Strike threats loom for Verizon

More than 100 Verizon employees rallied outside their workplace today on Thompson Road in DeWitt. Why? Their current contract is due to expire Saturday Aug. 2 at midnight, and negotiations so far are nil.

"We're here to informational picket," said Chris Ryan, executive vice president, CWA Local 1123. "Every indication that we have is pointing to the fact that if we do not have a contract, we will be on strike."

Major areas of concern for workers include Verizon's demand for increased cost in healthcare coverage, elimination of healthcare coverage for retirees after Jan. 1 2009 and complete exclusion of retiree healthcare coverage for new hires. Additionally, Ryan said, the unionized workforce is shrinking due to subcontracting and outsourcing of jobs, including those lost to overseas opportunities. According to Ryan, more than 13,000 jobs have been lost since 2003 due to those reasons listed above.

"We have to tell the company that they need to partner with us and include us instead of trying to block us out and doing away with a unionized workforce," Ryan said.

Employee strikes have long been a part of Verizon's history with its lengthiest one in 1971. It lasted seven months, Ryan said, and involved union recognition. So how might the company resolve this one -- and fast -- should it come to that point?

"As to resolution, we'd like to negotiate fair contracts that would continue a tradition of providing Verizon Telecom union-represented employees leading benefits and wages," said Alberto Canal, director, media relations. "We continue to negotiate in good faith."

On the flip side, Ryan said that while the Communications Workers of America are doing what they can at the bargaining table, the company so far has been unresponsive to their requests.

Employees geared for striking install lines, work in technical support and customer service.

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