The Communications Workers of America (CWA) says that the nearly 40,000 Verizon wireline workers on the East Coast will strike at 6 AM April 13 if it can't reach an agreement with the Tier 1 service provider. The threat comes as Verizon, the CWA, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have bargained for 10 months to no avail.
Verizon says it has prepared for the potential work stoppage, with non-union employees trained to step in for striking union workers. "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."
Unresolved issues from the union's perspective include healthcare, pensions, job security in the face of the potential move of jobs offshore, as well as long-term work assignments far from employees' homes. The union also alleges that staff cuts have hampered their ability to maintain and build out Verizon's FiOS network and that Verizon will not negotiate in good face with Verizon Wireless workers, who have formed a separate union.
The workers' most recent contract expired August 1, 2015.
The two sides traded broadsides as the strike date was announced yesterday.
"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."
"Legacy constraints that may have made sense in the Ma Bell era of phone booths and Princess phones don't make sense in today's digital world with high-speed connectivity and dynamic customer demands," said Marc Reed, Verizon's chief administrative officer. "Union leaders need to realize that there are real issues that will need to be addressed with or without a strike. Our goal is to continue providing good jobs with competitive wages and benefits and make the wireline business more successful now and in the future. Union leadership needs to be realistic and work with us to help make that happen."
Note: The original version of this article was amended in the first paragraph to recognize the involvement of the IBEW.
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