Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - While their workers continue on to day four of their strike, Verizon has filed lawsuits in five states – including New York – trying to limit picketing.
The company says that demonstrations have gone too far – accusing the workers of harassment and possible sabotage to its facilities. On Monday, some Verizon workers were seen holding up drivers trying to enter at least one local facility.
Locally, about 1,000 union workers are walking the picket lines.
On Thursday morning, striking workers outside a facility in DeWitt talked with police. The officers cautioned the striking workers heed the rules of engagement, which prohibit them from blocking traffic or blocking people walking on the sidewalks.
The workers say they will abide by the rules, but add that their resolve remains intact.
Verizon workers in CNY & across the nation enter day three of strike
Aug. 9, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) – The Verizon strike is now in its third day. Some 45,000 workers nationwide, including 1,000 here in Central New York, are walking the picket line.
Striking Verizon landline workers say they laid the foundation for the company's booming wireless business and shouldn't be expected to give up contract benefits just because they work on a less profitable side of the business.
But management says the company has to change to stay competitive and the 45,000 landline workers can't expect to be paid the way they were when the phone company was a monopoly.
"It's no secret that the wireline business has experienced a 10-year decline in our customer base and in profitability," said CEO Lowell McAdam. "... We have arrived at the point where we must make additional hard decisions to address customer needs and the overall operating costs of the business."
A union spokeswoman said the company is seeking about $20,000 a year per worker in annual givebacks.
Managers replaced many strikers and Verizon said there was only minimal impact on service. It said there may be slightly longer hold times for customer service and longer waits for repair.
However, the company also alleged a dozen acts of sabotage that affected phone, Internet and TV service in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
Union spokeswoman Candice Johnson said it was "a management tactic, rolling out the idea of sabotage."
Strikers claimed two demonstrators were hit by a replacement worker's car near Buffalo.
Negotiators met face-to-face in New York on Monday, but neither management nor labor would say if there was progress. Their contracts expired at midnight Saturday.
The workers are represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Verizon Wireless, the non-union and much more profitable division of which Verizon owns 55 percent, was not affected by the strike. But the wireless operation was a focus of contention anyway.
Verizon phone lines are disappearing at a rate of about 8 percent per year and are down to 25 million, about a quarter of the number of devices connected to its wireless network. Verizon has invested heavily to keep its land line division relevant, spending more than $20 billion to replace copper phone lines with optical fiber so it can sell cable-like TV service. While the so-called FiOS service has staved off competition from cable, it hasn't led to profits.
Company spokesman Richard Young said the company wants to freeze the workers' pensions but is willing to enhance their 401k accounts. He said management is also demanding that workers contribute to their health insurance premiums.
Young said the workers' benefits "no longer reflect today's marketplace. ... There are dozens of competitors."
Johnson said top workers earn about $77,000 a year in New York. The company puts the figure at $91,000 and said benefits average $50,000.
Young said Verizon made $3 billion in the first six months of 2011, and strikers said it was wrong to keep them from sharing in the profits because they are the underpinnings of the profitable wireless sector.
Paula Lopez, 60, a customer service representative on a picket line in New York, acknowledged that fewer people use land line phones but said land lines were "the stepping stones and building blocks for wireless. ... That's where they got the money to start up the wireless."
Demonstrators also complained that the company was squeezing them when high-level executives were making millions. Young said executive pay was based on performance and had been approved by stockholders.
Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics in Boston, said the problem is "The company is half in trouble."
"Fewer and fewer people are using their traditional land lines, and only with the introduction of FiOS has that been stemmed," he said. "The workers know that, but they also know their checks come from a big, profitable company.
"So we're in concession bargaining, with the company saying we need concessions or jobs will be lost and the workers doubting jobs will be lost because the company is doing all right," Entner said.
AT&T Inc., the only U.S. phone company larger than Verizon, wrung some concessions from unions in 2009, when contracts covering about 90,000 workers expired. The negotiations ended without a strike, and with workers shouldering some premiums and co-payments for their health insurance.
Verizon workers in CNY & across the nation go on strike
August 7, 2011
DEWITT, NY (WSYR-TV) - Verizon's unionized workers will stay on the picket line along Thompson Road in Dewitt, as they enter day two of a strike on Monday.
Members of CWA Local 1123 are being told to report to their workplaces at 6:30AM Monday to get assignments from the union. Early morning rallies are planned to start the week with a strong presence.
The strike spans the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. About 1,000 workers in Central New York are affected. Negotiations started more than a month ago. Health care contributions, pension benefits, and job security were major issues that couldn't be resolved. For years, the unions representing Verizon workers, IBEW and CWA, have been pushing to keep limits on the number of jobs that can be moved out of New York. They fought the same battle three years ago, when the previous contract expired.
"The language is written, as they proposed, so ambiguously that they could send all that work that's out at Thompson Road, out in Dewitt, they could send it to Tijuana or they could send it to India and the Philippines, because they already do it now," said CWA Local 1123 Executive Vice President Christopher Ryan.
A company spokesperson says flexibility is required to be competitive in a tight economy and keep call center customers satisfied.
"We would like the flexibility if one center is bustling and can't handle the number of calls that might be coming in and another center might be idle," said Verizon spokesperson John Bonomo. "It would be good for us and for our customers to send those overflow calls to the other center."
Union workers could be looking at a minimum monthly contribution of $100 toward healthcare premiums. New employees would not participate in the pension plan, relying instead on a revamped 401k option. A company spokesperson said the changes would be consistent with plans that 135,000 other Verizon employees live with. The union sees the changes as unnecessary at a time when the company is building revenues.
"All we're saying is reinvest in the people who made you that money," said Ryan. "Reinvest in the American worker. It's corporate greed at its worst."
Bonomo says the company has invested $1-Billion every year, over the past decade, building a telecommunications infrastructure in New York State.
"We spend $4-Billion a year in healthcare costs for our employees, our retirees, and their families," said Bonomo. "That works out to about $400,000 an hour that we spend."
Verizon has trained managers and retirees to help cover the workload during the strike. They say customers won't be affected. Union workers insist that promise is impossible to keep with more than 40,000 employees off the job.