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45,000 Verizon employees strike at midnight

Philadelphia and New York:

After talks stalled the  Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have decided to walk out.  In the past they held NYNEX, the New England and New York company now called Verizon at bay for four months in an effort to avoid healthcare cost shifting.  In the past they have held  strikes in 1983, 1986, 1989, 1998, 2000, and 2004;

In 2003, in response to management plans to replace nearly 75,000 workers, the CWA and IBEW decided not to strike.  In the following 8 years the numbers of regional union employees has dropped from 75,000 to 45,000 due to outsourcing, job eliminations, buyouts, and attrition.  Verizon is attempting to force unionized employees to pay premium payments for individual and family coverage, which the CWA and IBEW won during the 1989 strike.

In addition to forcing members to pay between $1,300 to $3,000 a year for family coverage, Verizon is also planning on freezing existing group pensions and instead offering a 401(k) plan instead.  Sick days will be limited to only five per year, raises will be based on performance reviews, and customer service reps will be switched over to commission pay.  It is rumored that Verizon is also planning on taking away Veterans’ Day and Martin Luther King Day as paid vacations.

Verizon’s workforce now consists of 135,000 nonunion employees – and unionized workforce makes up less than 30 percent of the total workforce.  Although Verizon says that the cuts are due to the steady and continuing decline of its wireline business and is doing this in an attempt to “strengthen the unit”.  Verizon has the ability to continue with very limited disruption in service, or no disruption at all.  “Tens of thousands of Verizon managers and other personnel have been trained to step in and perform emergency work assignments,” Spokesperson Rich Young said.

Verizon is certainly not in a stressful financial situation, reporting $10.2 billion in profits in 2010 and $6.9 billion in net income for the first half of this year. Over the past four years, Verizon earned nearly $20 billion for its shareholders and the top five executives managed to pay themselves a very generous $258 million spent on salaries, bonuses and stock options.

sources: InTheseTimes, CWA, IBEW Local