Protest halts SMPA lecture

Union workers stormed into Professor Jarol Manheim’s class Wednesday morning to protest his role as a consultant for Verizon Communications.

At 9:45 a.m., more than 25 people, some of them students and others members of the Communication Workers of America, interrupted Manheim’s Strategic Political Communications class.

The demonstrators wore red T-shirts and distributed pamphlets titled “Welcome Back, Professor Manheim!”

Manheim said the group was objecting to a consultant report he wrote last summer for Verizon and blamed him for the 17,000 jobs the communications company has cut since 2001.

“As a consultant to Verizon Communications you helped the company shape an anti-union bargaining strategy that was intended to divide employees against their unions and create in the public’s mind a false reality of the industry and its workers’ bargaining concern,” the pamphlet said.

Members of the group, who could not be reached for comment, spent 15 minutes criticizing Manheim. They then apologized for interrupting class and left.

Manhiem said his report was a “standard document” that had nothing to do with the layoffs and added that he is no longer a consultant for Verizon.

“There’s a belief in some quarters that corporations are evil,” he said. “But the fact is that companies employ all these union members.”

“I had no influence whatsoever on their bargaining strategy,” he added.

A senior in the class, who wished to remain anonymous, said Manheim was “visibly shaken” during and after the confrontation.

“It was strange. They targeted our professor as an evil man,” he said.

Manheim said he never felt physically threatened and would not comment on whether this was his first encounter with the group.

“The fact is that the class belongs to my students, and this group was taking it away from them,” he said.

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