Striking workers picket Verizon sites in Delaware

Hundreds of Verizon workers in Delaware are off the job after talks on a new contract broke down. 

Members of Communications Workers of America Local 13101 took to picket lines at several locations in Delaware, including 9th and Tatnall Streets in downtown Wilmington. 

“It’s all about trying to keep what we worked for over 50 years, that the company wants to gut,” said CWA Local 13101 Executive President James Hummel.  He said the union represents 400 to 500 striking workers, and that retirees are joining strikers on some of the picket lines.

Hummel and other union leaderss contend Verizon has remained very profitable despite its statements that the loss of land-line business is hurting the company’s bottom line.

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Verizon Spokesman Rich Young said the company spends $4-billion a year on health care for employees and retiress, and the cost rises 8-to-10-percent annually.  However, the unionized workers in what’s known as the wireline division pay nothing toward their health care.

“That’s virtually unheard of today,” Young said.

Members of the striking unions perform various tasks, including installing new dial tones and FiOS services, responding to calls for technical assistance and maintaining the fleet of vehicles. 

The strike began over the weekend and involves about 45,000 workers.  The impasse is  over health care and pension concessions being sought from the unions by Verizon.  Company Executive Vice President of Human Resources Marc Reed said in a statement that it was “regrettable that the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have decided to walk away from the table instead of continuing to work through the issues.”

“It is also our intent that under a new contract, Verizon employees will continue to receive competitive pay and benefits programs,” Reed added.

Verizon also said it has trained tens of thousands of management employees, retirees and others to fill in and perform the duties of the striking workers. 

Hummel, meanwhile, said he hopes for a quick conclusion to the walkout.

“We care about our customers, and our members want to get back to work,” Hummel said.  “No one wants a strike.  We just want to move forward with the company and not be left out.”

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