Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast are now working without a contract - but thus far have chosen not to strike after their contracts expired at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Talks between the workers' unions and the telecom giant, however, have stalled. No new bargaining sessions have been scheduled, representatives on both sides said Sunday.
The impasse centers on Verizon's desire to make changes to its workforce and stay competitive as more and more Americans leave landline phones behind. But the unions say that the company makes billions of dollars in profits each year and wants to eliminate job security and increase workers' health-care costs.
The contracts that expired were for employees who provide landline service and FiOS Internet in nine states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. There are about 3,800 workers in the Philadelphia region alone. Wireless workers are not involved.
One of the landline workers' unions, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said last week that 86 percent of members had approved of a strike in a recent poll. The company has said that its services would continue unaffected if employees walked out.
The two sides negotiated for seven weeks before union officials decided to leave the bargaining sessions being held in Philadelphia and in Rye, N.Y. - each talk representing workers in different regions - after the midnight deadline.
Union officials said they left the table after Verizon continued to demand the same givebacks. The CWA contends that the company wants changes that would result in forced job transfers and could eliminate thousands of jobs through outsourcing and subcontracting.
"Verizon is making the same demands it made six weeks ago, and that's not a negotiation," Candice Johnson, a CWA spokeswoman, said Sunday.
Verizon spokesman Rich Young said Sunday: "They know firsthand that our [landline] unit is facing significant challenges. Unfortunately, the union leadership doesn't want to recognize the facts and decided that walking away was the best course for its members."