Verizon workers across the East Coast marched in picket lines on Wednesday in the largest U.S. strike in recent memory to protest the "corporate greed" of the multinational communications behemoth.
Verizon has failed to negotiate a fair contract with its employees despite making billions in monthly profits and multiple concessions on the part of union members. Verizon employees' contract expired eight months ago and talks over a new contract, which have gone on for ten months, broke off last week.
About 40,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBW) unions are joining in the strike.
"We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed," said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor in a press statement.
"If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers," Trainor said, "then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom."
Furthermore, the multinational corporation "is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014."
CWA also detailed the "devastating cuts" Verizon is attempting to force on workers, "even after significant worker concessions on healthcare." The desired cutbacks include offshoring jobs to countries with low wages, cutting job security, sending technicians on jobs away from home for as long as two months, freezing pensions, slashing benefits, and refusing to negotiate improvements to wages and working conditions.
The unions argue that "Verizon is making these demands despite having made $39 billion in profits over the last three years—and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016," as Common Dreams reported.
"Verizon's corporate greed isn't just harming workers' families," CWA states, "it's hurting customers as well. Service quality has deteriorated to the point that New York State’s Public Service Commission has convened a formal hearing to investigate problems across the Empire State. In the last few weeks, regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have launched similar inquiries into Verizon's operations."
— CWA District 1 (@CWADistrict1) April 13, 2016
Members of National Nurses United joined a Verizon picket line in Scranton, Pa., and expressed their solidarity with the workers' demands. Net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future also announced its solidarity with the striking workers.
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has lent vocal support to CWA, who endorsed the Vermont senator for president over rival Hillary Clinton back in December. Sanders met with CWA workers preparing to strike on Monday.
In a speech in Rochester, N.Y., on Tuesday morning, Sanders told the crowd that the communications giant's employees "are going on strike because they refuse to be beat down by a greedy corporation who could care less about them or the people of this country."
Sanders went on to lambaste what he described as Verizon's tax evasion and poor labor practices to a cheering crowd:
All they want is more and more profit, and it doesn't matter what happens to their employees or people in America. This is what they want to do: they want to cut benefits for their employees, they want to throw American workers out on the street, and move their calling centers to low wage countries around the world. They are not investing in inner cities in America, where people today do not have quality broadband. And they've got their lawyers and tax accountants working overtime so that in a given year, despite making billions of dollars in profit, they pay nothing, not a nickel, in federal taxes.
Sanders reiterated his support for the workers' demands in a speech on the picket line on Wednesday.
CWA members spoke about their reasons for striking in a video released by the union on Tuesday. "Corporate greed is them constantly getting raises as executives, growing profits, yet crying poor," said a call center employee in Delaware. "I'm worth a good contract. My kids are worth a good contract."
"A good contract would mean a lot to us, because we've fought long and hard," said a retail store employee from Brooklyn. "I truly believe this is something we deserve."