About 36,000 Verizon workers, in New York and several other states, walked off the job Wednesday after failing to reach a new labor agreement. Our Michael Herzenberg has the story.
"They need to give us what we deserve, what we have worked for," one worker said.
The striking employees mostly help to provide landline, high-speed internet, and television services.
They perform jobs like hooking up new broadband and internet lines, fixing a phone line that is out of service, and fielding customer support calls.
"They're fighting us on wages, they're pretty much fighting us on everything that we have," one worker said. "They want to take back everything and give us nothing."
Workers in Verizon's call centers claim the company is exporting their jobs to other countries as quickly as possible.
"They have outsourced our jobs to India, Mexico, Dominican Republic," another worker said. "They're taking all of the calls, the work, giving it to these countries that are making minimal."
Verizon is one of the world's largest communication technology companies, with $130 billion in revenue last year. The striking employees make up about 20 percent of its workforce.
A central office technician for Verizon says he has worked for the company for nearly a half-century, when it was called NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, and NY telephone. He remembers walking out for months in 1970 and in 1989, and for weeks four years ago.
"We're dealing with a different company now," he said. "By all rights, this is an extremely profitable company, and we're not asking for a lot; we're just asking for our fair share."
The company says it "has on the table proposed wage increases, continued retirement benefits...and excellent healthcare benefits. Union leaders decided to call a strike rather than sit down and work on the issues that need to be resolved."
Verizon says thousands of non-union employees have been cross training for months to ensure customers get the services they pay for. The unions say the strike is open-ended and that they're prepared for the work stoppage as it takes.
Verizon also says it needs to address growing health care costs for both retirees and workers, and wants greater flexibility to manage its employees.
Both sides have been negotiating since August, when the last contract expired.
The strike includes workers in six states represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
"I mean, you would think that if you worked for a successful company, a company that you helped make successful, you'd think they want to reward you," said one Verizon worker.
"We're just asking for our fair share, we're asking for a minimal raise, we're asking for our benefits, we're asking for job security," said another Verizon worker.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited workers on the picket line in Brooklyn on Wednesday, thanking them for fighting what he says is corporate greed.
"I know how hard it is, what a difficult decision it is to go out on strike. I know you've thought a whole lot about it, and I know your families are going to pay a price for going out on strike," Sanders said. "But you have chosen to stand up for dignity, for justice, and to take on an enormously powerful special interest."
"This is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans," Sanders added.
The tech giant said Sanders is uninformed and his argument are not based on facts, adding that Verizon should not be targeted just so his campaign can appeal to voters.
Sanders's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who is also making campaign appearances across the city Wednesday, also weighed in on the strike.
In a statement, she said, "I am disappointed to learn that negotiations have broken down. Verizon should come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer. To preserve and grow America's middle class we need to protect good wages and benefits and keep good paying jobs with a real job security in New York."