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News : Verizon Workers in Lehigh Valley Plan to Strike Wednesday
Lehigh Valley & Berks County, PA, USA, April 11, 2016 -- Union workers at Verizon, including about 500 employees in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County, set a strike deadline Monday after months of failing to reach a new labor contract with the telecom giant.
A news release from the unions said nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia will walk off their jobs beginning 6 a.m. Wednesday if no deal is reached. The current contract expired Aug. 1, and negotiations began in June, the unions said.
The union workers, represented by Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, staff Verizon facilities in Pennsylvania, eight other states and the District of Columbia. They work in the company's wireline business, which provides fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service.
The dispute revolves around retirement benefits, health care costs and outsourcing of call center jobs. Union workers say they have agreed to compromises in their health care costs.
In a news release, the company said Monday it is "fully prepared" to serve customers if a strike erupts.
"We do not take strike threats lightly," said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon's wireline network operations. "For more than a year, we've been preparing in the event union leaders order our employees to walk off the job. If a strike takes place, whether it's one day, two weeks or longer, we are ready."
Verizon also said it approached the negotiations with a goal of preserving good jobs while also making critical changes needed to "legacy contracts." The affected employees have a current wage and benefit package that averages more than $130,000 a year, the company said.
But workers and union officials said — during an informational picket in August outside a Verizon call center in Upper Macungie Township — Verizon is looking to close nearly all of its Pennsylvania call centers. Verizon's unionized workforce had fallen from 85,000 in 2000 to 45,000 by last summer.
Verizon workers also went on strike in 2000 and 2011, but this potential walkout would be the first since the company purchased AOL and gained full control of Verizon Wireless, according to the unions. The strike in August 2011 lasted about two weeks before workers returned to their jobs under the old contract. The unions and company reached labor peace in 2012.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2016