After around 36,000 Verizon workers went on strike Wednesday morning, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took a stand on the issue.
The workers, represented by labor unions Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), walked off the job at 6 a.m. this morning. The action is the largest by workers since 2011. The unions and Verizon failed to come to an agreement while negotiating the workers’ contracts for the last several months.
Hillary Clinton issued a statement which said she was “disappointed to learn that negotiations [had] broken down between Verizon and their workers…”
“Verizon should come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers,” said Clinton. “To preserve and grow America’s middle class, we need to protect good wages and benefits, including retirement security.”
She calls out Verizon for outsourcing jobs and said she believes in the power of collective bargaining.
“If elected President, I will do everything in my power to protect workers, protect unions, and give businesses the incentives and support to keep jobs here,” she said. “I will also fight for an America where workers do not have to go on strike to have health care, secure jobs and pensions."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the picket line in New York City, thanking workers for fighting “corporate greed.”
“Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country, but they refuse to sit down and negotiate a fair contract,” Sanders said. “They want to take away the health benefits that you have earned. They want to outsource decent-paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year. They want to avoid paying federal income taxes. In other words, this is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans.”
Negotiations broke down between Verizon and the unions as the workers did not budge on pension cuts as well as the moving of jobs overseas and transfer of workers. The mostly wireline technicians, that work on traditional phone lines and Verizon’s Fiber Optic network, have not had a contract since August 2015.
The CWA claims that Verizon has moved 5,000 jobs overseas to places like Mexico and the Philippines. The demand that the company stop pushing “outsource work to low-wage contractors.”
In Philadelphia, workers protested in front of Verizon’s building at Ninth and Race streets. Protests were also planned in Ardmore and Aston as well as locations in New Jersey and Delaware.
In a statement, Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative office, called the strike “regrettable” and that the company had tried to work to reach an agreement with the unions. They said they agreed to work with federal agencies to mediate the dispute.
“The CWA president, Chris Shelton, claims that they have tried ‘everything’ to get a path to a contract, but their failure to agree to [Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service] mediation suggest otherwise,” he said.
The company's CEO, Lowell McAdam criticized Sanders for attacking Verizon and supporting the workers' strike calling the presidential candidate "uniformed" and his views "contemptible."
"Sen. Sanders speaks of a “moral economy” for America – one that respects and maintains the dignity inherent in good, middle-class jobs," said McAdam in a post on LinkedIn. "He seems to think that can only happen by ignoring the transformational forces reshaping the communications industry. But nostalgia for the rotary phone era won’t save American jobs, any more than ignoring the global forces reshaping the auto industry saved the Detroit auto makers.