CenturyLink union workers authorize possible strike

CenturyLink's (NYSE: CTL) 12,000 employees in 13 states represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union on Monday announced they would strike if they could not come to terms with the telco on a new labor contract.

CWA said over 88 percent of its members, which consist of service agents, network technicians and Internet support workers, voted to support the strike.

The current union contracts with the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) expire on Oct. 6.

In 2008, the CWA union approved a strike at the former Qwest during contract negotiations, but workers did not walk off the job.   

Al Kogler, a CWA spokesman, said the two key issues they are debating with the telco are a proposal to increase the contribution union workers have to pay for health care and preventing more jobs from being outsourced to overseas countries.  

In August, CenturyLink began negotiations with the CWA and IBEW covering former Qwest Communications employees.

Mark Molzen, a spokesman for CenturyLink, said at that time that collective bargaining agreements with the CWA and IBEW unions cover over 13,000 Qwest workers.

CWA currently represents almost 12,000 workers in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and Washington. Union workers in Montana are working out a separate contract with the service provider.

Negotiating union contracts has been a contentious and ongoing issue in the U.S. service provider industry, with all of the largest telcos trying to trim costs as traditional wireline voice service revenues decline. Besides CenturyLink, AT&T (NYSE: T), Hawaiian Telcom (Nasdaq: HCOM) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) are also in the midst of negotiating or finalizing new contracts with their union wireline workers.  

For more:
- StatesmanJournal.com has this article
- here's the CWA's post

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