Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who walked off the job three weeks ago are set to receive payments from a multi-million dollar union fund meant to help cover striking workers’ expenses in lieu of a paycheck.
According to Communications Workers of America (CWA) spokeswoman Candice Johnson, the money will be distributed from a $440 million fund made up of contributions from strike-eligible employee dues.
“It doesn’t certainly make up for the lost wages, of course, but it’s to help workers and their families get through the strike,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the fund initially pays workers $200 per week after two weeks of being on strike. That figure rises to $300 per week after three weeks on strike and to $400 per week after the eighth week on strike. Johnson said there is no cut-off date for the payments to workers, allowing the strikers to stand firm.
“Workers are in it for the long haul and they’re strong in the picket lines because the stakes are so high,” Johnson said. “It’s about keeping good jobs for themselves and their families and the future of their communities.”
According to Johnson, the union also has a separate plan in place to help meet the workers’ healthcare needs since medical benefits for strikers were recently cut off.
The news comes as both sides appear to have dug in their heels following Verizon’s announcement last week that it had presented its “best and final” offer to union leaders.
That offer – which included three wage increases totaling 7.5 percent over the term of the contract, continued access to “affordable” health benefits and “generous” retirement provisions – was panned by CWA leaders, who called on Verizon to “get serious about negotiations.”
However, Verizon on Monday said it has deployed nearly 20,000 contractors and employees on special assignment to fill the gaps left by the striking workers. Verizon said it is also looking to automation and other new remote technologies to help meet customer needs.
The carrier insisted the strike has had a minimal impact on its operations.
The strike – which began April 13 – follows 10 months of unsuccessful contraction negotiations between union leaders and Verizon. Employees involved in the protest have been working without a contract since August 1, 2015.