Verizon unions: Get ready to take fight to the street

[email protected] reports that although bargaining is ongoing, most major issues on a new contract remain unresolved and “we may soon be taking the fight to the street. Everyone should be ready.” The union also says security at Verizon buildings and plants has been stepped up.

Both the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike by their 65,000 members who work for Verizon if a new five-year deal isn’t reached. The contract is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, but the unions haven’t set a strike deadline as yet.

Meanwhile, Verizon says it has contingency plans in place in the event of a strike, but says it believes a fair contract can be achieved, adding that rallies and strike authorizations are the norm as contract expirations near. On Monday, Dennis Strigl, president and chief operating officer of the company, said in an earnings report conference call that the parties had been "making good progress."

But Paul Feeney, a spokesman for one of the seven local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions representing about 8,000 Verizon service representatives, technicians, and other employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, told the Boston Globe, "The reports are that progress is slow, if at all. There's not much going on at all in negotiations."

The unions say sticking points include health care coverage, benefits for new hires and subcontracting and outsourcing jobs. Also at issue is a battle over efforts to organize workers at a subsidiary, Verizon Business.

“Like anything,” Feeney said, “it always boils down to the major issues, such as job security, healthcare benefits for both our current and retired members, and the future of our work." A strike, he said looked "more and more imminent as the days go on."

The union last walked off the job in 2000. In 2003, negotiations were extended until a contract was reached.

What FierceTelecom readers are saying:
- In support of the CWA & IBEW

- In support of Verizon

For more check out these stories in:
- The Newark Star-Ledger
- [email protected]
- The Boston Globe
- Newsday