EVERETT — Employees at two Verizon stores in Everett and Lynnwood are voting on forming a union, joining scores of other workers pushing to unionize nationwide.
If workers vote in favor, the stores would become the only unionized Verizon stores in the nation, aside from three in Brooklyn, New York, according to an organizer with the Communications Workers of America union.
“There’s really a movement of workers right now across the country and we’re going to be successful,” said Austin Hitch, a specialist at the Verizon stores in Everett and Lynnwood.
Workers at an Everett Starbucks store announced plans to unionize in February. And on Friday, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted in favor of creating the first Amazon union.
At the Verizon stores, workers want to bargain over staffing levels and pay, Hitch said. They also want advanced scheduling notice and a better work-life balance.
Hitch said voting began March 25, and results are to be announced April 15. About 15 Verizon employees voted on union representation.
The workers would be represented by the Communications Workers of America, which has more than 700,000 members nationwide.
“We have nearly unanimous support for this union,” Hitch said.
Conversations about a union began about four years ago, he said.
“Over the years, Verizon has really cut our support out from under us,” he said. “In my nine-year career, there have been three or four layoffs.”
For example, the company outsourced IT positions, he said. During the pandemic, Verizon switched employees from working at one store to two, he said.
In 2020, Verizon reduced the number of open stores by up to 70% due to COVID-19. Despite the closures, Verizon sees brick-and-mortar stores as an important part of its future, the head of global commerce for Verizon Media told the retail news site Chain Store Age in a 2021 article.
Verizon did not respond to a request for comment on Friday about unionization.
Hitch said store employees range from 20-year veterans to workers of just a few months.
In a letter to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg sent March 7, the workers asked the company to recognize a union voluntarily.
“Our customers are best served when all employees are healthy, respected and compensated fairly,” they wrote.
Hitch said the company instead sent an executive to be an “in-house union buster” and used “manipulative” tactics to discourage a union.
One Verizon employee said the company told her she would lose her job or apartment if she voted in favor of unionization, according to a Wednesday news release from the Communications Workers of America.
“I knew that wasn’t true, and that my colleagues, who are all essential to keeping this store up and running, would continue to stand together in our fight for better working conditions,” Natalie D’aigle, a specialist at the Verizon stores in Everett and Lynnwood, said in the release.
Another Verizon employee, Katie Hill, is a part-time worker and also runs her own business. She said schedules are random every week and she never leaves work on time.
“A union will give us the voice we need to help bring consistency and balance to our workplace,” she said in the news release.
In a report filed Feb. 11 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Verizon wrote that “it respects our employees” rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in compliance with applicable law, including the right to join or not join labor unions.”
About 24% of the company’s workforce is represented by unions, the report states.
Colin Hull, an organizer with Communications Workers of America and a former Verizon employee, told The Daily Herald only a small number of Verizon retail stores have formed unions. Most of those union members work in Verizon’s landline business, he said.
Hull was part of the effort to unionize five Brooklyn stores in 2014. Hull worked with the Snohomish County workers on their recent union push.
“We’re going to have many more workers joining us,” he said, “when they see that we’re successful.”