Scenes described in the courtroom of 3rd District Judge Tyrone E. Medley on Wednesday sounded more like the labor battles of 100 years ago than anything one would expect in today's dispute between US WEST and the Communication Workers of America.
Medley heard allegations of gun-toting by a union member, car vandalism, death warnings, stone throwing, a striker blowing an air horn in the ear of a security official, a threat from an outside contractor working for the company and a manager ramming a union picket with a truck.US WEST is seeking an injunction to prohibit striking telephone workers from using "force, intimidation, violence and threats" in the strike, which started on Aug. 16. About 2,200 union members remain off the job in Utah. The union counters that the company's hands aren't clean in the strike, which involves about 35,000 workers in 14 states.
After nearly four hours of hearings, Medley recessed the hearing until Friday morning. Nearly all of the time was used for testimony and cross-examination of seven witnesses put on by the company. At the end of the session, the union began its case but had time for only one witness before the adjournment.
Highlights of testimony include statements from:
- Paul Allen, a subcontractor whose company does landscaping for US WEST facilities: "I was giving my men assignments for the property . . . (pickets) started screaming at us. . . . One lady in particular, she started screaming, `Scabs, picket-crossers, lowlifes.' "
- Steven N. Clark, an auto mechanic at US WEST's garage at 4400 S. Main: About 50 pickets surrounded him when he arrived at work Aug. 18. They were "shouting, yelling noise, growls . . . all manner of obscenity. . . . There was ugly in those faces."
A rock was thrown that shattered the back window of his pickup truck while another "skipped off the side of my head."
The next day, "I had one girl tell me I was taking food off her table, she couldn't feed her children."
- Frank Adams, a contractor who has lived in many places - most recently Denver - and was brought in to do cable work when the union walked off the job: On Aug. 20, he returned from work to the motel where he was staying with his girlfriend, daughter and other contractors. The contractors were having a beer outside when a four-door blue sedan pulled into the parking lot, then backed to where contractors' trucks were parked.
He walked over to see what was happening, and the car drove around him, stopping four or five feet from him. The driver began talking to Adams, and Adams leaned his forearms on the window and looked in as he talked.
"I seen the driver had a gun lying right there on his lap. It was a handgun. It was a black automatic pistol. . . . (The driver said), `If I see you out working, I'll take you out.' "
Clark noted the car's license number and reported the incident to the police. Officers soon told him they had a possible suspect. They took him two or three blocks from his motel and waited with Clark. Then Clark saw the driver walk out of a gate at a building.
On the building, "I seen the white sign that said it was the CWA Union Hall." He identified the driver to the officers. "They turned him around, handcuffed him."
An officer then went through the gate and returned carrying the handgun, Adams said.
- Laura Sanders, a systems administrator for US WEST: On Aug. 22, she worked at US WEST's dispatch office at 70 S. State, meanwhile leaving her distinctive Jaguar car at a parking lot on 100 South next to the Regent Street parking terrace.
When she got off work that evening, she found that someone had dropped an orange traffic cone and a heavy roll of tape marked "DO NOT ENTER" from the parking ramp. The missile hit her car, shattering the windshield and denting the hood and a fender.
- Susan Larson, who works for US WEST DEX as a customer service manager: After working at US WEST headquarters, 250 Bell Plaza, on Aug. 22, she returned home and took a telephone call. "There was a man on the phone and he said, `If you work out of 70
nickname for one of the US WEST officesT tomorrow, there's going to be trouble."
Larson asked him, "Like what?"
"Apparently I had agitated him because he screamed at me. He said, `We'll blow your (expletive) head off.' "
Larson was afraid and shaken, especially since her telephone number is unlisted. She suspects that someone who works for the phone company was able to find it out.
On Wednesday morning while she was at work, Larson's daughter called and said she had discovered that "the windshield had been shattered" in the car the daughter drives.
- Jill Jensen, security manager at the 250 Bell Plaza headquarters and the only member of the security department at that address: On Aug. 20, a union rally of about 200 persons was held at the plaza. But then pickets became confrontational, with some blocking the exit to the parking area so that vehicles couldn't leave.
Jensen tried to get the pickets to move out of the way, but they turned a deaf ear. One man pretended he couldn't hear what she was saying. "They called me a scab and said, `You're taking food off our table.' " One young man was screaming so close to her face that the woman - white-haired and just over 5 feet tall - pushed him out of the way.
She managed to get a car out of one exit. Then Jensen went to another, where two vans were blocked. "I told them to start inching forward and try to get out," she said.
In one of the vans, the driver was a young woman who "was absolutely terrified. She was shaking . . . She couldn't speak."
After about seven minutes, she was able to get the vans out of the parking area. Jensen could hear an air horn honking behind her. It was getting closer and then "that horn was right up to my ear and he just blasted me in the ear."
- Bonnie Anderson, US WEST vice president in charge of operations in Utah, Idaho and Montana: At the same rally, she saw a white utility vehicle stopped and people pounding on the car. "There were people that were kicking tires," she said.
She also reported on three acts of vandalism. At a US WEST terminal near Cottonwood Mall, she said, someone took scissors and cut the cross leads in a terminal box, severing phone service for some customers. The repairs took about an hour. The terminal box isn't accessible to the public, but employees have the equipment to get to it.
Anderson also said she told a picket on Aug. 17 that she was sorry a manager's truck had hit him. She also said one picket told Jensen that the striker had "deliberately walked in front of the truck."
- Andy Tice, installation technician and one of the strikers, the only witness called by the union Wednesday, testified about the roll of tape that broke Sanders' windshield. Sanders had said the tape was the type US WEST uses to block off work sites. But Tice testified he had never seen that kind of tape before.
He told of a confrontation with Adams on Aug. 18, when the striker asked the contractor not to cross picket lines. He had followed Adams' truck after Adams got supplies, intending to set up a picket line if Adams began doing US WEST work. They were both in cars at the time of the incident, at 400 East and 900 South.
"Mr. Adams approached me and threatened to come to my house," he said.
Tice also said managers were driving vehicles too fast toward strikers. Approaching parking areas where strikers are picketing, a vehicle should slow down, he said. Instead, Tice said, "sometimes the vehicles gun their motors" to warn strikers and then don't go slowly.
One picket was hit at a US WEST garage, he said.