SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Thirty-nine thousand Verizon workers walked off the job Wednesday, after working for months without a contract.

Workers from here in Massachusetts to Virginia all started picketing at 6:00 Wednesday morning. That was the deadline the unions gave Verizon to find an agreement: They have been in contract negotiations since last June.

Picketers gathered on Brookdale Drive in Springfield on Wednesday morning, April 13, 2016.

Verizon workers protested outside each of four Verizon locations in Springfield: on Worthington Street, State Street, Brookdale Drive, and Boston Road. These employees answer phone calls and fix any problems with landline or FIOS Internet service. Workers said they’re afraid Verizon will send them for up to two months at a time away from family to work in other parts of the country. They said new contract terms could mean a change in salary and cuts in their pension plans.

John Rowley, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2324, told 22News that they want to see Verizon succeed as a business, but worry about the effects their plans have on their workers.

“People still have business with this company. We don’t want to see this company fail, but we can’t have them make record profits, and want to shrink our benefits and our way of life in order to keep filling their pockets,” Rowley said. He asked people to boycott Verizon Wireless during the strike, because they still are profiting.

22News contacted Verizon’s corporate office, they sent 22News a statement saying in part: “Unfortunately union leaders have their own agenda rooted in the past and are ignoring today’s digital realities. Calling a strike benefits no one.” You can read the entire statement here.

Both the company and union say their industry is changing from landline to wireless services. That’s one factor leading up to this strike. Some residents agreed, saying they noticed the shift. “I think it’s a thing of the past. Everyone uses their cell phones nowadays. I know that I used to have a house phone, but now it doesn’t even ring. We don’t use it at all,” said Julia Bonavita of East Longmeadow.

Verizon Wireless isn’t affected by this strike yet.

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