It’s been nearly a month since thousands of Verizon workers went out on strike.
You may have seen union members with picket signs outside Verizon stores around the area lately; several of them were outside the store in Timonium on Monday.
“It's just about a fair contract. We're just trying to hang on to what we have, not even move forward anymore,” said Phil Porter of the Communications Workers of America Local 2100.
The striking workers staff Verizon's call centers, and repair the company's copper land-lines.
“There's not enough workers to do the job anymore. They have cut and cut and cut,” Porter said.
They say worker shortages have forced them to work longer hours, and in many cases move out of state for months at a time.
“It's not about wages, it's about the health care. It’s about moving the jobs overseas. And it's about forcing workers to move out of state for periods of time,” Porter said.
While on strike, the workers are not paid; many have taken on part-time jobs.
And now, after nearly a month, Verizon has ended health benefits for striking workers.
“It's hard on everyone for us to walk out, from Verizon customers to Verizon employees. This was our last resort,” Porter said.
To deal with the shortage of nearly 40,000 workers from Maine to Virginia, Verizon has added contractors and sent managers into the field, to do repair work and staff call centers.
In a statement on the company's web site, Bob Mudge, the president of Verizon's wireline network operations, said: “While we'd rather have seasoned veterans in these positions, each day, more and more customers are giving us high marks in that their inquiries and issue are being successfully resolved in our call centers and in the field."
According to a news release issued by the company, it offered striking workers a 7.5 percent salary increase over the next three years, and no layoffs. The news release claimed that would be the final offer.
“That's what they said. We'll see,” Porter said, adding that there have been previous strikes in his time at Verizon, and in those cases the company did not end health benefits for striking workers.
Verizon says about 1000 of the nearly 40,000 striking workers have crossed the picket lines and gone back to work.