PHOTO: On Wednesday at 6 a.m. EST, roughly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia went on strike. File Photo
By Michael V. Cusenza
After 10 months of talks, nearly 40,000 union Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia, who have been operating without a contract since August 1, 2015, went on strike at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
Communications Workers of America characterized the work stoppage as “by far the largest in the country in recent years.”
“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”
According to CWA, Verizon wants to gut job security protections, contract out more work, offshore jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families. The union also claimed that even though it has offered the telecom giant “hundreds of millions of dollars” in healthcare cost savings, negotiations remain at a standstill.
“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, vice president, CWA District 2-13. “This very profitable company wants to push people down. And it wants to push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”
Verizon said that it has activated its business continuity plans “as customer service remains the company’s top priority.”
“It’s regrettable that union leaders have called a strike, a move that hurts all of our employees,” said Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer. “Since last June, we’ve worked diligently to try and reach agreements that would be good for our employees, good for our customers and make the wireline business more successful now and in the future. Unfortunately, union leaders have their own agenda rooted in the past and are ignoring today’s digital realities. Calling a strike benefits no one, and brings us no closer to resolution.”
The company said that it has proposed wage increases, continued retirement benefits (including a “generous” 401(k) match) and “excellent” healthcare benefits.
But to no avail.
Additionally, Verizon reported that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service reached out to the company on Monday, asking if Verizon would be willing to participate in mediation if the unions extended their previously announced strike deadline. The company indicated that it was willing to mediate. In 2012, agreements between Verizon and the unions were ultimately achieved through mediation conducted under the auspices of FMCS.
“This time, however, union leaders refused to participate in FMCS mediation and instead called a strike,” Verizon said.
“We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker,” said Myles Calvey, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England.