NJ: How the Verizon strike will affect you
About 36,000 Verizon landline and cable union workers from New England to Virginia walked off the job Wednesday morning.
The company says the strike should have minimal impact on consumers — but union officials have said it will affect Verizon's ability to deliver consistent quality service, including making service calls.
Members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers called the strike after reaching an impasse over a variety of issues ranging from healthcare and pension costs for both current workers and retirees to work rules on layoffs, employees working away from home and use of contract workers.
Workers are scheduled to picket at Verizon facilities in Livingston, Newark and Robbinsville Wednesday morning as well as Manhattan and Philadelphia. CWA spokesman Seth Hahn said 5,500 employees in New Jersey are affected.
Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s wireline network operations, said in a statement the company had been preparing for the possibility of a strike since early 2015 and had brought in employees from around the country to help with operations during a walkout. Many issues can be handled online and remotely, making for a minimal impact on customers, Mudge said.
"If someone needs to talk to a representative live about an issue, teams of additional non-union Verizon employees will be deployed to handle customer needs," Mudge said.
A New York Times report notes the unions striking mostly represent workers for the wireline operations — which include landline, high-speed Internet and television services. Subscribers to Verizon's cell phone service shouldn't notice any changes.
"But judging from numbers alone, Verizon’s wireline customers can reasonably expect a deterioration in customer service quality," the Times wrote. "Even with preparation, the company said it has trained only upward of 10,000 employees to fill in for the nearly 36,000 workers who went on strike. In addition, many unionized workers who are striking have been doing this type of work for far longer than the one year that Verizon has trained nonunion workers to fill in."
It is unclear how long the strike could go on. The last Verizon strike, in 2011, ended after two weeks.
"No one ever wants to go on strike – it's always the last resort. But Verizon 's refusal to bargain in good faith with employees and its insistence on gutting job security, retirement security and outsourcing good American jobs overseas gives us no choice," IBEW President Lonnie R. Stephenson said in a statement.
Mudge said that Verizon was approached by the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service about mediation but did not hear back from union representatives. The CWA, however, said it did not authorize the FMCS to approach Verizon and has been ready and willing to negotiate.
“All day (Tuesday), CWA and IBEW bargaining teams have been available to meet, ready, able and willing to bargain. Where’s Verizon?” asked the CWA in a statement.