Verizon employees still on strike; health benefits run out Saturday

(WDBJ)
Published: Apr. 29, 2016 at 5:36 PM EDT
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Friday is day 17 for the Verizon strike that has sent more than 35,000 union employees out the door and onto the picket lines.

Verizon presented the union with what it says is its best and final offer Thursday.

All over the East Coast and right here in Southwest Virginia, Verizon Union Employees on strike say they are not letting up.

"We are not going back until we get a fair contract,” said Chuck Simpson, CWA Local Union 2204 President.

About 35,000 Verizon East Coast Wireline Workers walked off the job two weeks ago after working without a contract for around nine months.

Their healthcare coverage ends Saturday and the money they earn walking the line is less than half of what they earn doing their job.

"We've developed a strike fund so they actually pay a little extra in their paycheck and that money goes into a defense fund that we hold onto,” Simpson said.

Verizon presented union leadership with a new offer Thursday, saying a better one would be quote "hard to find."

The deal includes a 7.5 percent wage increase and healthcare coverage among others.

"Take it we don't want it, we're going to be on strike, we're going to stay on strike, do what we need to do to give our bargaining committee the power and the authority to stay at that table and get us a fair contract,” Simpson said.

Union leadership rejected the deal and wants better healthcare options, retiree benefits, and less outsourcing of jobs. It's also upset because it says Verizon sent a copy of its proposal to every one of the more than 35,000 employees.

Verizon says the union demands are in line with the telecom industry of 20 years ago and not realistic for today.

It has non-union workers at the ready, and says customers should continue to expect no disruptions.

"We've been at this since the 22nd of June last year, the bargaining has not been fair. They put their proposal out, they've changed their proposal, they've not talked about anything we've put on the table, so we're here to stay we're not going away,” Simpson said.