Thousands of East Coast Verizon workers are planning to strike on Wednesday if labor representatives can’t negotiate a new contract with the communications giant.
The strike is scheduled for 6 a.m. on April 13 and would be “by far the largest work stoppage in the country in recent years,” according to union leaders.
“[Our members] are located all over the state,” CWA spokesman Robert Master told Patch. “It’s the phone company, so we serve every community.”
In the Hudson Valley, if Verizon workers do go out on strike, union officials said there will be about 600 workers manning the picket lines at 111 Main St. in White Plains beginning at 6 a.m.
However, Verizon representatives said that the company is “fully prepared to serve its customers” in the event of a strike.
In a Monday joint statement, labor leaders with IBEW Local 827 and CWA Local 1000 said that 39,000 East Coast workers plan to “stand up for working families” against “Verizon’s corporate greed.”
Union leaders are alleging that even though Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years, the company wants to “gut job security protections, contract out more work and send jobs overseas, and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families.”
The corporate giant is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014, labor leaders allege.
According to labor leaders, contract negotiations began in June 2015; the workers’ contracts expired on August 1 last year.
“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”
According to union leaders, Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam earns 200 times more than the average Verizon employee.
In addition, the company’s top five executives allegedly made $233 million over the last five years.
The company said it is “fully prepared to serve its customers” in the event of a strike.
“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 said that the company has trained thousands of non-union Verizon employees to carry out “virtually every job function handled by our represented workforce,” from making repairs on utility poles to responding to inquiries in its call centers.
According to a company statement, Verizon approached contract negotiations with “a goal of preserving good jobs while also making critical changes needed to legacy contracts.”
Verizon’s 36,000 employees covered under these contracts currently have a wage and benefit package that averages more than $130,000 a year, the company asserted.
Over 99 percent of these employees support the company’s wireline business, which in 2015, contributed about 29 percent of Verizon’s revenue but less than seven percent of its operating income, company spokespeople stated.
“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.”
“A strike in this case is not going to change the issues on the table that need to be addressed,” Reed added.
According to Verizon, offered terms of its wireline contract proposal include:
A 6.5 percent wage increase over the term of the contract
“Competitive retirement benefits” including a 401K with a company match
Verizon spokespeople also said that the current proposal includes “structural changes” to its health plan due to rising healthcare costs.
LAWMAKERS URGE VERIZON TO REACH AGREEMENT
In a March 18 letter to McAdam, 20 U.S. senators called for the Verizon to “act as a responsible corporate citizen and negotiate a fair contact with the employees who make your success possible.”
Signatories to the letter included Bernie Sanders, Robert Menendez, Cory Booker and Charles Schumer.
The senators wrote:
“It is our understanding that the [CWA and IBEW] have offered to negotiate substantial savings in heaelth care for the wireline workforce, but there are additional areas of concern for your workers, including job security, the treatment of sick and injured workers, pensions and the contracting out of work. While we recognize that changes in technology and customer preference have led to a decline in landline service, driving the need for some contract changes, we also want to be sure that Verizon preserves good, family-supporting jobs in our region.”
Photo: CWA Local 1101 workers protest outside a Verizon store in New York City on Sunday
Patch staff writer Michael Woyton contributed to this report.