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IBEW, CWA Decide to Work Without Verizon Contract Rather Than Striking (For Now)

Verizon won't have to see images like this in the press, for now.

Verizon won’t have to see images like this in the press, for now.

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On Midnight of August 1st, the contract between Verizon and its unionized workforce expired. 86 percent of the 39,000 workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), previously authorized a strike but both unions announced that they would remain on the job and work without a contract while negotiating.

In a statement following the expiration, Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District One, explained:

“Despite our best efforts, Verizon refuses to engage in serious bargaining towards a fair contract.  Verizon has earned $1billion a month in profits over the last 18 months, and paid its top handful of executives $249 million over the last 5 years, but continues to insist on eliminating our job security and driving down our standard of living. We’re not going to take it, and we’re going to keep the fight going while we’re on the job.”

According to a press release from CWA, Verizon has not significantly moved from its outrageous initial bargaining demands, made on June 22nd, which include the following proposals:

• Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
• Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
• Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs. This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of jobs in recent years.
• Slashing retirement security.
• Reducing overtime and differential payments.
• Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides unpaid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
• Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

CWA and IBEW also announced that they will leave the sites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Rye, New York where the parties held round-the-clock bargaining sessions for over a month.  As Ed Mooney, Vice President of CWA District 2-13, explained:

“The company has barely moved off its initial June 22nd proposal that made outrageous demands of Verizon workers. If this company is serious about reaching an agreement, it needs to start bargaining constructively and now.  Right now there isn’t even anyone across the table from us who’s got the power to make any decisions.”

Verizon began training thousands of non-union workers to prepare for a strike and maintains that its latest proposal contains concessions. Marc Reed, Verizon’s chief administrative officer, argues that the company is bargaining in good faith:

“We are disappointed that after six weeks of good-faith bargaining and a very strong effort by the company, we have been unable to reach new agreements with the unions.  Our employees will remain on the job serving the needs of our customers. In the meantime, we’ll continue to meet with union leadership with the goal of reaching agreements that are good for our customers and our employees and put Verizon’s Wireline unit on a path toward success in the years to come.”

If the union members, who work in the landline division and in call centers, go on strike it will have a major impact on customer service because the non-union replacement workers would not likely be sufficient to maintain the status quo.  Many customers are already upset with Verizon’s inability to meet the needs of underserved neighborhoods that have yet to get FiOS, something the company promised.  CWA and IBEW argue that this makes their fight similar to the public’s fight. They want to ensure Verizon keeps its word and does what is right during a time of extreme profits. From CWA’s press release:

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it. During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year. The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service. The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process.

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.


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