Ver­i­zon work­ers go on strike

Con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions fell through

Maryland Independent - - News - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

Ap­prox­i­mately 36,000 Ver­i­zon Com­mu­ni­ca­tion wire­line work­ers in the U.S. have gone on strike af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween their em­ployer and unions fell through.

Strik­ing work­ers be­gan march­ing out­side the Ver­i­zon of­fice on Crain High­way in La Plata Wed­nes­day morn­ing fol­low­ing an­nounce­ment of the strike. Sev­eral cars honked in sup­port as they drove past.

Ver­i­zon em­ployee Paul Bech­berger was one of those who walked the picket line Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

“Af­ter eight months of ne­go­ti­a­tion, there was no move­ment,” Bech­berger said. “The union fi­nally said, ‘do some­thing or we’re go­ing to set a strike dead­line.’”

Ver­i­zon an­nounced in a press re­lease that they had trained thou­sands of nonunion em­ploy­ees to fill in for those on strike dur­ing its du­ra­tion.

“We are pre­pared to pro­vide cus­tomers with the sup­port and as­sis­tance they need and ex­pect,” Ver­i­zon spokes­woman Dei­dre Hart said in an email.

Scott Pruett, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­ica Lo­cal 2107, said ne­go­ti­a­tions with Ver­i­zon broke down in Au­gust 2015, and work­ers have been with­out a con­tract since then.

Both sides blame the other for fail­ure in ne­go­ti­a­tions. Hart said the com­pany has of­fered com­pet­i­tive pay and ben­e­fit pack­ages, but the union has re­fused.

“Our 36K em­ploy­ees cov­ered un­der th­ese con­tracts cur­rently have a wage and ben­e­fit pack­age that av­er­ages $130K-plus per year and we’ve pro­posed a 6.5 per­cent wage in­crease, qual­ity/af­ford­able health­care ben­e­fits and com­pet­i­tive re­tire­ment, plus a 401K with a com­pany match,” Hart said in an email. “Our goal is to con­tinue pro­vid­ing good jobs with com­pet­i­tive wages and ben­e­fits. Union lead­er­ship needs to be re­al­is­tic and work with us.”

Pruett de­scribed Ver­i­zon’s of­fer as “ret­ro­gres­sive”, say­ing work­ers were ex­pected to take cut­backs to health care ben­e­fits, ben­e­fits for in­jured work­ers, and re­tiree health care costs.

“It’s un­rea­son­able,” Pruett said. “Ev­ery com­pro­mise they’ve come to the ta­ble to give [Ver­i­zon] has not been enough.”

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