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Negotiations Under Way After Verizon Workers Hit Picket Lines Across NY, NJ

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Striking Verizon workers on West St. on Aug. 8, 2011 (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

Striking Verizon workers on West St. on Aug. 8, 2011 (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Labor and management representatives say Verizon Communication Inc. negotiators are meeting in New York.

Candice Johnson of the Communication Workers of America and Verizon’s Richard Young had no immediate word on progress toward settling a strike that was in its second day Monday.

Thousands of Verizon workers were on strike Monday after contract negotiations fell apart over the weekend.

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.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports: A Loud And Clear Message 

Several hundred striking workers demonstrated outside the company’s headquarters in lower Manhattan, most wearing red shirts, chanting, “Union busting, it’s disgusting!” and holding up signs that read “On Strike Against Verizon Corporate Greed” and “On Strike for Middle Class Jobs at Verizon.”

About 60 workers picketed in Brooklyn and 200 people held a demonstration in Garden City.

“It’s really emblematic of what’s gone wrong with our country where the people at the top seem to think the solution is to take more money out of the pockets of the middle class and the working people,” Robert Master, a Communications Workers of American spokesman, told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “It’s not good for the people and it’s not good for the economy.”

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. The dispute does not affect the wireless division at Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

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.

A Verizon spokesman said the company has been preparing for a strike and thousands of managers have been sent to help work in the affected states to continue to provide customer service.

verizon picket Negotiations Under Way After Verizon Workers Hit Picket Lines Across NY, NJ

Union members followed a manager and set up a picket outside a resident's home in Great Neck. One of the picketing workers sent in this photo to 1010 WINS. (credit: Anonymous)

On Long Island, some picketing workers have been following managers as they make service calls and set up pickets outside customers’ homes.

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.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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