Verizon Communications has fired 40 employees involved in this summer's bitter labor strike for behavior the company said ranged from physical violence to making racial threats.
The company informed the employees by mail over the weekend of their terminations for violating the company's code of conduct while picketing a new contract, according to a Boston Globe report. More than 45,000 Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states walked off the job to protest contract reduction offered by the company.
"We respect the rights of our employees to peacefully picket and protest during a strike. However, the actions of some individuals during the August strike violated our code of conduct and in some cases, violated the law. This has nothing to do with their rights to peacefully picket," Verizon spokesman Richard Young told CNET in a statement. "Our action comes as a result of certain individuals making threats of violence, engaging in physical violence, running people off the road, making outrageous profane or racist comments and more. A handful of these striking workers engaged in egregious and unacceptable conduct. As a result, we've taken appropriate action."
Members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers went on strike on August 7 to protest contract changes that would allow Verizon to tie performance with pay, more easily fire workers, and require employees to contribute to their health plan benefits.
But the strike quickly turned nasty, with Verizon claiming it had suffered more than 70 incidents of sabotage, including cut fiber-optic lines, incidents of harassment of management sent to fill in, and vandalism. As a result, the company was granted injunctions limiting picket lines and offered rewards for information about those involved.
The company argues that with the traditional landline business slowing--losing phone lines and facing competitive pressure from cable and wireless alternatives--it needs to reduce its cost structure. The employees' union has countered that Verizon remains highly profitable and rejected the calls for change.
The strike affected the company's landline unit but didn't disrupt service for its wireless operations, which are a separate part of the business that is jointly owned by Vodafone Group.