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Verizon workers on strike in Saranac Lake. Photo: Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Verizon workers on strike in Saranac Lake. Photo: Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Verizon damage disrupts emergency calls; workers on strike

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The Associated Press reports state police are investigating damage to Verizon equipment that disrupted 911 emergency calls in parts of Herkimer and Onieda counties yesterday. An Oneida County dispatcher says service is up and running this morning.

Damage to a Verizon optic circuit box also knocked out landline and cell service to northern Oneida County. Lewis County Sheriff Mike Talbot told the AP some calls to his office were disrupted, but the 911 system was OK.

Verizon Communications workers were still on the picket lines across the North Country Tuesday. Local members of Communications Workers of America Local 1118 in Saranac Lake, Potsdam, Malone, Ogdesnsburg and Plattsburgh joined 45,000 other Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic who've been on strike since contract talks stalled on Sunday.

Chris Knight talked with a small group of Verizon field technicians who were picketing outside the company's Church Street office in Saranac Lake.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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Clad in red shirts, the workers held up signs that read, "CWA on Strike Against Verizon’s Corporate Greed," and cheered as honking cars passed by.

Matt Gates is one of the striking Verizon employees.

"Being out here - they didn't leave us a choice. They didn't want to bargain. We want to make sure everyone’s aware that corporate greed has to stop."

The small picket in Saranac Lake was relatively tame in comparison to some of the louder and larger demonstrations that have been taking place around the Northeast. But the issues for these workers are the same.

Verizon is asking for employee concessions because its land-line business has been declining as more customers switch to cell phones. Verizon wants its workers to pay more for their health care, tie pay increases to job performance, cut pensions and make it easier to fire employees.

Gates says that's unacceptable.

"The corporation wants to take away the benefits that we worked for over 50 years," Gates said. "They want to take it all back off the table. We’re fighting for our rights as workers and for all the middle class."

Talks resumed on Monday, but it’s unclear when the strike will be called off. Gates said he and his coworkers are united.

"As of right now, we'll do it as long as it takes, we'll be out here."

In a Monday press release, Verizon said its customers will notice only minimal impact from the strike. They may encounter slightly longer hold times when calling sales and service centers, and slightly longer waits for repair service.

For NCPR, I'm Chris Knight in Saranac Lake.

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