Working without a contract since August of last year, 40,000 Verizon workers will strike on Wednesday if they can’t reach an agreement with the company.
“Unless this company has a major change in direction and gets back on track, we will be on strike on Wednesday at 6 a.m.,” Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said this afternoon in a conference call. “A strike is a last resort but Verizon has forced us there.”
Shelton said the company 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 labor leaders also want pension gains from the company.
“We’ve worked hard in negotiations to find common ground, but working people at Verizon and across the country have had enough of the corporate greed that is destroying our families and our economy,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “Verizon is pulling down $1.8 billion a month in profits right now, and they’re trying to destroy the good family-supporting jobs of the workers who’ve made those profits.”
The Verizon workers are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The workers’ negotiating teams have offered key compromises, including hundreds of millions of dollars in health care cost savings, but Verizon keeps pressing for additional cuts.
The workers say Verizon officials also pressed for severe cutbacks in the last round of negotiations, which began in 2011. Only after a two-week strike and 13 months without a contract were the Verizon workers able to reach an agreement with the company. Verizon was solidly profitable in the run-up to those negotiations and is currently making the largest profits in its history, over $39 billion in profits over the last three years.
“We’ve tried to work with union leaders to reach a deal,” said Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer. “Verizon has been moving the bargaining process forward, but now union leaders would rather make strike threats than constructively engage at the bargaining table.”
In the event of a strike, the company is fully prepared to serve its customers.
“We do not take strike threats lightly,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations. “For more than a year, we’ve been preparing in the event union leaders order our employees to walk off the job. If a strike takes place, whether it’s one day, two weeks or longer, we are ready.”
Mudge added, “We have trained thousands of non-union Verizon employees to carry out virtually every job function handled by our represented workforce – from making repairs on poles to responding to inquiries in our call centers. We know the unions’ strike order will be a hardship and pose challenges for our employees, but as a 24×7 customer service company, our contingency plans are in place and our company will continue to serve those who rely on us.”