EVERETT — Employees at Verizon stores in Everett and Lynnwood won their union election on Friday, making them the first unionized Verizon stores in the country outside of New York.
The near-unanimous victory represents only the latest in a growing labor movement across the country that includes unionization of Starbucks stores and the first Amazon warehouse union.
A group of workers and supporters watched the vote count streamed on Zoom by the National Labor Relations Board on Friday, in the parking lot by the Everett Verizon store. Voting began March 25.
After each vote was announced, some held up the running total of the number of “yes” votes on their fingers. They cheered and hugged after the final tally.
The vote was 11-1. Three more “yes” votes were challenged, but those will not affect the election result.
“I already knew we were going to win,” said Austin Hitch, a Verizon employee and organizer in the union campaign. “I’m already onto the next step. We just have to get more workers to join us and more stores to go union.”
The victory earns workers the right to bargain with their employer over pay and working conditions. Hitch said Verizon employees want cost-of-living raises and more control of their schedules.
“We really want to codify what we already have — we have pretty good benefits and 401Ks, but Verizon has been systematically taking things away from us, and we want to put a stop to that,” he said.
Workers voted to be represented by the Communications Workers of America, which has more than 700,000 members nationwide.
Verizon did not respond to a Herald reporter’s phone call or email seeking comment.
Steve Yu, a sales representative at the Verizon stores in Lynnwood and Everett, came out to celebrate with coworkers and supporters during his break on Friday. Yu has been with the company for 22 years. He voted for a union. His biggest frustration has been changes Verizon made to employees’ commission pay.
“They instituted a type of commission where our commission dollars would be taken away from us,” he said.
He hopes the union will give workers more of a voice.
“We want to say enough is enough,” Yu said. “We don’t want any more taken away from us and we don’t want any more taken away from future employees.”
Diandra Frommer came to support her former colleagues. Frommer said Verizon fired her last September when she brought employee concerns to upper management. Frommer had been with the company for 12 years and worked at six Verizon locations across three states. She was in management at the time of her firing. Frommer said workers complained to her about missing breaks, last-minute scheduling and changes to commission pay.
“It was very important for me to stand up for them,” she said.
Verizon stated it “respects our employees’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining … including the right to join or not join labor unions” in a February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company has a legal obligation to bargain in good faith with the union-represented workers.
Hitch hopes the Verizon workers victory will inspire workers across all industries to unionize.
“Join Amazon Labor Union, join Teamsters,” join the Communications Workers of America, “stand up for yourselves,” he said.