Earlier this month, Verizon employees initiated the largest strike in the US in four years. More than 30,000 workers joined picket lines protesting the telecom company’s handling of contract negotiations. As the strike enters its third week, Verizon has suggested that striking workers are attacking its network, severing fiber-optic cables and vandalizing terminal boxes.
In a press statement, Verizon said that there had been a “more than 100 percent increase in the number of suspected incidents of sabotage.” The company does not directly blame the strikers, but heavily implies they are involved, reporting that last week it was investigating ” 24 suspected criminal incidents in five states since April 13″ — the day the strike began. Now, the company says “that number has increased to 57 incidents in seven states.”
“These malicious actions take place as Verizon is experiencing a strike.”
“These malicious actions take place as Verizon is experiencing a strike, now in its 15th day,” reads the press statement. “Normally, the company experiences about a half dozen dangerous and reckless acts of destructive vandalism each year.” Despite this, the company claims that “Verizon Wireless operations have had very minimal impact from the strike.”
Striking workers, meanwhile, have claimed that Verizon’s use of outside contractors and untrained employees to deal with maintenance issues is leading to numerous safety issues. “Safety violations run rampant,” is how union leaders described the situation, adding that unsafe cable hanging was endangering the lives of both contract workers and the public.
“these unsafe practices would become standard practice”
“What’s truly frightening is these unsafe practices would become standard practice if Verizon pushed through its plan to outsource work to cut-rate contractors,” Brendan Haugh, a 20-year Verizon field technician, said in a press statement from the Communication Workers of America union. “We’re striking to make sure Verizon has the skilled and experienced staff necessary to serve our customers safely.”
Verizon has rebutted these claims, claiming they are “nothing more than noise […] that is meant to distract from actual issues.” The company has also deployed somewhat unusual tactics in countering the strike, even releasing an app designed to let non-union workers record unionized workers during the strike.