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More than 100 Verizon workers gather at labor offices for pep rally

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - More than 100 striking local Verizon workers gathered at labor offices behind Genesee Street in downtown Utica Thursday morning for a pep rally.

The workers have been without paychecks since stepping out on the picket line August 7. They heard from the president of their Local 1126 today. Michael Garry says the striking workers are only asking for the status-quo in terms of benefits, and a small wage increase. The company, he is confident, can handle their requests.

"It's about a delicate economy. It's about in a delicate economy has made and still continues to make tons of money and the fact that they're trying to gather more money on the backs of the union workers claiming that the wire line is declining when in fact it's not," says Garry.

Verizon spokesperson John Bonomo says he won't apologize for the company's profitability, but points out that they also have monumental expenses, including a $23 billion FIOS rollout. Bonomo says the union workers currently don't contribute to their health care benefits, and that most in the workforce do contribute something.

The striking Local 1126 workers have a $350 million strike/benefits fund they say will allow them to continue to maintain their stand for what they believe in. They've walked the picket line before, for 17 weeks in 1989; three days in 1998; two and a half weeks in 2000 and 219 days in 1971.

Negotiations are moving along, but slowly, prompting both sides go to the National Labor Relations Board and accuse the other of unfair labor practice.

Negotiations are taking place in Rye, NY and Philadelphia.

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