Thousands of Verizon workers on strike

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More than 1,000 Verizon workers in Richmond are on strike.

Verizon could not reach an agreement for a new contract with union leaders this weekend.

If you're a Verizon Wireless customer, this dispute doesn't affect you.

These people on strike work for Verizon's land line division.

45,000 people all along the East Coast are part of this strike -- and both sides are blaming each other.

Bullhorn in hand, Oliver Barner is one of thousands of Verizon workers on strike.

"It's very disconcerting," Barner said.  "It's very worrying. It's very stressful. I have two children at home and a wife I'm trying to support and all I'm asking for is a decent wage, some job security and some decent benefits."

Barner led the chants of about 100 Richmond Verizon employees, all decked out in red, holding up signs in front of Verizon's offices off Hungary Spring Road.

Negotiations between Verizon and union leaders broke down over health care costs, pensions and new work rules.

Richard Hatch is head of the Richmond chapter of the Communications Workers of America union.

"The main thing we're worried about is jobs," Hatch said.  "Certainly we want competitive wages and benefits, but that comes with having a job first."

Verizon says it's been preparing for this strike for quite a while, so they're hoping if you're a Verizon customer, you won't notice any difference while this strike continues.

"You pick up the phone, you get a dial tone," said Harry Mitchell, Director of Public Relations for Verizon.  "(You) turn on the TV if you have a Fios TV product, you'll get that, you want to go online, you'll get that."

Many of those on strike are line workers and customer service reps. Tens of thousands of Verizon employees have been trained to fill-in.

The striking workers say they'll bury the hatchet if they can go back to work.

"Probably 90% of us won't have any ill-will," Barner said.  "As long as they allow us to have a decent job, with job security, decent wages, decent benefits, and decent benefits for our retirees."

These negotiations have been going on since the end of June.

Nearly 200,000 people work for Verizon -- more than 60,000 of them are union workers.

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