CWA, IBEW expected to authorize Qwest strike

With negotiations ongoing—and rocky--between Verizon, the CWA and IBEW, another big contract deadline with major issues is about to come due on the other side of the country. And, like their union members on the East Coast, Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers employed by Qwest are likely to authorize a strike as well.

Strike authorization votes (voting continues through Saturday) are par for the course, they give the unions a little extra sway. Verizon's unions saw 91 percent of their members authorize leadership to call a strike. And, while it doesn’t mean anyone will walk, it does lend a little more urgency to the negotiations.

It’s no surprise that Qwest and its unions are fighting over similar issues—health care benefits and job security--as those Verizon’s cast is facing. Qwest wants workers and retirees to pick up a bigger slice of the health care pie and wants to be able to outsource more work—specifically customer service call centers to the Philippines. The unions want those jobs back home.

Qwest and its unions have been meeting since July 8 in Denver, trying to assemble a deal before the Aug. 16 expiration—and before the Democratic National Convention arrived in Denver Aug. 25-28. Qwest has the added burden of worrying about the GOP convention as well, which is in Minneapolis—another Qwest-served city—in September.

Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said, "There's a host of issues, health care, wages and a lot of others," including how long a new contract would last.

You can be sure both sides are closely watching the talks in New York and Washington, D.C., for a handle on just how much give each side is willing to withstand. For the CWA and IBEW, the Verizon contract will help lay the groundwork for a number of future telco labor agreements.

For more:
- See this Omaha World-Herald story

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