As approximately 36,000 Verizon workers went on strike Wednesday, the company promised its customers would be largely unaffected, the New York Times reports. And while the striking workers are largely employed in the company's wireline division—as opposed to its much larger wireless division—the Times states "customers can reasonably expect a deterioration in customer service quality." The striking workers install broadband Internet, fix phone lines, and handle customer service in the Northeast US. Verizon has trained nonunion workers to replace the striking employees, but only 10,000 to fill in for 36,000 mostly more experienced workers. Striking employees don't believe they can be replaced so easily, claiming Verizon's customer service will be negatively impacted.
The strike resulted from Verizon being unable to agree to a contract with the Communications Workers of America, CNN reports. The union has a number of grievances, including Verizon outsourcing 5,000 jobs, hiring non-union contractors at lower wages, and closing call centers. "The main thing is that's it's taking good-paying jobs and taking them away from the American public," says one union board member. And while Verizon's wireline division is shrinking with the popularity of wireless, it still posted an $8.9 billion profit last year. Bernie Sanders, who briefly rallied with the striking workers in New York, chided Verizon for paying its CEO an exorbitant amount while refusing to pay benefits desired by the union, according to the Washington Post. The strike—the biggest in the US since the last Verizon strike in 2011—could last anywhere from hours to months.