45K Verizon Workers Now On Strike After Labor Talks Fail

By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stalled contract negotiations led thousands of workers in Verizon Communication Inc.’s wireline division to go on strike Sunday, potentially affect landline operations as well as installation of services like FiOS, its fiber-optic television and Internet lines.

The contract for the 45,000 employees from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C., expired at midnight Saturday with the company and the workers unable to come to terms on issues including health care costs and pensions.

The dispute does not affect the company’s wireless division. Verizon is the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Verizon employees who are members of the Communication Workers of America union picketed headquarters in New York City on Sunday morning, wearing red and holding signs with messages including “CWA on strike for middle-class jobs.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports.

Vinnie Galvin, 56, said he and his fellow workers are the backbone of the industry. “Everybody needs to be wired and we’re the people who do that,” said the three-decades-plus veteran of the company.

“They’re trying to bust us. … This is stuff that it took us 40, 50 years to get.”

The affected workers are responsible for maintaining and repairing traditional landlines, as well as installing FiOS, union spokesman Bob Master said.

Workers covered by the expired contract also include 10,000 represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who serve as telephone and repair technicians, customer service representatives, operators and more. Contract negotiations began June 22.

New York-based Verizon has 196,000 workers; 135,000 are non-union.

The company is asking for changes in the contract because it says its wireline business has been in decline for more than a decade as more people switch to using cellphones exclusively. It had 25 million landlines at the end of the second quarter, down from 26 million at the end of 2010. It has been selling off some of its landlines to other phone companies.

“It’s not reflective of today’s marketplace,” Verizon spokesman Rich Young said of the contract. “Our union employees pay nothing toward their health care premiums. That’s virtually unheard of.”

Master said the company wanted worker concessions at a time when it was making billions in profits and top executives were making millions in salary.

“We have never seen such a sweeping attack on the quality of life of our members,” he said. “This is an unprecedented and in our opinion completely unjustified attack on middle-class jobs.”

Young refuted the union’s contentions on Verizon’s profits, saying that the wireline unit was declining overall despite the growth of products like FiOS.

Master said the strike could impact customers looking for installations or repairs to their service, but Young said Verizon had taken steps like training managers and retirees.

Young said Verizon would return to the table at any point, that it was up to the union. The union said workers would be prepared to return to work when Verizon demonstrated a willingness to bargain seriously.

In Philadelphia on Sunday morning, about a dozen red-shirted strikers and union officials were outside two downtown buildings.

Helga Weber, 45, of Abington, Pa., came prepared with the chair she bought for the workers’ last strike in 2000, which lasted 18 days.

“We’re just making a regular living, middle class — we’re not making a fortune. We just want to keep what we have,” said Weber, a 13-year employee.

Cliff Beckham, 55, of Upper Darby, said the walkout, his second in his more than 12 years with the company, would “definitely” be a hardship.

“I’ve got a mortgage to pay,” he said. In addition to the $200 to $300 he said the union will provide, he hopes a part-time position with UPS will tide him over.

“Luckily, I have a night job,” he said. “I’m glad I kept it.”


Associated Press writers Samantha Gross in New York and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • rrc

    Isn’t that too bad … they might have to pay more for their health care! I don’t feel bad as I am self-employed, pay a 40% self-employment tax and pay $1200/month with a large deductible for my family. That doesn’t even include any employees! I don’t care how much money Verizon made, everyone needs to contribute!

  • Union-Pride

    It’s not about not paying anything into healthcare. It’s about getting a fair deal. The proposed plans are outragous, might as well make us sign up for COBRA. They want to take away a no movement of work clause so they can move the work to both non-union areas where they can pay less, awell as overseas. The want to freeze pensions and do away with pensions for all future employees. We are the reason they make their millions every year. Want to talk about contributing, try executives that collect millions yearly, pay nothing for their healthcare, AND the company did not pay $1 in federal taxes last year despite earing hundreds of millions in profit.

  • PAUL


    • Union strong

      Hey Paul, take a hundred things u like about your job and give them up only to see your employer put more money in there pocket!!!!!! We have family’s that have given 40 plus yrs dedicated service to verizon who are now on a fixed income and they should NOW lose there benefits to corporate greed? U mite want to educate your self befor running your mouth!

    • Joseph

      Unemployment is over 9%. There are a ton of people who will be very happy to quickly get trained and take these jobs and be grateful for a paycheck. Chipping in for healthcare. We all know the union gig to work 2-4 jobs a day and keep the rest for after 5pm or the weekend when they can get paid overtime.

  • Frank Davis

    What I’m amazed about with the strike today is that in Fitchburg there only 5-6 picketers by the office on Main Street. At the Target Mall in Leomister, there were at least 30 people by the Verizon STORE under canopies and such. Guess these people had to be near the Starbucks & Cold Stone Creamery.
    Let’s be honest. There are people out there out of work and really looking for a job yet people who have one will do things like this. Be glad you’re getting paid for work. If this drags on the only ones getting paid are the union higher ups & Verizon.

  • kat

    F*ck them – they need to understand that the union needs to compromise now. These aren;t highly trained jobs, like a Masters or Phd, thay are completely replaceable and the union should be broken as soon as possible.

    • BILL


    • union-proud

      I resent statements like Frank’s. I am a union worker for Verizon, and I remotely software provision high speed data circuitry. And yes, I trained a long time to learn my job. We are regular people tring to make a living and provide for our families. Yet people want to slam us because it’s a union environment. The union has kept a paycheck in my pocket, the union has kept my job here in the US when the company wants to ship it to India where they can pay less than minimum wage. Somone else said it on here, I/we have no problem paying for healthcare, don’t let the company blind you into thinking this is the only reason we are out. We’re not that greedy, it’s the top executives that are the greedy ones.

    • seriously

      Stating that because the workers don’t have a Master’s or a PhD they are not highly trained shows how little you know about what some of these workers do. My father was a lineman for a similar company and at the end of his career the company stated his training and knowledge was the equivalent of an engineering degree. In fact he was asked after he retired to train emergency command centers to ensure safety for people like you who are happy they are trained when a storm hits but forget quickly when the sun comes out.

  • seriously

    The employees I know are very willing to pay healthcare premiums, it’s the entire package that is a problem. Everyone complains about big business moving jobs overseas yet when the union stands up to it (because that is one of the issues) they are called greedy. No they don’t have Master’s or PhD’s but they do work outside during ice storms and hurricanes to restore service, something many people do not want to do. The top 6 employees- all non union- of Verizon made a total of 81 millions dollars..but it’s the union employees that are greedy? The ceo was upset because his pay decreased from 20 million to 17.5 million…you are right it’s the union employee making $45,000/year – solidly middle class- who is willing to pay into healthcare but doesn’t want to lose 14% of their pay plus holidays plus sick days plus pension AND move jobs overseas that is the problem.

  • T. E. Carver

    To all you haters out there first of all the company wants one hundred concessions not one . They will not negotiate on any. Why dont you take one hundred things that you like about your job and give them back to your emploiyer. Second of all you make what you make because of people like me union people who walked a picket line. And in closing while you think we are greedy or whatever ask your son and or daughter how baseball or soccer or football practice was because he or she could be coached by one of us greedy tax paying charity donateing union member.

  • Proud telephone worker

    I believe before you make any comments that slam us union workers, you need to educate yourselves on what the union has done for all the working class. Maternity leave, a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, the wages non-union employees make, etc. That’s only to name a few. Stop trying to bring us down…how about trying to bring yourselves up to where we all belong, the middle class hardworking laborers! We are the laborers that risk our lives every day and work very hard to provide a fabulous service which allows the higher ups to make the millions that they do. We are proud of what we do and should be compensated well.

  • working man

    hey Paul if you were good enough you might already be working for verizon and kat your language speaks to your menta attuity

  • working man

    thats mental kat sorry for the mis type

  • http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/08/20/verizon-strike-ends-workers-return-monday-night/ Verizon Strike Ends, Workers Return Monday Night « CBS Boston

    […] 45,000 wireline employees in Massachusetts and eight other states in the northeast and the District of Columbia have been on strike since August 6. […]

  • Doug

    My name is Doug Steadman owner of Force.I specialize in fiber terminations of all diffrent types of connectors,ST,SC,FC, and etc.Also do ribbion cable and loose tube buffer cable fussion spliceing.If you have any intrested in talking more i would be very intrested in some opportonitys you my have. thank you

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