According to the Wall Street Journal .2% of Verizon Communications’ striking workforce, who are members of the Communications Workers of America Union, actually work for Verizon Wireless. The rest of the Verizon Wireless workforce is non-unionized. These remaining workers are left over from a merger 15 years ago that had these workers go to the wireless division while the rest went to the wireline business.
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Verizon Communications is shedding wireline customers daily as many people are converting to wireless only households, a pinch that’s been getting tighter over the past few years. On the other hand, as Dan Gutierrez, a CWA Local 1101 member told the Wall Street Journal:
“Verizon can’t tell us they’re losing customers, they can’t tell us they’re not one of the most profitable companies in America,” said Dan Gutierrez, a CWA Local 1101 member helping to lead negotiations on the wireless agreement. “I don’t see a reason why we can’t get a better contract.”
As Verizon Communications struggles with the reality that more people are going wireless, they are asking their unionized workforce to freeze their pension accrual, give no pension to new workers and contribute $100 per year to their health insurance premiums. The 70 Verizon Wireless workers that are still unionized already have these factors in their contract. The 70 unionized wireless employees have contracts very similar to the 84,000 non-unionized Verizon Wireless employees.
For the most part the Verizon Communications strike has been non-violent. A few instances have been reported where law enforcement was asked to intervene to allow non-unionized Verizon Communications employees access to work yards, offices and equipment. The talks have apparently been going on since June.
All 70 unionized employees of Verizon Wireless are based in New York. Gutierrez has said that Verizon Wireless has hired freelancers to take up the slack of the 70 striking unionized workers. However he points out that this may be a tough assignment because all of those workers are coming from out of town and may not know the location of cell sites, or use the same equipment used in New York. Verizon Wireless spokesperson Thomas Pica disputed those claims telling PC Magazine “We are using trained VZW personnel from elsewhere in the New York area,”