More than 36,000 Verizon workers walked off the job Wednesday morning after two labor unions failed to reach a new agreement by their 6 a.m. deadline with the company, The New York Times reports. The employees' contracts have now been expired for more than eight months.
Over 99 percent of the striking employees are involved in Verizon's wireline business, which includes its landline phone service but also the fiber optic network that provides internet, phone, and video. While Verizon has said customers will be unaffected by the strike, wireline consumers could actually see a drop in the quality of their service as only 10,000 nonunion employees are stepping in to replace the 36,000 strikers. The nonunion employees taking over the wireline service only have a year of training.
"Training and doing are very different things. You can be as well trained as anybody, but it doesn't mean you can go in the field and fix anything," Rutgers professor and telecom expert Jeffrey Keefe pointed out to The New York Times.
An independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research, Jan Dawson, agreed. "There will almost certainly be some functions which may be slower or unavailable during the strike, because they require specialized skills or there just aren't sufficient alternative resources available to fill all functions," he said.
However, wireless customers' complaints are what might truly sway the company, as the service has overtaken the wireline business. Luckily for the unions, because a select few of the striking employees are Verizon Wireless workers, the group will be able to heavily picket stores.
Verizon workers have not specified the length of their strike, which could go on for days, weeks, or months. The unions are reacting against proposed pension benefit cuts as well as changes that would make it easier to outsource work.