NEW YORK, April 13 (UPI) — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders made an impromptu stop to walk a picket line in Brooklyn on Wednesday with Verizon workers who walked out on their jobs after contract negotiations failed.
Sanders thanked some of the 40,000 Verizon workers for “standing up for justice against corporate greed.”
The appearance with members of the Communications Workers of America, a union that has endorsed Sanders, drew a harsh response from Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who called Sanders’ remarks “contemptible.”
McAdam assailed Sanders as misrepresenting the company’s investments in infrastructure. McAdam also pushed back on Sanders’ statement that Verizon, like many corporations, does not pay its fair share of taxes. McAdam said Verizon has paid $15 billion in taxes over the last two years, equaling a 35 percent tax rate for the company.
“Nostalgia for the rotary phone era won’t save American jobs, any more than ignoring the global forces reshaping the auto industry saved the Detroit auto makers,” McAdam said in a long statement directed at Sanders posted to his LinkedIn profile.
Sanders responded on Twitter, saying, “I don’t want the support of … the billionaire class. I welcome their contempt.”
Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton, released a statement Wednesday supporting the striking workers and calling on the company to “come back to the bargaining table with a fair offer for their workers.”
Some 40,000 Verizon wireline workers walked out at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The striking workers, which also include members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, mostly maintain Verizon’s landline telephone network from New England to Virginia. They have been working without a contract since August.
The company has sought concessions in healthcare costs and “flexibility” in managing its workforce. The union contends that is a cover for the company to ship more call center jobs overseas.
The Verizon strike is the largest work stoppage in the United States since 2011.