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After ten months trying to reach a fair contract, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia walked off the job at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. The Verizon strike is by far the largest work stoppage in the country in recent years.
Despite making record profits — $39 billion in profits over the last three years — Verizon executives have been pushing to offshore jobs to the Philippines, Mexico and other locations, outsource work to low-wage contractors and transfer workers away from their families for months at a time.
Verizon workers, who are ready to help install promised FiOS lines, the high-speed broadband service, are also frustrated with the company’s delay in providing the much needed service to customers. For years, Verizon has been cutting vital staff — it has nearly 40 percent fewer workers now than a decade ago — and has failed to hire the personnel necessary to properly roll out the service.
Watch Verizon Workers Explain Why They’re Going on Strike
In New York City and Philadelphia, Verizon has failed to meet the build-out obligations under their citywide cable franchise agreements. And Verizon has failed to build-out FiOS in Baltimore, western Massachusetts, virtually all upstate New York cities and many towns in Pennsylvania.
“Our families and our customers deserve more from Verizon,”said Isaac Collazo, a technician and CWA member from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has worked at Verizon for 19 years. “Through our hard work, Verizon is making record profits while our families are left with threats to our jobs and our customers aren’t getting the service they need. Striking is a hardship for our families, but we need to remind Verizon executives that the people who build their profits are a critical reason for the company’s success.
Verizon workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), have been working without a contract since August 1, 2015 while Verizon executives, who have brought home hundreds of millions dollars in the last few years, have been insisting on:
- Offshoring Good Jobs – Verizon has already contracted out work to more than 5,000 employees in the Philippines, Mexico, the Dominican Republican and other overseas locations. These offshore workers handle customer service calls originating in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. Verizon wants to increase the number of calls — and jobs — that are transferred overseas.
- Outsourcing Work to Low-Wage Contractors – Verizon is pushing to dramatically expand its outsourcing of work to low-wage non-union contractors. The company wants to sharply expand the amount of contracting out of outside line work, particularly vital work installing and maintaining telephone poles.
- Hanging Up on Wireless Workers – Verizon is also refusing to negotiate a fair first contract for Verizon Wireless retail workers who formed a union in 2014. Verizon says Wireless workers make the company huge profits, but it’s refusing to give them any improvements — even though they’re some of the lowest paid people at Verizon. Also, Verizon is failing to negotiate a fair contract for the 100 wireless technicians who maintain the network in downstate New York.
- Call-Center Closings – Despite the high-demand for customer service, hundreds of Verizon workers are at risk of losing their jobs or being forced to commute as much as three hours more each day because of the company’s plan to close and consolidate call centers. Working moms like Betsy Derr, a customer service representative in Bloomsburg, Pa., worry that their families and communities would be devastated by the move.
- Out of State Assignments – Verizon executives want wireline technicians to work away from home for as long as two months at a time, anywhere from Massachusetts to Virginia, without seeing their families. Working parents like Isaac Collazo, a cable splicer from New York, fear they will be forced to choose between caring for their kids and keeping their jobs.
As the workers have intensified their campaign to protect good jobs in America, public support for a fair contract has grown. Last month, 20 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam calling on him to “act as a responsible corporate citizen and negotiate a fair contract with the employees who make your company’s success possible.”
Verizon’s corporate greed isn’t just harming workers’ families, it’s hurting customers as well. Service quality has deteriorated to the point that New York State’s Public Service Commission has convened a formal hearing to investigate problems across the Empire State. In the last few weeks, regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have launched similar inquiries into Verizon’s operations.
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