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Verizon workers on strike

WBFO's Marian Hetherly

Can you hear me now? Apparently not. Verizon workers are on strike this morning as contract talks remain at an impasse. Some 40,000 Verizon workers across the East Coast are off the job in protest of what unions say are contract concessions that would devastate working families.

Communications Workers of America local President James Wagner says a strike will be difficult for some 700 Verizon workers across Western New York. "It's not easy. There will be sacrifices and there will be hardship endured by our members and their families," Wagner says. "But at some point we need to take a stand. If not now, when?"

The union has been working without a contract since August of last year and Wagner says the unions must take a stand against the culture of "fear and intimidation" being perpetrated by management and new concessions they want.

"Compromised health care benefits, compromised pension, movement of union work to contractors, moving call center work overseas - all from a corporation that secures $1.8 billion a month in clear profit, whose top dog, Lowell McAdam, takes home $500,000 a week," says Wagner.

CWA local Executive Vice President John Mudie says he is not afraid of being replaced while on strike, even though the company has alluded to training 15,000 replacement workers.

"The company has been planning this for 15 months. They've been preparing," said Mudie. "I don't know why a corporation would prepare for 15 months, spend all the money and all the resources if they wanted to get to a deal. They never wanted a deal. This is union busting, that's all it is, and we're not going to allow that to happen."

Mudie says the large number of picketers will continue around Verizon headquarters on Franklin Street in downtown Buffalo, then shift this afternoon to the wireless store at Union Road and Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga and later the other wireless outlets on Niagara Falls Boulevard and Transit Road.