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Verizon workers go on strike over benefit cuts in northeast US
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Apr 13, 2016, 02:38 PM
Some 40,000 Verizon workers walked off the job in the northeastern part of the US on Wednesday in one of the largest strikes in recent memory following the stalling of contract talks between the telecommunications provider and two of its unions, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represent mostly network technicians and customer service representatives. The unions have worked without a contract since August on the company's wireline services; cellular and wireless communications are not affected by the action.

Workers are upset over the lack of a contract, and planned cuts to healthcare and pension benefits. The unions are also fighting the offshoring of call-center jobs, and "temporary" relocations of workers. "They even want us to move to different states," said Anita Long, a 59-year-old technician assistant who has worked for Verizon for the past 37 years. "That's unfair ... how do we take care of our families? How do you make a billion dollars in one month and tell me you can't give me a decent wage?" she asked.

The company has a history of dragging out contract negotiations, and cutting benefits while reporting high profits. Verizon said it has trained 10,000 replacement workers in an effort to ensure that there are no disruption of services. The wireline unit, which has not been the company's focus in recent years, generates 29 percent of Verizon's income on less than seven percent of operating income, but the unit has seen a dramatic decline over the past 16 years as customers increasingly shift to cellular and mobile devices.

Verizon recently spent $4.4 billion to purchase AOL, and has been expanding its efforts in mobile advertising and video. The company is doing its first fiber expansion in recent years to Boston, but reported a loss of $2.2 billion in Q4 2015, largely based on healthcare and pension costs. As was the case in 2011 during the last contract negotiations, Verizon said it has been contacted by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help resolve the dispute. In the 2011 dispute, which also led to a strike, the FMCS was able to resolve the matter in two weeks, following months of impasse.

Union representatives said that they had not reached out to the FMCS, and instead urged Verizon to return to the negotiating table. ""We don't want to go to Washington" said the CWA's Bob Masters. "What is needed is for the company to sit down and address our concerns." Both of the two Democratic candidates for President, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed support for the unions and workers in the Verizon dispute, prompting Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam to remark that "big companies are an easy target for candidates looking for convenient villains for the economic distress felt by many of our citizens."

McAdam denied that the company is planning mass layoffs or large-scale shipping of jobs overseas. Verizon has, however, outlined plans to cut healthcare and pension contributions over the next three years.
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Apr 13, 2016, 02:49 PM
The strike is also about stalled Fios expansion since 2010 (Boston excepted) and Verizon's neglect of their copper-based network. Reduced maintenance on the copper network, including where Fios isn't offered, has produced a steady drop in telephone reliability.
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Apr 13, 2016, 05:14 PM
Slight edit: "The company has a history of dragging out contract negotiations, and cutting benefits while reporting high profits." should probably read "and cutting benefits so it can report high profits."

I also find the comment from the CEO about being an easy target pretty funny coming from either the second- or third-most-hated telecom company in the US--and as far as I can tell the only reason they managed to finish out of first place is that the competition for the bottom is so fierce. The winner, Comcast, is literally the most hated company in the country, and Time Warner Cable is battling hard to compete for the spot.

It says something in general that of the top 8 most hated companies in the country, 3 of them are cable companies.

Monopoly ain't just a board game.
Mike Wuerthele
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Apr 13, 2016, 05:18 PM
We were told by employees last summer that they thought a strike was inevitable. I wonder what took so long.
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