Verizon strike gains strength, support from presidential candidates and elected officials

About 40,000 Verizon workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are in their second week on strike, after ten months of intensive negotiations to reach a fair contract.


The strike won the enthusiastic support of both Democratic presidential candidates. On the first day of the strike, Senator Bernie Sander joined a crowd of 2,000 CWA Verizon and Verizon Wireless workers and supporters in Brooklyn, NY. On CNN’s widely-watched candidate debate, Senator Sanders called Verizon’s contract demands the “perfect example of the kind of corporate greed which is destroying the middle class in this country.” He urged Verizon’s CEO -- who makes $18 million a year -- to start negotiating seriously with CWA and the IBEW. That same day, Secretary Hillary Clinton stopped by a Verizon Wireless store picket line in Manhattan, and called on Verizon to “come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers."


Verizon workers are striking for more than a fair contract; they’re fighting to protect middle class jobs. As workers in Massachusetts told the Boston Globe:


Without the union, “these jobs would be off-shored in a heartbeat,” said Bonasoro, 44, of Weymouth. “Nobody chooses this. What we’re doing here is we’re protecting American jobs. They [Verizon] want to constantly off-shore, outsource good middle-class jobs that support our community. There’s growing public sentiment against corporate greed.”


Bryan Phillips, a third generation Verizon worker from Pembroke, said he fears for his job every time a contract is up. “I didn’t want to go on strike, none of us did, but at the same time, enough’s enough. Not just for Verizon but everywhere,” said Phillips, 38, who has been a technician for 18 years. “You don’t see anyone [in other companies] go on strike, because they’re all afraid. They’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. But if we don’t fight for these jobs, these jobs won’t be here.”


Verizon workers not only got the attention of the company, customers, and local communities; they have prompted important discussions about Verizon's problematic business decisions, support for unions, and what the Washington Post calls a "sense of empowerment among workers who struggled for years to reap the gains of the economic recovery and which could mark a political and economic shift in the balance between employers and their employees."


Reinforcing what striking workers and their supporters are calling Verizon's corporate greed, the New York Times reports "the company’s overall posture does not appear to be intended to pursue a business model that maximizes the number of middle-class incomes it produces."


And even though the demand for access to high-speed Internet, which has been promised to millions of households and businesses throughout the East Coast, the New York Times reports: "…Verizon remains ambivalent about Fios. In 2004 the company pledged to lay fiber that could serve as many as 18 million homes. It fulfilled that plan according to its own measure, but has shown little desire in moving much beyond it, leaving several million households with little hope of getting access to the network."


And of course, the expansion of FiOS would be a win for customers, a win for workers and a win for companies.The Times continues: "…Verizon could sustain and expand good-paying work even on the wireline side. Foremost is FiOS, widely regarded as state of the art when it comes to broadband networks, and which the union and the company agree can serve as a foundation for sustaining desirable jobs."


The Washington Post reports on the connection between customer service and worker concerns:


Many of the protesting employees say they are concerned about losing their jobs to foreign contractors who lack the skills to troubleshoot customer problems. By the time customers reach a US-based technician, the company representative must spend an inordinate amount of time soothing customer frustration caused by the previous calls with foreign contractors, said Marilyn Irwin, who served as a Verizon operator for 40 years before becoming president of a local union chapter representing Prince George's and Montgomery counties.


It’s a big deal to go on strike, but Verizon workers have had enough. CWA and the IBEW have been negotiating with Verizon for 10 months. Verizon -- which made $39 billion in profits in the past three years and $1.8 billion every month in 2016 -- continues to demand deep cuts in health care benefits, pensions, offshoring work, sending call center work overseas, and the ability to send technicians to work away from home for months at a time.


As FierceTelecom notes, customers are feeling the impact of the strike. Customers are experiencing delays in new installations, despite Verizon’s attempt to train managers to do the work of skilled, trained frontline technicians and customer service representatives.

CWA and IBEW set to go on strike at Verizon (Speed Matters, Apr. 11, 2016)

 

Verizon strike update: 40k on strike and what it means (CWA District 1, Apr. 14, 2016)

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders joins Brooklyn picket line (Stand Up to Verizon, Apr. 13, 2016)

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders calls out Verizon CEO at Democratic presidential debate (Stand Up to Verizon, Apr. 15, 2016)

 

Sanders, Clinton, Electeds Join CWA Picket Lines (CWA, Apr. 14, 2016)

 

Ready to Strike for Our Future (CWA, Apr. 12, 2016)

 

Don't Let Verizon Hurt Our Communities (CWA, Apr. 9, 2016)

 

East Coast Verizon workers go on strike (Boston Globe, Apr. 13, 2016)

 

Why tens of thousands of workers, from Verizon to McDonald’s, are walking off the job Thursday (Washington Post, Apr. 13, 2016)

 

In Verizon Strike, Blue-Collar Stress Hits the Sidewalks (New York Times, Apr. 13, 2016)

 

On Strike At Verizon for a Better Future (CWA, Apr. 12, 2016)

 

Verizon wireline workforce labor strike causing installation delays (FierceTelecom, Apr. 15, 2016)

 

Verizon Says ‘Mild’ Uptick in Customer Complaints While Workers Strike (NBC New York, Apr. 14, 2016)