I have just confirmed with Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1104 that Blackwater is indeed being contracted by Verizon for security purposes. At this moment, CWA Local 1104 was not able to say how many security contractors have been hired or where they will be working. I'm sure more information will follow.
Blackwater, now called Xe, is considered to be the world's largest and most powerful mercenary army. In 2004, they had 2,300 men actively deployed around the world and another 20,000 contractors ready to go. They claim that they have trained tens of thousands of security personnel since 1998.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, The Nation's Jeremy Scahill reported that, "I saw Blackwater mercenaries speeding up and down the streets in unmarked cars, heavily armed with M4 machine guns, flak jackets, other weapons strapped to their legs."
The New York Times reports:
The company and its executives and personnel have faced civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations surrounding accusations of murder and bribery. In April 2010, federal prosecutors announced weapons charges against five former senior Blackwater executives, including its former president, Erik D. Prince.At the onset of the strike, Verizon employed the services of the NJ State Police to escort trucks and non-union workers through picket lines. Now, Verizon's hiring of a for-profit army during the strike proves two things. First that this is indeed a war on the middle class, and second, that Verizon will bear any expense to win this war.
Nearly four years after the federal government began a string of investigations and criminal prosecutions against company personnel, some of the cases have fallen apart, burdened by legal obstacles including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, of gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecutions in American civilian courts, and of overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials on the scene.
But in April 25, 2011, a federal appeals court reopened the criminal case against four former American military contractors accused of manslaughter in connection with the Nisour Square shooting in 2007.
Can you imagine a country where the billion dollar corporations have the world's largest and deadliest private, for-profit army at their disposal? What would Blackwater guards actually do on a picket line? I guess we will find out soon enough.
I already wrote about how the un-trained, non-union replacement workers are violating Verizon safety rules and costing the company thousands by making mistakes on the job, most notably by destroying a Verizon bucket truck. In addition to that, Verizon spent $20,000 in postage to mail letters to striking union workers stating that they are terminating their health care on August 31. A union delegate for the IBEW also said that Verizon is offering contractors in Florida $75 an hour, plus hotel rooms, to come up north to work as non-union replacements, but they refuse to keep the terms of the previous union contract.
Verizon said that the concessions they are seeking on the striking union workers from the IBEW and CWA will save their company $1 billion a year. So far, Verizon has refused to budge on these demands. I wonder how much longer Verizon can refuse to sit down at the bargaining table before their union busting activities exceeds that $1 billion mark. For a company sitting on $100 billion in revenue with net profits of $6 billion last year, $1 billion seems like chump change.