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News :: Labor : Organizing
Telecom workers rally for good jobs and reliable services at Verizon
02 Aug 2008
Seeking a fair contract, more than a thousand telephone workers from throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island marched on Verizon's New England headquarters to rally for good jobs and reliable services. The current agreement covering about 65,000 employees with Verizon East expires at midnight on August 2, 2008.

[UPDATE: The Communications Workers of America announced tonight that in light of progress that has been made in bargaining for a new contract with Verizon, it has agreed to "stop the clock" on the expiration of the current contract and postpone strike action while negotiations continue. The current contract will remain in effect.]
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"Verizon made $5.5 billion in profits last year because of our skill and productivity," said Myles Calvey, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2222 and chair of the New England telephone workers' bargaining committee. "This company can afford to provide workers a fair contract with decent benefits, and to keep quality jobs in our communities."

"We are still far apart on health care costs -- especially retiree coverage, lump sum pension payments, contracting out, corporate profit sharing, cost of living allowances and many, many other issues," added Calvey, a long time Verizon splice service technician. "There is plenty of time left to reach an agreement, but if we have to strike we will."

Union members overwhelmingly approved giving their union negotiating committee authority to call a strike after August 2.

"Sure I'm nervous about a strike," said Keith Bonasoro, a 36-year old technician at Verizon's Bowdoin Square Central Office. "But now it's our turn to step up. Whatever price we pay is our responsibility to our parents and grandparents. And it's our responsibility to our children and their children."

"We are fighting not just for union members, but for working families everywhere," said Calvey. "We are fighting for the kind of jobs that are rapidly disappearing in America. The jobs that pay living wages and good benefits. Jobs that allow our families to keep up. Jobs that pay taxes to support quality public education and important services. Jobs that make America work."

A major issue in this round of negotiations has been making sure that Verizon opens up the jobs of the future to union members. The company has put up a wall between it's older and less profitable core telecom business and its new wireless and large accounts enterprises.

Last year a majority of techs at Verizon Business (a new subsidiary created after the company bought the remnants of MCI/WorldCom) formed a union. But Verizon management refused to grant them the same organizing rights that past employees have used to join IBEW or CWA without management interference.

Kevin Leppmann, a Verizon Business technician from Cambridge, Mass., attended the rally with a group his co-workers. "Verizon management is trying to use classic "divide and conquer" tactics that are the oldest trick in the book. Especially in these troubled economic times, union membership is our best hope to protect our jobs and improve our standard of living. If the wall between Verizon and Verizon Business remains, I wouldn't be surprised if many of us are forced to accept pay cuts and a reduction in our benefits. It’s time to tear down the wall that divides and weakens our company."

"We are proud to stand with our Verizon Telecom brothers and sisters to demand a fair wages and benefits for all of us," added Leppmann.

See Kevin Leppmann at the rally on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUGPNtn9XXA

As in years past, Verizon management is looking to roll back health care benefits for both active and retired members. Yet Verizon offers its highly compensated executives free, guaranteed health care for life.

"Everyone agrees that America's health care system is in crisis," said Calvey. "But the answer isn't to shift even more health care costs to workers. Why won't Verizon join us in efforts to win national reforms that would guarantee health care for all?"

"Verizon management seems to want to bury their heads in the sand. Just three days from expiration, they're still looking for concessions that are simply unacceptable," said Meg Collins, a Verizon Service Rep and officer of CWA Local 1400. "Once again Verizon needs to be reminded that its huge profits are only made because of our dedication to providing high quality and reliable service. Yes, we are the network!"

Thousands of Verizon workers from New York and the Mid-Atlantic states attended a similar solidarity rally on July 26 at the company's headquarters in New York City.

More than 9,000 Verizon workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are united in the IBEW and CWA.
See also:
http://www.ibew2222.org
http://www.massjwj.net

This work is in the public domain.
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Verizon, Unions Agree to "Stop the Clock" -- Strike Action Postponed
03 Aug 2008
The Communications Workers of America announced tonight that in light of progress that has been made in bargaining for a new contract with Verizon, it has agreed to "stop the clock" on the expiration of the current contract and postpone strike action while negotiations continue. The current contract will remain in effect.

The current contract, which covers 65,000 members of CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) who work for Verizon from Massachusetts to Virginia, was set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, August 3rd.
See also:
http://www.ibew2222.org