Verizon workers go on strike
Contract negotiations fell through
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.”