How long will Verizon strike go on?

Union workers vow to continue strike until company begins 'bargaining seriously'

The contract negotiations have ended, and now the P.R. battle begins.

About 45,000 Verizon Communications workers went on strike Sunday after their contracts expired and negotiations failed to produce a new agreement.

Employees represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers picketed throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic on Monday.

The striking employees represent almost 25% of Verizon's total workforce. Since the striking employees work in Verizon's landline unit, mobile service should be unaffected. However, some customers may see delays or cancellations for landline phone and Internet installations, while call centers also may be understaffed, leading to longer waiting periods.

The main sticking points involve health benefits. The unions oppose Verizon proposals to cut sickness disability benefits and reduce paid sick days for all workers, even eliminating any paid sick days for workers who have been with the company for less than two years. (Sorry, Verizon, that last one is entirely unreasonable.)

Verizon also wants to freeze worker pensions, force employees to pay more for health coverage, and reduce paid holidays.

For its part, Verizon argues that it needs to cut costs in its landline division, which is losing business as consumers increasingly move toward wireless phones.

In a statement Sunday, new Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said, "We have arrived at the point where we must make additional hard decisions to address customer needs and the overall operating costs of the business."

But the two unions argue that Verizon is doing well financially and can afford to pay the benefits sought by workers. In the second quarter, Verizon reported operating income of $4.9 billion, more than 10 times the operating income for the year-ago quarter, and net profit of $3.6 billion, up from $553 million a year earlier.

However, Q2 revenue for the landline unit was $10.2 billion, down slightly from a year ago. Meanwhile, wireless revenue gained 10% from the year-ago quarter to $17.3 billion.

In a statement Sunday, the CWA said, "Since bargaining began on June 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. ... CWA and IBEW members are prepared to return to work when management demonstrates the willingness to begin bargaining seriously for a fair agreement. If not, CWA and IBEW members and allies will continue the fight."

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