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Verizon East Coast workers go on strike, picket lines manned

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union on Wednesday announced the intention of 40,000 Verizon East Coast workers to strike. Joined by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the announcement came after 10 months of negotiations with Verizon Communications, Inc. failed to result in a fair contract.

Workers from Massachusetts to Virginia manned picket lines at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning in what the company termed the “largest work stoppage in the country in recent years.”

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor.

“If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

Verizon is a telecommunications powerhouse. The American broadband and telecommunications company was considered the largest U.S. wireless communications service provider as of September 2014. It is a corporate component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (VZ). Yahoo Finance listed its 3-month average cumulative share trading volume at 17,578,200.

The CWA union represents 700,000 workers in private and public sector employment in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

According to the union’s release, the strike came after Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years, including $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016. Regardless of the corporations profits, CWA said the telecommunications giant 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 IBEW that represents 725,000 members said, “For years, Verizon has been cutting vital staff — it has nearly 40 percent fewer workers now than a decade ago.”

Affecting not only technicians, the union averred that the company course included refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014.

Negotiations were said to be at a standstill even after workers offered hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings.

CWA, denouncing the company’s profiteering, called attention to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam’s salary, which was said to be 200 times more than the average Verizon employee. The company’s top five executives were said to have made $233 million over the last five years.

Verizon negotiations began in June 2015, and the workers’ contract expired on August 1.

“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.”

The company responded by activating their Strike Readiness and business continuity plan on Wednesday stating that customer service remained the company’s top priority.

In a company release, Verizon announced that it would use trained non-union employees to cover for striking workers and provide customer support.

“Millions of Americans rely on Verizon for the ability to communicate, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations in a release. “We remain fully prepared to handle any work stoppage so that our products and services will be available where and when our customers need them.”

The company maintains that it operated in good faith during negotiations, that the union was unwilling to come to agreement and further failed to agree to mediation through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

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