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Verizon Strike Readies To Take Action

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It’s been three weeks since roughly 40,000 Verizon and Verizon Wireless employees throughout the Northeast walked off the job in protest of what’s become a common lament of middle-class workers: a proposed contract that they say minimizes the benefits and protections of workers in exchange for higher corporate profits.

After 10 months of failed contract negotiations, employees—members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions—have been standing on picket lines (including at several sites across Westchester) since April 13, hoping for a resolution in their favor.

But its clear from the rhetoric on both sides that a compromise still seems far off. At the end of last week, Verizon offered the union what it called its “last, best, and final offer,” in which the utility giant increased its wage offer to 7.5 percent over the term of the contract. Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer, characterized it by saying, “A better offer would be hard to find.” The union’s response? In an open letter, the CWA District 1 declined the offer, saying it amounted to “little more than the same old bullshit” and “fails to address the union’s commitment to preserve job security and good jobs for our members in our communities.”

Though the proposed contract included a wage increase, one year of corporate profit sharing, and a softening of Verizon’s ability to transfer workers for two months anywhere in the company’s footprint, union leaders feel it doesn’t go far enough. “We of course welcome higher wages and these other changes,” noted the District 1 letter. “But what good is a wage increase if we cannot ensure that our jobs will be around a year or two from now?”

The union also expressed dissatisfaction with Verizon’s call to reduce workers’ disability benefits and freeze pension accruals at 30 years, as well as, failing to detail how they would improve retail employees’ wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The strike has also been a hot topic on social media, with hashtags like #verizonstrike and #standup2vz generating buzz. And the activists behind www.standuptoverizon.com intend to seize that momentum with tomorrow’s “Verizon Strike National Day of Action.” Per the group’s website, “This strike is bigger than Verizon. It’s about protecting good, hometown jobs in this country. It’s about securing a brighter future for our families and our communities. It’s about standing up to a handful of rich and powerful interests to make sure the needs of working families are met.”

In response to the protest, Verizon executives have taken an almost-business-as-usual stance despite the protest. In a recent statement, Chief Administrative Officer  Reed noted, “Thousands of non-union Verizon employees have been on special assignment filling-in for striking employees in call centers, in the field and in all facets of network operations. Together these employees have resolved tens of thousands of repair dispatches and have fulfilled thousands of new Fios orders. To date, over 1,000 of the union-represented employees have returned to work, and this number has been growing each day. The company also reports the strike has had minimal impact to its operations.”

Will this strike persuade you to cancel your Verizon services or sign up with another provider if the employees’ terms aren’t meant, or are their demands unreasonable? Feel free to sound off in the comments below, or Tweet @westchestermag with the hashtag #verizonstrike.

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