Dozens of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) landline workers, on strike since mid-April after contract talks hit an impasse, marched on the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Thursday, and blocked traffic.
The unions said about 15 protesters were arrested outside the meeting after they laid down atop a large banner on the street. The Albuquerque Police Department said no arrests were made but 15 people were cited.
More than 250 protesters, including workers and supporters, took part in the demonstration at the meeting, where the agenda included an election for 13 directors and a vote on executive compensation.
The unions for the strikers said they also planned hundreds of protests across the United States against Verizon, the No. 1 U.S. wireless service provider.
Nearly 40,000 network technicians and customer service representatives of the company’s Fios Internet, telephone and television services units walked off the job on April 13. The action was called by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The strike is in its fourth week. Sticking points include offshore call-center jobs, job relocations and healthcare coverage.
The striking workers have about $1.3 billion in Verizon stock holdings, according to the unions. They will vote on proposals including one brought by the Association of BellTell Retirees that seeks the company to require shareholder approval for any executive severance agreement offering a payout of more than triple the base salary.
Verizon said last week it had presented an updated and “final” offer to the unions, including a wage increase of 7.5 percent over the term of a new contract. The company, which has been scaling back its Fios and legacy landline business, wants workers to shoulder more healthcare costs and be open to relocating to new job locations.
The union rejected the new proposal and the parties remain far apart.
The Albuquerque demonstrators could be seen chanting “One day longer, one day stronger,” and ” Negotiate, don’t dictate,” on the CWA’s livestream on Facebook as they marched on the meeting.
The work stoppage at Verizon stretched across several U.S. East Coast states, including New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. Verizon has said it has brought in thousands of temporary workers to avoid service disruptions.
The workers have been without a contract since their agreement expired in August. The last contract negotiations in 2011 also led to a strike that ended in two weeks as the parties continued contract negotiations.
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Bill Trott and David Gregorio)