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Hundreds picket Pittsburgh Verizon office

"We are going to be here one day longer than they are. It's personal," said CWA local 13500 member John Vignovic as he picketed outside of the Verizon office downtown Monday. He was joined by a few hundred other union members protesting the lack of a new contract with the company.

The latest contract expired at midnight Saturday. "Verizon hasn't budged an inch. They are not receptive. They are not listening to any of our requests. They are not answering any of our questions," said Vignovic.

Company spokesman Lee Gierczynski countered, "It is regrettable that the union decided to walk away from the table." He said the company would be ready to return to contract talks as soon as the union is ready.

Vignovic provides customer service to Verizon business clients. He said if the company gets what it wants he will be losing $20,000 a year, starting with a $250 a week pay reduction. The company says that will be made up in commissions, but "I know this company and they will set the bar so high only 5% of my workers get be able to reach it," said Vignovic. "We are fighting for the middle class."

According to Gierczynski, the average technical worker has a salary of $75,000 a year with $50,000 worth of benefits. "These are solid upper middle class jobs. When we get to the point where we reach a new contract they will continue to have solid upper middle class jobs with competitive pay and benefits," said Gierczynski.

The company argues that the communications landscape is very different than it was three years ago when the last contract was signed. "Verizon needs to make meaningful changes to its cost structure if it wants to compete and grow and succeed in the future," said Gierczynski.

CWA local 13000 Vice President Tom Crawford said the members are in solidarity over the strike. "They have been beaten to death by this company… This is mismanagement at its best," said Crawford.