ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Thousands of striking workers in Verizon Communication Inc.'s landline division were joining picket lines and rallies Monday at the company's work locations from Massachusetts to Virginia, a union official said.
The contract for 45,000 employees expired at midnight Saturday after the company and the workers were unable to come to terms on issues including health care costs and pensions. The dispute does not affect the wireless division at Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier.
Hundreds of workers showed up Monday at Verizon's headquarters in Manhattan, holding up signs that read "On Strike Against Verizon Corporate Greed" and "On Strike for Middle Class Jobs at Verizon," said Robert Master, a Communications Workers of American spokesman. Picket lines also were going up in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., Master said.
The striking workers are responsible for maintaining and repairing traditional landlines, as well as installing the company's fiber-optic FiOS service, Master said.
Verizon spokesman Richard Young said thousands of managers have been sent to help work in the affected states.
"We've been preparing for a strike or other adverse job action for many months. We always knew a strike was a possibility," Young said. "We're 100 percent prepared. We're confident in our ability to continue to provide the best possible customer service."
He said Verizon has trained tens of thousands of managers for the past several months.
Workers covered by the expired contract also include 10,000 represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who serve as telephone and repair technicians, customer service representatives, operators and more.
New York-based Verizon has 196,000 workers; 135,000 are non-union.
Verizon said it was asking for changes in the contract because its wireline business has been in decline for more than a decade as more people switch to using cellphones exclusively. It had 25 million landlines at the end of the second quarter, down from 26 million at the end of 2010. It has been selling off some of its landlines to other phone companies.
Master said Verizon wanted worker concessions at a time when it's making billions in profits and top executives were making millions in salary.
Contract negotiations began June 22.