How the Verizon Strike Could Affect You

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Verizon said it trained thousands of nonunion employees to fill in for those who walk the picket line, but union workers counter that the strike will impair the company’s ability to deliver quality customer service. Credit John Minchillo/Associated Press

About 36,000 Verizon workers went on strike early Wednesday after the communications company failed to reach an agreement with unions representing workers for its wireline operations.

Verizon has said that consumers will be mostly unaffected because it has trained thousands of nonunion employees since last year to fill in for those who walk the picket line. Union workers counter that the strike will impair Verizon’s ability to deliver quality customer service, including service calls and equipment installations.

Here’s a guide to which consumers may be affected, who won’t and how any disruption might manifest itself.

Which services will be affected?

The unions generally represent workers for Verizon’s wireline operations, which include the company’s landline, high-speed Internet and television services. These services are mostly available only in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the region from southern New York to Virginia. The unionized workers perform a range of tasks, like fixing a phone line that’s out of service, installing new phone and broadband Internet lines, or fielding customer support calls.

Union workers say they plan to picket some Verizon Wireless stores, but only a small number of those employees are part of the unions.

In other words, subscribers to Verizon’s cellular phone and data services should not notice any changes. There should be no major difference when you call Verizon Wireless or go into a retail store with questions about your cellphone bill, data usage or upgrading to a new smartphone, for example.

How might wireline services be affected by the strike?

Verizon says consumers need not worry about the potential strike. “We went through very extensive, good training and we’re very confident that we’re more than ready to meet the needs of our customers,” said Mr. McConville of Verizon.

But judging from numbers alone, Verizon’s wireline customers can reasonably expect a deterioration in customer service quality. Even with preparation, the company said it has trained only upward of 10,000 employees to fill in for the nearly 36,000 workers who went on strike. In addition, many unionized workers who are striking have been doing this type of work for far longer than the one year that Verizon has trained nonunion workers to fill in.

“There will almost certainly be some functions which may be slower or unavailable during the strike, because they require specialized skills or there just aren’t sufficient alternative resources available to fill all functions,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research.

How long could services be disrupted?

Indefinitely. Verizon’s unionized workers have not specified how long they might go on strike, so it could last hours, days, weeks or even months.

Will this affect my utility bill?

Mr. McConville said the strike would have no effect on consumers’ bills.

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