Tens of thousands of Verizon workers walked off the job Wednesday in hopes of pressuring the telecom company to strike a better bargain with union leaders.
The strike — which is said to be one of the largest in Verizon's history — could interrupt service for countless customers ranging from Massachusetts to Virginia who subscribe to Verizon's wired services, including telephone and FiOS Internet, although Verizon has said it has trained thousands of temporary replacements to weather the coming storm.
"We are very prepared," said Verizon chief administrative officer Marc Reed. "Out of the last four contract cycles, 50 percent of the time we've had a work stoppage. Some have been long, some have been short."
It is unclear how long this latest disruption will last. But workers' contract negotiations with Verizon have been stalled for months over the outsourcing of customer service to foreign countries, resulting in the loss of jobs domestically, and the rising expectation that workers must temporarily relocate in order to service distant parts of Verizon's network.
"Through our hard work, Verizon is making record profits while our families are left with threats to our jobs and our customers aren’t getting the service they need," said Isaac Collazo, a Verizon employee and member of the Communications Workers of America, the union representing the workers.
The strike, which officially began at 6 a.m., comes a day after Verizon announced it will be expanding its high-speed FiOS broadband footprint in Boston. But the company has come under fire for not living up to its build-out obligations in places such as New York City — a problem, the CWA said, that stems from layoffs that reduced the number of personnel who could install Verizon's fiber. The state's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, has called for investigations into Verizon and its performance.
Verizon said Tuesday that outdated contract provisions effectively prevent the company from adapting to new technology.
"We've advanced now to where we have digital broadband networks," said Reed, "and as a result of that, the work has definitely changed."