Watch: Bernie Sanders Joins Strikers in New York, Slams Verizon's Unfair Labor Practices
[Editor's note: This article was updated on April 13, 1pm EST]
Approximately 39,000 Verizon landline and cable workers on the East Coast walked off the job Wednesday morning after working without a contract since August. An agreement was not reached with the Verizon (NYSE:VZ), largest U.S. wireless communications service provider. It is the biggest U.S work stoppage since 2011, when a Verizon strike lasted two weeks.
Bernie Sanders joined the picket line with workers on Wednesday morning in Brooklyn. The Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate said that Verizon was one of the richest and most powerful corporations in this country, “but they refuse to sit down and negotiate a fair contract.” Sanders told the energized group of picketers:
They want to take away the health benefits that you have earned. They want to outsource decent paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year in compensation. They want to avoid paying federal income taxes. In other words, this is just another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans. Today you are standing up not just for justice for Verizon workers, you’re standing up for millions of Americans who don’t have a union.
You’re telling corporate America they cannot have it all. You’re telling corporate America that workers in this country are not going to continue being pushed down and down and down. The working class of this country deserves to earn decent wages, decent benefits and not see their go to low-wage countries. I’m here today not just to support the CWA [Communications Workers of America]; I know how hard it is, what a difficult decision it is to go out on strike. …
I know your families are going to pay a price for going out on strike. But you have chosen to stand up for dignity for justice, to take on an enormously powerful special interest. So on behalf of every worker in America who is facing the same kind of pressure, thank you for what you’re doing! We’re gonna win this thing!
After his fiery speech, workers chanted "We will win!" to the raucous sounds of horns and drums.
.@BernieSanders to workers on #verizonstrike: "You have chosen to stand up for dignity..." https://t.co/6uTiqzWtu2 https://t.co/X0TficaNaz— CBSN (@CBSN) 1460561873.0
The strike is being led by the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who say they're striking because the telecommunications giants is seeking to freeze worker pensions, make it easier to conduct layoffs and institute a heavier reliance on contract workers.
A press release from the CWA summarizes the employees' grievances with the company:
Even though Verizon 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 — the company wants to gut job security protections, contract out more work, offshore jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other locations and require technicians to work away from home for as long as two months without seeing their families. Verizon is also refusing to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers, who formed a union in 2014.
On Monday, Sanders stopped by CWA 1122 Cheektowaga to speak with workers and, in a speech at the University of Buffalo, he said, "Over the years Verizon has made billions of dollars in profit, but in a given year has not paid a nickel in taxes."
Watch Sanders' complete Monday remarks about Verizon below.