Verizon is back at the bargaining table with unions representing about 40,000 striking workers, but the strikers still want to keep up the heat on the company.
While picketers continued targeting Verizon wireless stores from Massachusetts to Virginia, the region where most of the strikers worked, the unions are seeking support from area politicians as well. On Monday, the Syracuse, N.Y. city council voted in favor of a resolution siding with the strikers and condemning Verizon for a “campaign to destroy good jobs.”
“It’s great to get that support from our public officials to see that they’re standing behind us for good middle class jobs and against the corporate greed of Verizon,” Nikki Tonas, a 19-year Verizon employee who works as a fiber network technician and union rep, said after the vote.
The Syracuse resolution, which did not include a pledge to stop doing business with Verizon, marks the 16th municipal vote in favor of the strikers across the region. Other cities passing measures backing the strikers included Braintree, Cambridge, and Boston in Massachusetts; and the towns of Babylon and New Paltz in New York.
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The telecommunications giant did not address the Syracuse and other votes directly, but disputed the criticisms in the resolutions. “Verizon is proud to offer more than 36,000 employees impacted by this strike with great careers that offer excellent wages, high quality healthcare and retirement benefits and so much more,” a company spokesman said. “Our company is continually lauded as a great place to work, and that’s why more than 16,000 employees started new careers with Verizon in 2015, including more than 1,000 U.S. veterans.” He declined to comment on the ongoing talks.
The unions said they would continue to pursue additional resolutions backing the strike from more cities and towns. “There are still 40,000 people out there fighting for their jobs,” a spokesman for the unions said on Monday, explaining the continuing activity. He also declined to comment about the ongoing talks.
Amid the protests, there is increasing evidence that the strike may be hurting Verizon’s finances. On Friday, CFO Fran Shammo revealed that the company would have a significant decline in net new orders for its FiOS service in the second quarter, as replacement workers have had to focus on serving and making repairs for existing clients.
Also on Friday, Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said her checks of the company’s wireless business found increased customer switching to rivals amid fewer discount and promotional offers. Based on the new order decline, she also cut her revenue estimate for Verizon’s wireline telephone, cable TV, and Internet business in 2016 by $826 million.
Shares of Verizon, which had been among the top performing stocks of the year before the strike, have lost 5% in value since the walkout began. The shares (VZ) were down 1% to $49.20 in afternoon trading on Friday.
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The company and representatives for the two unions involved, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have been talking steadily for almost a week, since Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez intervened and called the two sides back together with a federal mediator. Both sides have agreed not to comment about the current negotiations.
The strike started April 13, when workers who mainly service and install Verizon’s traditional telephone and newer FiOS cable TV and Internet service walked off the job. The conflict was escalating quickly, leading up to an armed confrontation in the Philippines where U.S. strikers had gone to meet with call center workers, before Perez stepped in.
The workers say they say they cannot accept Verizon proposals that would allow additional outsourcing of call center workers to the Philippines and Mexico, greater use of nonunion contract installers, and the assignment of union employees to other cities for up to two months at a time.
Verizon says it has offered a 7.5% wage hike for the new contract over the next few years but also needs such new work rules to gain greater flexibility and lower costs as its telephone business shrinks and its wireless business becomes ever more important.