As a deadline loomed over Verizon employees and management Sunday, union workers decided that the only way for their voices to be heard was to hit the picket line.

Negotiations between Verizon management and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers broke down as the clocked ticked towards midnight Sunday night. Representing 45,000 employees, the unions decided to strike after not being able to reach a new contract.

Verizon management wants union employees to contribute to their health care coverage and wants more fluid job responsibilities so union customer service representatives could offer tech support. They are also asking for concessions because their landline business has been in decline as more people adopt wireless forms of communication.

“Verizon employees have been waiting since June 22 for management to bargain at all,” said CWA Communications Director Candice Johnson in a statement. “Even at contract expiration, Verizon continued to demand $1 billion in concessions per year. That’s $20,000 for every worker. That demand is coming from a $100 billion company, where the top five executives got compensation of $258 million over the past four years.

“Verizon’s concession demands would strip away the middle-class standard of living that workers have gained through bargaining over the past 50 years. Verizon is following the Wisconsin playbook and it’s wrong,” continued Johnson.

Johnson said that Verizon had cancelled meetings with the unions Saturday night, Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam sent a statement to all United States-based Verizon wireline and corporate management, saying the unions need to work with him to have their demands meet the current economic conditions in America.

“It’s no secret that the wireline business has experienced a 10-year decline in our customer base and in profitability despite investing billions in improving our network, processes and systems,” wrote McAdam. “Now, we’re asking our union-represented employees to help us on a variety of issues that could streamline our processes and further reduce our wireline cost structure while keeping their overall compensation and benefits among the best in corporate America.”

Some picketers have told publications that the strike could last for months. It’s the first time Verizon workers have gone on strike in 11 years. On Monday, the company’s shares were down 2 percent.