Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam took off his tie on Thursday and headed out to the picket lines where thousands of his own employees are on strike.
McAdam obviously wasn’t joining the strikers’ cause, but he wanted to talk to the workers first hand about the labor standoff—and pose for a few pictures.
At a picket line outside a Verizon (VZ) network facility and garage on West 47th Street in Manhattan, McAdam engaged strikers in a discussion of the company’s offer versus the positions of their unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Verizon then tweeted a picture of the encounter.
“Lowell spent the day doing a lot of listening,” says a Verizon spokesperson. “Among the items brought up for discussion (were) our offer on the table (and) the need to bring in non-union employees in order to serve our customers.” They also discussed Bernie Sanders’ criticism of the company, the spokesman adds.
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With some 40,000 workers off the job from Massachusetts to Virginia, McAdam also surveyed efforts for filling in for the striking workers, who mainly install and service traditional, wired telephone lines as well as the company’s newer fiber-optic FiOS service.
The CWA dismissed McAdam’s appearance in a statement to Fortune. “Verizon workers have been waiting more than 10 months for Lowell McAdam to listen to their needs,” a union spokesman said. “A photo opportunity for the CEO is not what workers or customers need. CWA and IBEW are ready and eager to get back to the bargaining table if Verizon executives are ready to get serious about negotiations. Until then, Verizon workers are sticking together and standing up for their families and to protect all middle class jobs against excess corporate greed.”
Verizon employees launched the strike on Wednesday after working without a contract since the beginning of August. The two unions said the strike was prompted by Verizon proposals, which included being able to transfer employees to another city for up to two months, outsourcing more work to non-union contractors, and closing down U.S.-based call centers that could be moved to Mexico or the Philippines.
The walk out is the largest strike in the country since a similar job action by 45,000 Verizon employees in August 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That walkout lasted only 10 days, but the two sides needed another year to finally reach a deal on a new contract.
(This story was updated with a statement from the unions.)