Verizon Communications Inc. workers in nine states have voted in favor of striking if it is deemed necessary, a union official claimed at a Saturday rally. The union is in the middle of negotiations over a new contract in which it is seeking greater healthcare contributions and concessions on pensions.
Verizon Union Members ‘Clear’ and ‘Determined’
The unions stated that 86 percent of Verizon’s 39,000 wireline unit workers in the east coast voted to authorize a strike, one week before the current contracts expire. The wireline part of the business consists of FiOS Internet, television and telephone services.
Boards of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Communications Workers of America (CWA) representing the employees have not yet approved any strike actions.
Union leaders are upset that Verizon is looking to contain costs by heading healthcare and pension benefits during the course of a three-year period.
The contract disputes affect Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
Dennis Trainor, vice president of CWA District One, came out swinging in a statement, and warned Verizon that its members are “clear and they are determined.”
Our members are clear and they are determined – they reject management’s harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers’ health care costs, and slashing retirement security,” said Trainor.
The telecom giant, which recently acquired AOL Inc. and may or may not sell The Huffington Post, had offered salary increases to about 39,000 employees in the east coast during the first round of negotiations.
A spokesperson for Verizon referred to these rallies and strike votes as “distractions that achieve nothing.”
We believe their time would be far more beneficial focusing on the important contractual issues that need to be resolved,” said Verizon spokesman Rich Young.
Young added that Verizon had given the unions “a solid proposal that recognizes the changing communications landscape and offers a path toward success.” He noted that a lot of the aspects found in the contracts were created a long time ago and are not relevant in an industry with constant pressures and changes.
To avoid service disruptions if a strike takes place, Verizon is training non-union employees to take on additional roles.
Verizon Workers Have Gone on Strike Before
This isn’t the first time that Verizon union workers have gone on strike.
In the summer of 2011, roughly 45,000 workers went on strike for two weeks. Both Verizon and workers were deeply affected by the strike. Verizon’s corporate image took a hit, while families did not receive a paycheck for two weeks.
The reason for the strike, said union officials at the time, was because they believed they weren’t being taken seriously by management. Also, Verizon had sought concessions, like a pension freeze, job security, fewer sick days and greater outsourcing.
The strike ended without a new contract, though the unions attempted to save face.
Everybody knew we faced a long list of management demands and that’s why there was a strike, and we would go back into bargaining when the talks could be meaningful,” said Larry Cohen, Communications Workers of America president, in a statement at the time. “We don’t consider this a victory in any way. We consider it progress toward a good process at Verizon.”
In 2013, there was also a dispute between Verizon and about 4,000 Verizon call center representatives, technicians and construction workers throughout Southern California.