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Verizon Workers Go on Strike

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) says that nearly 40,000 Verizon workers all across the East Coast of the US will walk off the job this morning as part of the strike over a long-running contract dispute with the operator. The union and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have been trying to hash out a new contract for ten months.

The workers involved are employed in Verizon's wireline business. This includes the FiOS fiber-optic Internet service, as well as fixed-line phone services.

The union says it is concerned about Verizon outsourcing and offshoring more jobs. It claims that Verizon has already moved 5,000 jobs overseas, and is pressing to send even more jobs to Mexico, Philippines and elsewhere.

For its part, Verizon says that it has offered wage increases, continued retirement benefits and healthcare benefits, but that union leaders decided to call a strike rather than work on the issues.

This stoppage is expected to be the largest in the US in recent years. Verizon, however, is no stranger to massive walkouts. Some 45,000 workers staged a two-week strike in the summer of 2011. (See Verizon Strike Gets Uglier.)

The new work stoppage could mean seriously delayed repairs on Internet and phone connections. Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon says that it has hired thousands of non-union workers to cover the strike.

"It's regrettable that union leaders have called a strike, a move that hurts all of our employees," said Marc Reed, Verizon's chief administrative officer, in a statement Wednesday.

The strike took a more political turn later in the day, after Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders visited a Verizon picket line in New York on Wednesday and praised the workers for their "courage" in taking on Verizon.

Verizon's CEO, Lowell McAdam, didn't take kindly to that at all, and hit back via a post on LinkedIn called "Feeling The Bern of Reality -- The Facts About Verizon and The 'Moral Economy'."

"The senator's uninformed views are, in a word, contemptible," he wrote. The post lambasted Sanders for his statements on whether Verizon pays its fair share of taxes and its spending on infrastructure, as well his getting involved in the labor dispute.

"I challenge Sen. Sanders to show me a company that's done more to invest in America than Verizon," McAdam wrote.

Sanders, who is on the campaign trail in and around New York state this week, soon tweeted his reply:

"What I care about is that they stop destroying the jobs of their employees and start investing in cities like Buffalo and Baltimore," Sanders stated.

CWA workers on strike were out in the NYC area. There's no word yet on when how long the strike might continue.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 4/15/2016 | 10:13:16 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Interestingly, a similar contract at AT&T has *just* expired.
cnwedit 4/15/2016 | 10:05:24 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal I thought they outsourced call center jobs a while back and got burned badly, so many companies brought them back because the customer experience suffered so badly.

 
DanJones 4/15/2016 | 10:04:11 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Yeah as I understand it.
mendyk 4/15/2016 | 9:31:34 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Mitch Wagner -- As the man once said, Interesting, if true. Labor unions -- or what's left of them -- generally don't operate on a selective basis. The Verizon contract expired months ago, and whether the labor market is tight or loose doesn't change that. And in this case, as Carol has pointed out, the jobs in question are pretty much earmarked for drastic reduction, if not elimination. Do you think Verizon's management cares of this group of workers quit and went elsewhere?
Mitch Wagner 4/15/2016 | 9:16:06 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal mendyk - According to the latest employment statistics, we're seeing a situation that hasn't happened in a long while: The labor market is tight. Employers are finding it difficult to find people to hire. That gives workers – as we see here with Verizon, and in other sectors – leverage. 
brooks7 4/14/2016 | 5:45:06 PM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Call Center type jobs?

seven

 
cnwedit 4/14/2016 | 5:41:41 PM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Verizon has said from the beginning of FiOS that part of the justification for deploying fiber to the home was the lower maintenance and operations costs. And whenever a company is talking lower opex, they mean they will need fewer people. It makes no sense from Verizon's viewpoint to maintain side-by-side networks. 

The same is true with automation - when telecom operators talk about automating provisioning processes and other operations to eliminate human error, they also mean eliminating human jobs. We want them to innovate faster and do more in an automated fashion but that is always going to mean fewer jobs. 

So wireline jobs are going away - that's for certain. And many of the new jobs and those that remain will require different skills. 

AT&T has been making a big deal about retraining and upskilling its workers so it will be interesting to see if that in any makes them less likely to face this kind of labor action. 

I think there are some pretty complex issues at play here. To be certain, Verizon is making billions in profits and paying people like McAdams tens of millions. So I'm not going to say they are doing all they should for their workers. But what they should be doing may not be as clear-cut as basic wages, benefits, etc. And I honestly don't understand the charges that they are shipping jobs overseas. 
mendyk 4/14/2016 | 3:51:19 PM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Sending jobs out of country is just one option for reducing labor costs. Another is finding local people who will work for less money and fewer or no benefits. That's one example of how the "free market" works.
Mitch Wagner 4/14/2016 | 3:36:10 PM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal With unemployment falling, now is a good time for workers to demand better pay and benefits. Free markets at work. 

A company can't outsource a job laying fiber in Boston to Mexico. 
mendyk 4/14/2016 | 11:10:00 AM
Re: This seems like it could be a long deal Organized labor in the U.S. isn't dead, but its prime years are gone and are almost certain not to return. But so what -- today's workers can get neat benefits like free snacks and beer as a reward for working 16-hour days. Life is good.
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