’s 300 employees.

The company’s selection of a broker on July 18, and discussions of relocating to a Queen’s facility, however, leaves him doubting their sincerity.

Angered by Verizon’s inconsistency, Shannon said the inopportune timing comes after approximately 100 employees moved from the 5030 Broadway site in Manhattan in June of 2005.

“It’s horrible; my people have become pawns in their corporate game,” he said about Verizon’s obvious disregard for their workforce and single focus on monetary gain. “Now they’re looking to once again displace their lives.”

Shannon added that according to the union contract, Verizon must alert the union president of intent to move at least six months prior to relocation.

As the communication giant’s only Spanish speaking call center, Shannon explained the move would be a dramatic loss for the borough, therefore initiating a movement among the employees to stay put.

“We’re going to mobilize the community and do everything we can to stay in this building,” he said.

On Monday, August 4, Shannon met with Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman Jimmy Vacca and Westchester Square Merchants Association president John Bonizio, all of whom had initially thought the sale would benefit the community should a major retailer replace Verizon.

However, once learning how angry Verizon workers were and the circumstances around the sale, the trio has committed to working with Shannon to discuss a plan that would prevent the controversial sale.

“I was very happy with the meeting,” Shannon explained. “They pledged their help for us and that’s what we wanted to hear.”

Klein said Verizon’s community presence is not only essential to preserve the quality of life for its workforce, but is also a key element in Westchester Square’s revitalization efforts.

“We are going to meet with Verizon and ask them to change their minds,” he said. “We’re going to tell them very nicely to be good neighbors.”

Also shocked by Verizon’s complete disregard for community concern, Vacca said, “I’m very upset Verizon is making the proposal to move without notifying the elected officials.

Vacca said he’s currently working to set up a meeting with Verizon to discuss the sale proposal. “I’m interested in hearing an explanation from them.”

Updated 5:29 pm, October 21, 2011
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