As the Verizon strike of 45,000 landline employees reached its ninth day on Monday, there are few signs of progress in negotiations while the two sides continue to stand far apart on many issues.
The battle between Verizon and the striking union workers has publicly centered on the company's plan to require employees to pay for health care (currently it's free), but the union claims it's about much more than that. According to members of Communication Workers of America Local 1101 of New York, the strike is about the future of their jobs with Verizon.
"It's a bad perception," Robert Richards, a field technician for Verizon said, referring to notions the strike is mostly about health care. "Verizon gave us a list of 100 givebacks. If it was just about health care we'd still be working and bargaining in good faith."
According to a flyer distributed in front of a Verizon Wireless store in Lower Manhattan, Verizon wants to freeze pensions, cut paid holidays, and continue to export jobs to foreign companies.
"It's not about getting raises; it's about keeping what we have," said Richie Brown, a chief steward for local 1101. "Verizon is a healthy company that is performing well in a bad economy."
Verizon has pushed for union concessions because of a continuing drop in its landline division's profitability; but the overall company recently had one of its best earnings period since 2008.
The local CWA group had about 10 people picketing in front of the store -- the most that they are allowed after the telecommunications company filed successful injunctions in New York. The injunction might have limited the amount of people, but picketers tried to compensate by using whistles to make as much noise as possible.
"Every day we have people asking us to stop blowing whistles so they can do their work," Brown, the chief steward, said. "But if we ask nicely no one will care. If we are quiet no one will care."
Earlier on Monday, the President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers came out against union workers crossing the picket line. Along with the CWA, the IBEW represents the majority of the striking workers.
Edwin Hill, the union's president, said he had heard reports of union workers crossing the line to return back to work and wanted to make it clear that wasn't allowed.
"I am using the full authority of the office of International President to put an end to our members undermining the struggle of others in our union and in the CWA," Hill said in a statement.
But Chief Steward Brown doesn't foresee any of his fellow union workers crossing the line.
"I'll get two more jobs to feed my family but I'm not going to sell my soul out to Verizon or anyone else," he said. "I'd imagine many of my brothers and sisters feel the same way. I don't think anyone would do that."