Verizon employees went on strike this week in protest of the company’s proposed changes to its employee benefits. The company’s collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight on Saturday. By Sunday, Verizon was already alleging a dozen instances of sabotage, and illegal attempts by strikers to block managers from entering Verizon facilities.
According to a Verizon press release, the company endured:
- Ten incidents of fiber-optic lines being deliberately cut in the Bronx, Pomona, Farmingdale and Guilderland in New York; two separate incidents in Tewksbury in Massachusetts; incidents in Bel Air in Maryland, and East Dover, Oakland and Plainfield in New Jersey.
- An outage due to stolen electronic equipment in Cedar Grove, N.J., affecting a local police department, among other customers.
- An incident due to tampering with a heating system at a central office in Manhattan.
The Communications Workers of America union, the larger of the two groups conducting the strike, said that it did not condone any illegal actions.
On Tuesday, Verizon filed a lawsuit in Delaware court against local chapters of the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – the other union representing Verizon strikers. Verizon asked the judge “to issue injunctions to stop demonstrators from blocking entrances in Newark and Dover, shutting off power and using “crazy glue” to jam fence mechanisms and service-truck locks,” according to a report from Bloomberg News.
Verizon insisted that the company “has suffered serious disruption and curtailment of its business” resulting from illegal activities by strikers.
The strike, which involves 45,000 Verizon workers and managers, is a protest against proposed benefit changes that include employee contributions to health care plans (non-management employees currently pay nothing towards their health care premiums), cuts in disability benefits, and reductions in the numbers of paid holidays.
Union officials insist that changes to health care benefits could cost workers as much as $6,500 apiece annually. Verizon claims the changes will only require monthly as low as $100 payments from workers.
While there have been some reported incidents of illegality, this strike is thus far nowhere near as ugly as the 2000 one against Verizon, which saw a reported 455 incidents of vandalism, sabotage, and harassment of Verizon employees.