Verizon's Wireline Union Workers Officially Go on Strike

Verizon Communications' (NYS: VZ) 45,000 union wireline workers have gone on strike after the two sides failed to reach an agreement for a labor contract that expired Saturday night.

This is the first time in 11 years the service provider has had to deal with a strike. In 2000, 80,000 union workers went on strike for three weeks until the unions and Verizon came to an agreement.

Since June, Verizon and the two main labor unions representing workers in Verizon's wireline division -- the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) -- have been in loggerheads over issues such as health-care contributions, pension plans and work rules.

When Lowell McAdam became CEO of Verizon in July, he stated that in addition bringing more of the entrepreneurial mentality he fostered as the CEO of Verizon Wireless to the wireline side of the ILEC, he said he also wanted to tighten union concessions.

Not long after McAdam made his plans known, the CWA and IBEW announced they would strike if they could not reach an agreement with Verizon before their contract expired this past Saturday.

CWA said in a statement on Sunday that, "nearly 100 concessionary company proposals remained on the table," a factor that has driven the CWA and IBEW to "take the unprecedented step of striking until Verizon stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously."

Although the CWA, which represents 35,000 workers, said that that negotiations were expected to continue on Sunday, no talks have begun yet.

Given the fact that this strike takes out a large portion of its wireline workforce, Verizon had put together a continuity plan that includes current employees, including retirees and management.

"We're willing to return to the bargaining table at any time," Verizon spokesman Richard Young said in an email on Sunday afternoon to Reuters, adding that, "We're in the process of implementing our emergency action plans."

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