New York mayors chime in on Verizon-CWA union negotiations, FiOS rollouts

A group of mayors in New York have joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in their current union labor negotiations with Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), while asking the telco to bring its fiber-to-the-home FiOS service to their communities.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo joined the CWA workers at a bargaining session with Verizon in Rye, N.Y. 

Three more mayors from Albany, Utica and Rome -- plus the Town Supervisor of Brookhaven -- have also written letters to Verizon to increase broadband and video competition in their communities by building out FTTH services in their cities.

CWA and the mayors claim that the telco is refusing to build its FiOS network in lower-income areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of the state's residents with no other choice for service besides their local cable monopoly, while not performing necessary maintenance on its existing copper network.

In June, an audit conducted by New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications found that Verizon (NYSE: VZ) failed to deliver on its promise to provide fiber-optic service for television and broadband to anyone who wants it by 2014.  

Verizon was quick to dismiss the audit, telling FierceTelecom at the time in a statement that it was based upon erroneous information and incorrect interpretations of the company's franchise deal that was signed with the city in 2008, which enabled it to deploy FiOS throughout the city.

These mayors' call to bring FiOS to their communities comes as the FiOS buildout has emerged as a bargaining issue between the CWA, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Verizon during the labor negotiation process. 

Verizon said that the CWA mayors should apologize to these mayors for asking them to come to a union negotiation meeting that is not related to the telco's FiOS plans

"The CWA owes these mayors an apology," wrote Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman, in an e-mail to FierceTelecom. "These elected officials should be outraged that union leaders wasted their time attending a negotiating session today that had nothing to do with FiOS."

Young added that the CWA lured the mayors into what was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

"Unfortunately, the mayors were seemingly misled to think FiOS deployment is an issue that's being negotiated.  It's not," Young said. "Sadly, it seems the mayors were just a ploy as part of this bargaining publicity gimmick."

The current contract expires at midnight on Saturday, Aug. 1, and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

For its part, Verizon has maintained that it has no plans to bring FiOS to any new communities. In March, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told investors that it will only honor existing local franchising authority (LFA) agreements in areas like Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., but has not disclosed any plans to expand into new areas.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Verizon braces for work stoppage as CWA union members approve strike authorization
Verizon braces for potential labor strike as CWA, IBEW union negotiations continue
Verizon's Shammo: Union negotiation process will take some time

This article was updated on July 31 with additional information from Verizon.