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May
2016
6

Nationwide, Unions Large and Small Show Solidarity with Striking IBEW, CWA Verizon Workers

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The 39,000 Verizon workers still on strike since mid-April have been given a revised “final” offer from the company, one which makes some concessions but does not come close to addressing their workers’ chief concerns. 

In the revised offer, Verizon agreed to a wage increase of 7.5 percent, up from their previous offer of 6.5 percent.  The company also agreed to match retirement savings contributions and continue offering pension increases over the next three years.  In a statement, Verizon’s Chief Administrative Officer Marc Reed said: “We are putting our last, best final offer on the table.  The ball is now in the union’s’ court to do what’s right for our employees.”

The offer may be too little too late for the striking workers, many of whom have signaled disinterest in accepting the modest concessions. Job security and relocation to remote areas for long periods of time are the primary reasons for the strike, not wages alone.  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) President  Lonnie R. Stephenson said of the offer:

“From the beginning the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America has been committed to working with Verizon to come to a fair and equitable contract that benefits employees and employer alike.Sadly Verizon has refused to compromise on its most extreme demands, like its call to further outsource American jobs overseas, while rejecting our offer to save the company millions in health-care spending without gouging retirees.

The company’s final offer doesn’t address those concerns and will do nothing to keep good jobs here in America.  Real bargaining involves both parties having a real discussion – not a one-sided presentation posted online. We believe collective bargaining should be done across the table, not on YouTube.

It’s time for Verizon to sit down and engage in serious negotiations so my members can get back to work serving their communities.”

The final offer came just a day before health benefits for most of the striking workers were set to expire. Workers have yet to cower to the reality that they will need to take alternative measures to ensure their health benefits continue in the near future.  The Communications Workers of America (CWA) said its striking members would “remain on strike and are standing strong on the picket lines”:

“Executives refused to back off of callous proposals that would hurt working families and destroy middle class jobs.  Verizon workers, customers and shareholders need the company to get serious about negotiations and building a stronger company.”

The has generated support from a broad range of workers rights advocates. In New Jersey, many of the state’s Democrats rallied with union workers outside of the statehouse, where Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) told the crowd:

We’re going to fight for workers’ rights until hell freezes over.  And when hell freezes over, we’re going to get you ice skates and give them hell even more.”

In Massachusetts, over 500 people joined the picket line in solidarity last week.  There, IBEW members called for job security in the face of recent outsourcing.  Speaking to the Lowell Sun, Michael Monahan, International Vice President of IBEW’s second district argued:

“Every company in the United States of America is entitled to make profits and as workers we want them to make profits. Verizon has made $39 billion in profits in three years.  But the company continues to take away retiree health care, stagnate wages, ship jobs overseas. These are items that I think are important to all workers in the United States.”

In Virginia, union supporters protested outside of a Verizon store in Bristol.  Speaking to WYCB, John Kennedy of CWA Local 2204 said:

“We come in here and we work our tails off everyday. Some guys come in and we get called in for an emergency. We’re out here for seven days a week, 12 hours a day and they don’t think that’s enough,”

Support for strikers is not limited to states that are being heavily impacted. Local unions across the country have also come out in solidarity with Verizon workers.  As Dan DiMaggio reports for Labor Notes, union members in Oklahoma have taken it upon themselves to picket and leaflet outside Verizon Wireless’ corporate stores at least twice a week since the strike began. Dave Ratcliff, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 6012 in Tulsa, told Labor Notes:

“We still believe in the old adage that an injury to one is an injury to all.  We saw our union brothers and sisters in the Northeast struggling and we wanted to let them and Verizon know that they’re not alone.”

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