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Verizon workers setting wheels in motion for strike

Verizon workers setting wheels in motion for strike
Photo: Pam Galpern.

Workers set to rally, walk off jobs

There are 38,000 Verizon Communication workers in the Northeast putting the wheels in motion to strike. The Communication Workers Association and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are set to hold a rally on July 25 in New York City in which they will stop working for the day to get together and discuss industry changes, bargaining strategy and mobilization tactics.

“The clock is ticking and time is running out,” the CWA said.

The two unions have been in heated negotiations with Verizon on a new contract for the past few weeks. So far the talks have been unfruitful.

According to the unions, Verizon has asked them to make many concessions in the negotiations including downsizing retirement plans, allowing for more outsourcing and increasing health care contributions for members.

In a July 21 update on its website, CWA District 1 said, “This morning we met with the company and rejected numerous sections of the company’s proposal, including job security, pensions, force adjustment plan changes and more. We also reminded the company that they have not yet responded to a single union proposal at the regional table. We told them we need our issues addressed.”

The labor unions are upset that Verizon is asking them to sacrifice in spite of huge profits and executive salaries for the company in recent years. Many are calling for Verizon’s top brass to take the hit instead.

“Enough is enough,” Keith Purce, the CWA Local 1101 president said. “It’s time for the top executives to take the hit, instead of having the workers give back.”

The wireline workers also oppose the company’s apparent desire to get out of the landline business. They are fighting to keep Verizon’s FiOS business alive.

“We’re fighting for good jobs building and servicing FiOS, and properly serving copper network customers,” a flyer for the rally said. “Verizon can afford to build out FiOS and preserve good jobs.”

Verizon has been under fire recently for its failure to deliver on a promise to outfit all of New York City with the FiOS service.

The carrier has begun training more than 15,000 nonunion employees to take over in the event of a strike.

“These employees are receiving training in various customer service functions, repair and maintenance, and in other areas,” Verizon spokesman Richard Young told RCR Wireless News earlier this moth. “We need to ensure that any dispute between our company and the unions does not impact our customers.”

Verizon has been working on a three-year contract with representatives from the labor unions.

When CWA and IBEW last called a strike in 2011, it led to 45,000 Verizon workers walking off the job. The two-week strike was painful to both the company and union members. Verizon’s stock fell 2% on the first day of the strike and many employees went the entire strike without pay. Eventually both sides reached a compromise.

In spite of the heated negotiations, Verizon has said all along that it not anti-union.

“Verizon recognizes and respects the right of workers to unionize and engage in collective bargaining,” Young said. “We have a long history of working successfully with the CWA and IBEW, and we expect that to happen this time as well. However, keep in mind, we provide critical communications services of millions of consumers and businesses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even while we’re engaged in the bargaining process, we must still take appropriate measures that make certain our customers are not affected by any disruption in usual business activities.”

In a July 10 bargaining update, CWA leaders reported that the union offered up proposals regarding health, dental and vision coverage for active and retired members “which are in deep contrast to the company’s health care proposals, which would raise health care costs for our members by up to 143%.”