Local Verizon Workers Go On Strike

By Virgil Night

On Monday, August 8 local Verizon Communication workers stood outside the Verizon Communications building on Route 14 in Milford to protest a nation-wide contractual dispute between Verizon Communications and Communications Workers of America.

For the first time since the 18-day standoff in 2000, more than 45,000 workers across the country are on strike for the second day at Verizon Communications. Since bargaining began on June 22, Communications Workers of America (cwa-union.org) says Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired August 6, nearly 100 concessionary company proposals remained on the table.

The striking employees, about a quarter of Verizon’s staff, work for the company’s traditional landline business, which Verizon claims is losing customers to cable-TV carriers’ calling plans and mobile phones. Verizon Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam said the company needs concessions from unions because of the division’s customer losses and eroding profitability.

In the letter sent by McAdam on Sunday, Aug. 7 to all U.S.-based Verizon Wireline and Corporate management, he stated “It is clear that some of the existing contract provisions, negotiated initially when Verizon was under far less competitive pressure, are not in line with the economic realities of business today. In fact, under these contracts, benefit costs have risen consistently even as the wireline business has shrunk.”

Verizon employees have been waiting since June 22 for management to bargain. At contract expiration, Verizon continued to demand $1 billion in concessions per year, $20,000 for every worker. Workers continue to point out that these demands are coming from a $100 billion company, where the top five executives got compensation of $258 million over the past four years.

Bill Huber, a business manager for the IBEW, said in an interview yesterday, “These aren’t negotiations, they’re an insult. This is a clear attack on our unions.” Given the bitterness of the divide, this could be a lengthy standoff.

In an August 8 phone interview with James Hummell, President of Delaware’s Local #13101 union chapter, many factors were credited with the decision to strike including salaries and health benefits. “How am I supposed to justify to these workers that they’re about to lose significant health benefits when the former CEO of Verizon and his wife are guaranteed medical coverage for the rest of their lives?”

Perhaps the opinions of the workers can be best summed up by one of the striking workers outside Milford’s Verizon facility this morning: “We want to work…we’re not greedy, not asking for a lot, just enough to keep our homes and our health and a little respect for the years of service and hard work that made Verizon the company it is today.”

Verizon has countered by establishing a page on their website to “confront false statements and common misperceptions regarding Verizon’s 2011 union contract renegotiation”. You can find this information at: http://newscenter.verizon.com/2011-bargaining/issue-accuracy.html

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