Verizon Workers Hit Picket Lines From Mass. To Va.

BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Thousands of Verizon workers are on strike across the northeast over failed contract negotiations. Raising the question: Can you hear them now?

 Mary Bubala has more.

 Verizon employees on the picket line in Baltimore County join thousands of others across the country.

 In Philadelphia, workers take to the streets. Overnight in Boston, they walk the line in the rain. And in New York, they make some noise.

 Negotiations between their union and Verizon broke down over the weekend.

 “Verizon hasn’t budged one inch,” said one frustrated employee.

 The president of the Communication Workers of America Local 2101 tells WJZ that Verizon is demanding more than 100 concessions that would hurt its pensions and hike the cost of healthcare.

 “This fight is about all of the middle class,” said Bill Dulaney, CWA Local 2101 president. “It’s the biggest gap between the rich and the poor since 1929. We’re not going back there.”

 The strikers all work for the wire line division, which installs the fiber optic system and the land line service that’s shrinking every year as wireless use surges.

 “As our business changes we need to make some hard choices,” said John Bonomo, Verizon spokesman. “We do and the union making some hard choices about keeping this company a successful company.”

 Verizon says it’s been preparing for a possible strike for several months by training its manager employees, retirees and others to fill the rolls of the workers.

 But the company says there will be some delays in services and repairs, and the strike is creating other trouble.

 Baltimore County police arrested half a dozen strikers for disorderly conduct when a car was delayed, getting into the entrance off Old Court.

 The union knows the stakes are high with the two sides far apart. Employees cope with the heat on the picket line and at the bargaining table.

 The strike involves 45,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia. Employees have walked off the job before–in 1989 and in 2000. Both those strikes lasted a couple of weeks.

 The dispute does not affect the wireless division at Verizon.

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