Thousands of Verizon Workers Rally in NYC

Thousands of striking Verizon workers rallied in New York City Monday morning in a show of force that stretched several blocks.

Members of the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- the two unions that staff parts of Verizon's cable and land-line phone business across the northeast -- marched from the Verizon building on West 36th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues Monday morning. 

Chopper 4 footage from the rally showed a snaking block of red-clad workers moving through the city. The marchers stretched for several blocks and took the whole width of the roadway as they made their way toward a Verizon Wireless store near Bryant Park. 

Among the marchers were the city's comptroller, Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and several other local and state legislators.

More than 39,000 Verizon workers have been on strike since Wednesday amid stalled negotiations over contracts that expired nearly eight months ago.

During the first day of the strike, presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders visited picketing workers in Brooklyn and called them his "brothers and sisters." Hillary Clinton also put out a statement in support of the workers.

On Sunday, hundreds of workers staged a similar march over the  Brooklyn Bridge.

Verizon said after the strike that non-union workers were filling in for the union members.

The unions say Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers. The telecom giant has said there are health care issues that need to be addressed for retirees and current workers because medical costs have grown and the company also wants "greater flexibility" to manage its workers.

Verizon also is pushing to eliminate a rule that would prevent employees from working away from home for extended periods of time. In a television ad, the unions said the company was trying to "force employees to accept a contract sending their jobs to other parts of the country and even oversees."

Verizon said in a statement Wednesday that it "has activated its business continuity plans as customer service remains the company's top priority."

In August 2011, about 45,000 Verizon workers went on strike for about two weeks.

Verizon Communications Inc. has a total workforce of more than 177,000 employees. In its statement, the company said it had been willing to participate in mediation if the unions extended their strike deadline, but that the unions instead called a strike.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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