Jesse Mason, the Washington state worker Verizon fired last year after he tried to organize two Seattle-area retail stores, went back to work on Monday, as part of the telecom giant’s recent settlement with federal labor regulators.
The company’s decision to fire Mason mirrored the anti-union tactics employed by other corporate giants like Starbucks and Chipotle to combat a growing unionization wave across the country. Mason’s case may show the limits of that hardball approach: He told The Lever he quickly started working for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union after he was fired and helped successfully organize Verizon workers in Portland, Oregon.
“Verizon thought they could stop me from organizing Verizon stores by firing me, but it just gave me the opportunity to do it full time instead,” he said.
And now, Verizon has been forced to give Mason back his job.
Verizon fired Mason last April, days after workers at two nearby Verizon stores in Lynnwood and Everett voted to unionize with the CWA, despite the company’s aggressive union-busting campaign. While Verizon’s legacy operations related to its wired phone, cable, and internet business are unionized, the vast majority of its retail locations are not.
In November, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against Verizon, alleging that the company illegally fired Mason in retaliation for union activities. The NLRB demanded that Verizon reinstate Mason and pay him lost wages.
Verizon settled with the NLRB late last month, and agreed to reinstate Mason and compensate him for lost wages. The company also agreed to inform Mason’s coworkers of their right to form a union using various mediums.
The company said it would post the notices throughout the stores where Mason works, and mail and email copies to the stores’ workers. Verizon also agreed to have management read the materials to workers at a mandatory meeting and post the notice in their Slack workspace.
“Not only am I getting my job back, but I get to walk into my old stores with my head held high, knowing I beat Verizon’s union busters,” Mason told The Lever. “Between all the money Verizon spends on union busters, lawyers, and the $23,000 in compensation they’re giving me, they could have saved a lot of money and hassle by firing those union busters instead of me.”
The NLRB did not require Verizon to admit guilt under the settlement. The agreement says that “the charged party does not admit that it violated the National Labor Relations Act.”
According to a statement from the CWA, the NLRB additionally found “evidence that management at Mason's retail location misled and intimidated workers in an effort to discourage them from organizing, including threatening to withhold benefits from employees if they voted for a union.”
The notices Verizon agreed to share say the company will not threaten or withhold workers’ benefits or otherwise punish them for union activities, or attempt to dissuade them by promising better work conditions if they oppose unionizing.
On Monday morning, CWA members and supporters celebrated with Mason and walked with him as he headed back to work.
“This isn’t just a win for me, it’s a win for everyone across the country who is organizing,” said Mason. “To anyone who wishes they had a union, but doesn’t want to get fired for organizing: Don’t be afraid. One way or another, you will win.”