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A Democratic candidate for State Assembly in the 8th district used social media to boast about crossing a picket line while union employees of the company she worked for were on strike.
Gina LaPlaca was a government affairs executive for Verizon in 2016 when 36,000 unionized workers – nearly 5,000 in New Jersey – went on strike for 44 days. She moved to the service side as a substitute worker, and one year later posted a photo of her driving a Verizon van on her Facebook page.
“One year ago today, the Verizon work stoppage ended and I was forced to give up this sweet ride,” LaPlaca said about the van. “While I couldn’t be happier that everything is still ‘business as usual,’ there are times when I honestly miss it.”
LaPlaca’s willingness to be a substitute worker is already affecting her ability to attract labor support in her bid to flip two Republican Assembly seats in the South Jersey district.
“She’s not getting the CWA endorsement,” said Hetty Rosenstein, the Communications Workers of America state director. “Other people would not scab. Other people would not brag about it.”
The campaign manager for the GOP candidates, incumbent Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) and former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, accused LaPlaca of following money, “just like the Camden party bosses who control her.”
“She’s not pro-union, she’s pro-whoever is paying her,” said Angelo Lamberto. “As a high-paid Trenton lobbyist for Verizon, Gina LaPlaca helped her corporate bosses avoid paying $70 million in taxes and forced working and middle-class taxpayers to pick up the tab instead.”
Lamberto said that LaPlaca’s decision to cross the Verizon picket line should not surprise anyone.
“Union leadership is going to have to explain to their members why they endorsed someone with such little regard for the plight of rank-and-file workers,” Lamberto said.
LaPlaca said she had no choice but to serve as a substitute worker in place of Verizon employees on strike.
“There are times over the course of your life when your employer demands that you do something you don’t want to do, under penalty of immediate termination,” LaPlaca told the New Jersey Globe.
According to LaPlaca, being forced to cross a picket line led to her decision to look for another job.
“I have always prided myself on being an independent person, and I have worked close with organized labor for my entire career, which is why this ultimately led to my decision to leave the company,” said LaPlaca. “I began a job search immediately afterward, went on several interviews, and voluntarily left to pursue a different job.”
While the strike ended on May 27, 2016, LaPlaca did not leave her job at Verizon until December 2018 – more than 30 months later — according to her LinkedIn page. She joined Anheuser-Busch as a regional government affairs executive earlier this year.
Verizon workers went on strike after a conflict over support services being outsourced to other countries, as well as cuts to their benefits and a cap on their pensions.
Bob Speer, the president/business manager of IBEW Local 827 in East Windsor, the union for Verizon workers in New Jersey, sharply criticized the company at the time for sending a letter to employees instructing them on “how to scab.”
“This letter is not the communication an employer has with an employee,” Speer said. “This is not a company bargaining about pensions or money. This is a company telling our unions how to destroy itself and I take this very personally.”
In his statement, Speer said that the letter had backfired.
“This has woken people up, especially the younger members,” said Speer. “This is about who looks out for you and yours, and they see that it is the people on the picket, not Verizon. You don’t go back from being a scab.”
The New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, which includes the IBEW, endorsed LaPlaca for the 8th district Assembly seat last June.