A top union official said the strike against Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is "about our survival."

Ed Fitzpatrick, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union Local 2222 in Massachusetts told the Boston Herald newspaper: “This [strike] is about our survival. This is not a strike over benefits. It’s a strike over Verizon’s attempts to eliminate job security, sick benefits, limits on low-wage contractors, freezing pensions and union busting.”

Speaking from his office in Dorchester's Lower Mills, Mass., Fitzpatrick, 68, said he has been on the picket line four times since he started working for the phone company in 1960.

In 1989, he was part of the union leadership that conducted a 17-week strike againt New England Telephone Co., a predecessor of Verizon.

The current strike is now entering its second week. The unions refuse to accept some $1 billion in concessions demanded by  management, suggesting the work stoppage might be a lengthy one.

Virtually all strikers are from the company’s struggling wireline division.

Verizon officials have accused striking workers of acts of vandalism on phone equipment and harassment of managers who try to cross the picket line.

Fitzpatrick said he repudiates such behavior and he denies the strike is merely about health care benefits (the company pays 100 percent of health care of its unionized wireline employees).

“We are willing to pay for a portion of our health care like everyone else,” Fitzpatrick told the Herald. “But our members are terrified, and if we accept the contract they offered we will not exist in two years.”