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Verizon reaches deals with IBEW, CWA wireline workers' unions

Union heads say Gov. Cuomo, FCMS Director Cohen instrumental
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Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has reached tentative three-year contract agreements with its two primary wireline unions--the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA)--ending months of acrimony, saber rattling and the intervention of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

CWA Verizon rally

CWA union members at an August rally in Albany, N.Y. (Image source: CWA)

More than 40,000 East Coast employees are impacted by the two deals which members must still ratify. If approved, the agreement will run through Aug. 1, 2015.

"We believe this is a fair and balanced agreement that is good for our employees as well as for the future of the Wireline business," Marc Reed, Verizon's chief administrative officer, said in a Verizon news release. "It provides competitive wages, valuable benefits and affordable quality health care while giving the company the new flexibility to better serve customers and become more efficient."

IBEW, in its release, was less effusive about the end result, but clearly pleased that a settlement had been reached.

"We don't agree with everything in it, but it allows us to move forward and continue to fight for good middle-class jobs at Verizon in the years to come," IBEW International President Edwin Hill said in the union's news release.

About 6,500 IBEW members in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and upstate New York will be impacted by the new contract, which, Hill said, is a direct result of the "strong unity of the members at the bargaining table and in the workplace--along with the impartial hand of [FMCS] Director [George] Cohen and his staff."

These two factors, he said, "forced the company to back off its original proposal which would have gutted nearly all the gains won by previous generations of telecommunications workers."

For the CWA, the new contract was a hard-won victory over the "most sweeping and intensive attack on our standard of living and bargaining rights in the history of the telecommunications industry," according to Chris Shelton, vice president for CWA District One. "The unity and determination of 34,000 CWA members since bargaining began in June, 2011 has produced a new agreement that preserves intact our members' pension and job security, provides for a substantial wage increase, and preserves a high-quality health plan."

"Verizon workers will keep their standard of living and the benefits and working conditions we've fought for over the years," added Ed Mooney, vice president of CWA District 2-13.

Shelton lauded the assistance of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who, he said in a CWA news release, "intervened on several occasions to break logjams in the negotiations." He also pointed to FMCS director Cohen "who determinedly worked with the company and the unions for seven weeks to bridge the gaps that separated the parties and to find a path to the contract."

The negotiations with both unions were acrimonious. At times workers for both unions left their jobs to protest what they believed were unfair offers that would cut benefits.

For more:
- Verizon issued this news release
- IBEW issued this news release
- and CWA issued this news release

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