Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers walked off the job on Wednesday in one of the largest U.S. strikes in recent years after contract talks hit an impasse.
The strike was called by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that jointly represent employees with such jobs as customer services representatives and network technicians in Verizon Communications Inc’s (VZ.N) traditional wireline phone operations.
Even though Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years — and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016 — the company 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. Verizon is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014.
The strike could affect service in Verizon’s Fios Internet, telephone and TV services businesses across several U.S. East Coast states, including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. The walkout does not extend to the wireless operation.
Hundreds of Verizon workers protested outside Verizon stores along the East Coast on Wednesday. In New York, strikers chanted “We’re disgusted, union busted” and held placards reading “Against Verizon’s corporate greed.”
“They even want us to move to different states and that’s unfair. How do we take care of our families?” said Anita Long, a 59 year-old telecommunications technician assistant. “How do you make a billion dollars in one month and tell me you can’t give me a decent wage?” said Long, who has worked at Verizon for 37 years, picketing in Brooklyn.
U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of cheering Verizon workers at a mid-day rally in Brooklyn. “This is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans,” he said.
Front-runner Hillary Clinton, also voiced support for the strikers and urged Verizon to go back to the bargaining table. In urging a resumption of talks, Clinton said in a statement, “We rely on these men and women as part of the communications infrastructure that keeps businesses and our economy moving.”
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