A Democratic politician in New Jersey is urging the government to mediate the labor dispute between Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and thousands of striking workers who walked off the job almost three weeks ago.
About 45,000 workers, primarily from Verizon’s landline segment, have been on strike since August 7 to protest about $1-billion in concessions that the company is demanding from the unions, including radical changes in the health care benefits.
Unions tend to support Democratic politicians with handsome contributions.
There are an estimated 7,000 Verizon workers on strike in the Garden State.
State Senator Barbara Buono, of Middlesex, has asked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to intervene the stand-off in order to help maintain desperately needed jobs in the state.
With New Jersey's unemployment rate already above the national average, there is extra urgency to protecting middle-class jobs, which are the backbone of our state's economy, Buono wrote in her letter to Christie.
A prolonged strike will mean reduced tax revenues for the state, increased strain on the public safety net, and less stability in an already shaky housing market.
She also pointed to the potential disaster awaiting New Jersey’s overburdened health sector in the event the strike is prolonged.
“I am particularly dismayed to learn that Verizon is threatening to suspend the health and medical benefits for all striking workers,” she wrote.
“Regardless of your position on the merits of the larger dispute, clearly this measure will cost the state a great deal of money. Verizon employees and their families will have no choice but to use emergency room services to replace primary care, which will stretch our already depleted charity-care budget to the breaking point; or, they will apply for taxpayer-funded assistance programs. In other words, taxpayers will be compelled to subsidize Verizon's hard-knuckle negotiating tactics. It is imperative that you walk Verizon back from a position that is both cruel and costly, and which threatens the budgets of New Jersey's hospitals.”