NEW YORK – Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia have gone on strike.
Despite Verizon’s efforts to get to new labor contracts, Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) leaders have called a strike as of 6 a.m. today. Verizon has activated its business continuity plans as customer service remains the company’s top priority.
For the past 10 months, Verizon has tried to reach agreements for the Company’s 36,000 wireline associates in the East. While the company has on the table proposed wage increases, continued retirement benefits (including a generous 401(k) match) and excellent healthcare benefits, union leaders decided to call a strike rather than sit down and work on the issues that need to be resolved.
Verizon said the unions were unwilling to make an agreement or even seek the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).
The CWA made the following claims against Verizon:
- The company failed to meet pledges to expand FiOS broadband to millions of customers, but wants to continue shedding workers that install service
- Verizon has already moved 5,000 jobs overseas, pressing to send even more jobs to Mexico, Philippines and elsewhere
- Despite $39 billion profit in last three years, Verizon is pushing to outsource work to low-wage contractors, force family-busting transfers
The union says Verizon has cut 40% of its workforce over the past decade. In New York City and Philadelphia, Verizon has failed to meet the build-out obligations under their citywide cable franchise agreements. And Verizon has failed to build-out FiOS in Baltimore, western Massachusetts, virtually all upstate New York cities and many towns in Pennsylvania.
“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.”
Reed added: “The CWA president, Chris Shelton, claims that they have tried “everything” to get a path to a contract, but their failure to agree to FMCS mediation suggests otherwise.”
Monday evening, FMCS asked if the company 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 these 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.
As part of the company’s business continuity plans, starting immediately, trained non-union employees will cover for striking workers and provide customers with the support and assistance they need and expect.
Over the past year, Verizon has taken measures to ensure its customers would be minimally impacted by any potential work stoppage. Thousands of non-union Verizon employees and business partners have undergone extensive training in various network and customer service functions, including FiOS and copper repair and network maintenance and general customer service functions.
“Millions of Americans rely on Verizon for the ability to communicate, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations. “We remain fully prepared to handle any work stoppage so that our products and services will be available where and when our customers need them.”