More than 50 Verizon workers demonstrated outside the Verizon headquarters in lower Manhattan Sunday morning as part of a company-wide strike after negotiations over a new labor contract fizzled.
Some 45,000 union workers in total from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C., were striking Sunday.
The Communications Workers America said negotiations in Philadelphia and New York stalled Saturday night after Verizon continued to demand more than 100 concessions from workers regarding health care, pensions and work rules.
The union workers walked off the job at midnight, saying the telecommunications company was asking its employees to start contributing to their health care plans. One worker told NBC New York that could cost her $7,000 a year.
"This fight is a different fight," said Anita Long. "It's personal."
Workers chanted outside 140 West St., "No contract, no work" and "What's disgusting? Union busting."
They also became vocal when they saw replacement workers walking into the Verizon building. One Verizon manager on his way to work, Ivan Sanchez, told NBC New York, "We shouldn't fight each other. We should be working together."
Mark C. Reed, Verizon's executive vice president of human resources, called the outcome of the unions' actions "regrettable" for customers and employees.
"We will continue to do our part to reach a new contract that reflects today's economic realities in our wireline business and addresses the needs of all parties," he said in a statement.
The contract that expired midnight Saturday covers 45,000 workers, including 10,000 represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who serve as telephone and repair technicians, customer service representatives, operators and more. Contract negotiations began June 22.
"Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle class workers and their families," CWA said in a statement Sunday.
New York-based Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, has 196,000 workers; 135,000 are non-union.
The CWA said the concessions are unjustified and harsh, given that Verizon is highly profitable — the company's revenue rose 2.8 percent to $27.5 billion in the second quarter. Its growth was largely attributed to its wireless business.
But Verizon said its wireline business has been in decline for more than a decade, and that it is asking for changes in the contract to strengthen the unit. The company said union employees contribute nothing to their health care premiums.
Verizon activated a contingency plan to ensure customers experienced "limited disruption in service" for the length of the strike.
"Tens of thousands of Verizon managers and other personnel have been trained to step in and perform emergency work assignments," Verizon spokesman Rich Young said.
A company spokesman said Verizon Wireless is not affected by the labor strike and is not experiencing service issues.
A customer satisfaction survey released in May showed Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. ranked highest among the Big 4 wireless carriers. The survey polled 8,000 households in the first quarter of this year.
Verizon added 1.26 million wireless subscribers under contract in the April to June period this year, a result that flies in the face of the slowdown in new subscribers across the industry in the last two years. A year ago, Verizon added just 665,000 subscribers under contract.
Verizon ended the last quarter with 106.3 million devices connected to its wireless network. No. 2 and chief rival AT&T is trying to leapfrog Verizon in size by buying No. 4 T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.
Lowell McAdam, the former head of Verizon Wireless, became CEO of Verizon Communications Inc. on Aug. 1, replacing Ivan Seidenberg. Seidenberg, the longtime CEO, remains chairman of the company.