Verizon Communications (VZ.N) won court injunctions in three states to prevent strikers from blocking facilities and it was seeking similar legal protection in two more states on the fifth day of a strike involving almost half the workers in its wireline business.
Two unions representing 45,000 workers had called a strike Sunday after a labor contract expired and several weeks of talks for a new contract failed.
By Thursday afternoon Verizon said it had been granted injunctions in New York and Delaware as well as Pennsylvania after it accused picketers of illegally blocking garages and work entrances. It also went to court on Thursday to seek injunctions for Massachusetts and New Jersey.
The injunctions limit the number of people who can picket at each location and how close they can stand to building entrances to reduce the chances of them blocking managers from going into the buildings to cover for the strikers.
While both sides continue to hold talks, the strike turned into a nasty public fight almost immediately after it started.
Verizon complained about network sabotage and strikers blocking workers while the unions accused Verizon managers of injuring picketers with their work vehicles on day two.
But the company's move to secure injunctions so soon into the strike could mean it is expecting the strike to drag on for some time, according to one lawyer who has helped companies with labor negotiations in the past.
"If they thought it was going to be over soon (or) if it wasn't putting economic pressure on them, why go for the injunction?" said John Hancock a Detroit-based lawyer for Butzel Long. "I think they're preparing for the long term and it may be having some impact on them."
The Communications Workers of America, which represents about 35,000 of the strikers, said the injunctions would not make much difference to their ability to picket effectively.
"We will continue to be able to conduct a militant strike," said CWA spokesman Robert Master.
Meanwhile, at least one rival Towerstream Corp (TWER.O), a small wireless broadband provider, is hoping to take advantage of Verizon's woes. It put out a statement on Thursday offering to waive certain fees for Verizon business customers looking to switch to its service to avoid installation delays.