Verizon workers hit the picket lines in Utica

By WKTV News

UTICA, NY (WKTV) Verizon employees hit the picket lines early Sunday morning all across the country, including here in Utica. This, just hours after the company and the union that represents most Verizon worker, Communication Workers of America, or C.W.A., could not reach a deal by the midnight Saturday deadline.

A few dozen workers are walking a path along Genesee Street in Utica in front of Verizon's Utica offices across from the Stanley Performing Arts Center.

CWA Local 1126 President Michael Garry says the strike effects 35,000 workers nationwide, about 300 of those workers are here in Central New York.

Garry says the company is not being fair to the workers that got the company to the financial position its in, which he calls, a good one, "they're trying to take advantage of hard economic times is what our feeling is, you maybe would be able to see that, but it's not hard economic times for Verizon. Verizon is very profitable, both wireline and wireless line. They've made over the past four and a half years, over 22 and half billion."

Verizon is asking for concessions from workers in regards to health care, pensions and work rules. Garry says the union is not asking for much, but he says the company won't budge on any of its approximately 100 contested issues in the proposed new three year contract, "all we really want is what we've got. We're not looking for giant wage increases, we're not looking for anything other than what's always been there over the past three years."

Verizon says it has activated a contingency plan to provide customers with "limited disruption in service" during the strike.

When asked to respond to some people's view across the country that workers in this day and age ought to feel lucky to just have a job period, Garry answered, "this is actually about those jobs. We feel Verizon is not being a good corporate citizen. Yes we are very happy to have these jobs, and we are actually taking a stand for those middle class jobs."

Garry says he and other union leaders throughout the country look forward to the two sides getting back to the bargaining table with corporate leaders as soon as possible.

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