BOSTON (CBS/AP) — About 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers on the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday morning, including dozens in Boston, after they say there has been little progress in negotiations since their contract expired nearly eight months ago.
Dozens of Verizon employees were walking the picket line in front of Verizon headquarters on Bowdoin Street in Boston Wednesday morning.
The workers, members of two unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — represent installers, customer service employees, repairmen and other service workers in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Striking union members work for Verizon's wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.
"WE GOT ROBBED"
Don Trementozzi, president of CWA Local 1400 says the unions are fighting to stop corporate greed.
"Corporate greed has no boundaries and this company has no boundaries at all when it comes to greed," Trementozzi told WBZ-TV's Bree Sison. "Saying our members make $130,000 a year on average? Well tell the operators and the service reps and the technicians that. Somebody better call the cops because we got robbed. We didn't get that money."
Their latest contract expired in August and so far, the unions and management say negations have been unsuccessful. The workers began their strike with picket lines in downtown Boston and at more than two dozen locations across the eastern U.S. starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
The unions have said Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers.
SERVICE INTERRUPTION NOT EXPECTED
The telecom giant has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for retirees and current workers because medical costs have grown and the company also wants "greater flexibility" to manage its workers.
Verizon says it would be willing to head to mediation with the unions if they call the strike off.
The company says that despite the strike, service is not expected to be interrupted.
"At the same time, we're also committed to ensuring any new contract with our unions will help keep our wireline business moving forward on a path toward success," Verizon said in a statement.
Trementozzi said Verizon's claims that it has been negotiating in good faith were not true.
"We shuffled all the way to New York, took us five hours in that treacherous rainstorm that we had," he said. "Sat there for six hours, and they didn't want to meet with us."
Verizon also is pushing to eliminate a rule that would prevent employees from working away from home for extended periods of time. In a television ad, the unions said the company was trying to "force employees to accept a contract sending their jobs to other parts of the country and even oversees."
BOSTON MARATHON IMPACT
A spokesman for the IBEW says they will not disrupt the Boston Marathon, calling it a "holy day."
The hub of race communications at the Boylston Street finish line is already set up, and Verizon is a major part of that.
"They might have issues getting it out," Mayor Walsh says, "but putting it down, it's already done so the issue will be taking it out probably."
"WE ARE READY FOR A STRIKE"
Verizon said on Tuesday that it has worked for more than a year to prepare for the possibility of a strike and has trained thousands of non-union workers to fill in for the striking workers. Employees from other departments across the U.S. also will be sent to replace the striking workers, the company said. In August 2011, about 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike for about two weeks.
"Let's make it clear, we are ready for a strike," Bob Mudge, president of Verizon's wireline network operations said.
The replacement workers, Mudge said, "know our first priority is maintaining services for our customers and they have taken on this challenge with pride."
Verizon Communications Inc. has a total workforce of more than 177,000 employees.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Karen Twomey reports
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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