Contract talks expected to resume as Verizon strike enters Week 3

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – As the Verizon strike stretches into its third week, negotiators from the company and the unions representing the workers are said to be going back to the bargaining table Thursday afternoon.

Tens of thousands of workers, including hundreds in Western New York, have been on strike since April 13, since they walked off the job and onto the picket line.

Thursday morning, hundreds of striking workers gathered at the corner of Walden & Union in Cheektowaga to march together and try to put pressure on the company to settle the situation with them. They had been working without a contract since August before they went on strike.

Now, pressure is mounting to come to an agreement as the employee healthcare benefits of the striking workers are set to expire April 30. The workers would be eligible for COBRA, a temporary insurance program through the federal government, and the unions have vowed to care for members in need. “CWA has a strong national defense fund and each and every one of our members healthcare benefits and their need will be met,” said James Wagner, president of the CWA local 1122.

Wagner says he’s not surprised the strike has lasted as long as it has, and he says it could carry on longer. “We’re not that hopeful. There’s a lot to overcome and today Verizon is insistent that they’re going to dictate the terms and conditions of our members labor,” he said. “And once Verizon realizes that they need to collectively bargain and negotiate with the CWA, we may be able to get beyond the issues and get back to work.”

During Thursday morning’s rally, Wagner warned the gathered strikers that the move from the company to go back to the bargaining table could be a ploy to make them let their guards down. Another rally is already scheduled for May 7 at 10 a.m., when the striking workers will march from the Verizon building on Franklin Street in Buffalo to the central office on Elmwood.

Verizon, meanwhile, continues to investigate incidents of “network sabotage” that the company says have increased dramatically since the strike started. “These are criminal activities, affecting people’s safety and putting lives at risk. We are investigating all reports and pursuing all avenues to assist law enforcement in finding and convicting the perpetrators of these acts,” said Michael Mason, Verizon’s chief security officer, in a statement released Wednesday.

Verizon is offering rewards for information that leads to the arrests of those who intentionally damage the company’s equipment.

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