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Verizon, striking unions at impasse as health benefits to expire

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A strike by nearly 40,000 Verizon Communications Inc workers is in its third week with unions and the company still far apart on contract talks, even as employee healthcare benefits are set to expire on Saturday.

Workers, from network technicians to customer service representatives, in Verizon’s Fios Internet, telephone and TV services walked off the job on April 13 in one of the largest U.S. strikes in recent years after contract talks hit an impasse.

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A resolution on various issues, including temporary job relocations, pensions and moving call center jobs offshore, has yet to be reached, representatives of Verizon and the Communications Workers of America union said on Wednesday.

Verizon, which said last week that a long-drawn labor dispute would pressure its earnings, remains committed to reaching a fair deal, spokesman Rich Young said in a phone interview.

A meeting between Verizon and union representatives is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, he said.

HEALTHCARE OPTIONS

Verizon has notified striking workers that under federal law their health care coverage was set to expire on April 30, Young said.

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Verizon has said it spent over $3.2 billion on healthcare for employees last year. The company offers insurance coverage to those employees who are actively working, Young said.

Striking employees have the option of seeking coverage under the U.S government’s Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health insurance plan to get temporary healthcare coverage.

“They think that this is going to be used as a wedge to break this strike. I assure you it will not,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13, said in a phone interview.

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The CWA also has funds, collected through contributions from affiliated union members and other donors, to help cover healthcare costs of members when needed, Mooney said.

“It’s horrible. Most of us are parents, I have a daughter and the prospect of losing our children’s healthcare is actually quite disturbing,” Fitz Boyce, 45, a field technician at Verizon for over two decades, said in an interview at the picket line in front of the company’s Times Square store in New York.

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The strike affects Fios Internet, telephone and TV services across several U.S. East Coast states, including New York and Virginia.

Verizon has trained thousands of non-union employees over the past year to ensure no service disruption. The company has fielded over 60,000 requests since the strike began, Young said.

The unions have said that replacement workers do not have the necessary expertise, especially in highly technical jobs such as equipment installations.

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(Reporting by Malathi Nayak,; additional reporting by Mir Ubaid in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)


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Trump may even pardon former Detroit mayor in November to score Black Michigan votes: Root editor

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One of the things President Donald Trump's pardons revealed Tuesday is that Trump isn't above using the judicial system for political purposes, said Jason Johnson, politics editor at "The Root."

In a panel discussion with MSNBC's Brian Williams, Johnson said that it's all indicative of a man who wants to believe that he is an all-powerful king of the United States.

"The goal is Donald Trump wants to use all of the sort of pardons and this commuting of sentences in order to create a commercial," he explained. "It's theater. 'I'm the benevolent king. I can put my thumb up or down like a powerful emperor. Look at all these people I can rescue.' And when he does that, and people come out like Rod Blagojevich, and they say, 'Oh, hey, I owe him this or I'm going to give school (sic) to that person,' it allows him to sort of demonstrate that he's got an imperial presidency."

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America’s millionaires just stopped paying into Social Security for the rest of 2020

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On Wednesday, not even two full months into 2020, millionaires will stop paying into Social Security for the year due to the program's payroll tax cap.

The cap limits annual wages subject to the Social Security payroll tax to the first $137,700. Sarah Rawlins, program associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), wrote Tuesday that the cap means "someone who makes $1,000,000 per year stops paying into the program on February 19, 2020."

"That makes a millionaire's effective tax rate well below the 6.2% of income that most Americans pay," Rawlins noted. "Instead, it is less than 1% of a millionaire's income. The Social Security tax is only levied on wages, excluding income from other sources like capital gains, meaning those with wages over the cap likely have an effective tax rate even lower than this estimate."

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DOJ puts out bizarre late-night statement: AG Bill Barr ‘has no plans to resign’

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The Department of Justice put out a statement Tuesday evening denying that Attorney General Bill Barr would be resigning from office.

Kerri Kupec, the director of communications and public affairs at DOJ, issued the statement at 10:28 p.m. in Washington, DC.

"Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign," Kupec announced.

The denial came after a Washington Post report that Barr was considering quitting if Trump continues to tweet about active investigations.

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