The saga of the Verizon workers' strike has reached a bitter milestone with the company threatening to cut off all health and medical benefits.
August 31 is the deadline that Verizon set down in the text of a letter that the company sent to 45,000 striking workers in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Any workers who remain on strike after this date will have their insurance benefits suspended.
The threat is particularly keen because the initial August 7 walkout, on the day of the previous contract's expiration, resulted from an impasse over management's proposed benefit reductions -- in addition to freezing pension, getting employees to contribute more toward insurance premiums per month, and a loosening of the union restrictions on terminating employees. Verizon's position is that the cuts are necessary due to a loss of sales revenue from the landline segment of the telecommunications corporation.
The striking workers have so far been had their pay and some other benefits (including pension and "some" disability) suspended. The CWA (Communications Workers of America) and IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) will be able to offer the strikers a small disbursement if the strike continues into next week, but has no capacity to offer insurance benefits.
The strike became extra bitter last week, as Verizon sought a legal injunction against the picket lines over "acts of sabotage, harassment, and blocked access to its facilities," according to Roger Cheng of CNET. The company alleges "more than 70 incidents of sabotage, including cut fiber-optic lines, incidents of harassment of management sent to fill in, and vandalism."
Verizon's legacy wireline operations are a separate unit from Verizon wireless, which is unaffected by the strikes as well as highly profitable for the overall company. The unions argue that the necessity of such drastic cost savings has therefore been misrepresented.
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