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Workplace Showdown: Verizon Again Making Demands CWA and IBEW Refuse to Accept

Verizon will likely again have to part the red sea to get a contract.

Verizon will likely again have to part the red sea to get a contract.

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On August 1st at midnight the contract between Verizon and 39,000 of its workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) will expire. Both sides are bracing for a strike. 

The bargaining units involved represent workers in Verizon’s landline and FiOS Internet and cable operations.  In 2011, the same bargaining units went on strike for two weeks.  If a strike cannot be averted consumers will feel its effect in nine states from Massachusetts to Virginia.  

During a rally in New York City last weekend, CWA said that 86 percent of the affected workers have voted to authorize a strike.  Verizon’s initial offer reportedly included a two-percent raise in 2015 and 2016, followed by a $1,000 cash payment in the third year of the three-year deal.  Union members, though, would have to select between a defined pension plan with new limits or a 401 k plan that the company would match.  Labor representatives argue that the proposed deal would eliminate thousands of jobs and that they are unwilling to make more concessions than that they did in the previous contract dispute.

“Verizon made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014 and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone,” Dennis Trainer, Vice President of CWA District One, said.  “Their demands are completely outrageous and unwarranted.”

In an update to its members, CWA reinforced its disinterest in sacrificing for Verizon:

“In 2012, during a time of great economic stress, the company came to the union and after 15 months of bargaining, including mediation, and reached an agreement that the company said they had to have to survive.  Since then, every year they have made billions of dollars in profits and not one executive officer at Verizon has made a single sacrifice like they told us they needed us to do.”

A deal is not out of reach, but it is growing unlikely. Verizon spokesman Rich Young said the company made “a solid proposal that recognizes the changing communications landscape and offers a path toward success.”  Many aspects of the contract were set “decades ago” and are no longer relevant, he asserted. It is difficult to see union leaders accepting this argument.

Verizon has been training non-union workers to utilize in the event of a strike.

The final week will be a showdown. Both parties appear unwilling to bend.  As Jim Ryan, President of CWA Local 13101, told

“With four days to go, we still haven’t developed much traction.  At this point, considerable movement will be needed if we’re going to get a deal done by the end of the contract.”


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