Verizon bargaining resumes, worker mobilization continues

Verizon and two unions representing 45,000 of its workers on the East Coast from Virginia to New England returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday. The two-sides agreed to resume negotiations after a two-week strike caused serious service delays.

Union leaders said that unity and mobilization efforts of members of CWA and IBEW, the two unions representing Verizon workers, was key to getting the company to change its mind and begin serious negotiations with its unions. The strike generated broad support among other union members and non-members who saw Verizon’s concessionary demands as an attempt to lower working-class living standards. Both unions urged members to continue their mobilization efforts even after returning to work.

“Our members made it clear that they would not allow this Verygreedy Corporation to destroy our collective bargaining rights nor would they allow (Verygreedy) to destroy middle-class jobs,” read a statement that CWA sent to members and supporters of the Verizon workers.

Shortly after the strike began, CWA and IBEW began a picketing campaign that not only included Verizon work sites but Verizon Wireless stores as well. Union members, many of whom belonged to unions other than CWA or IBEW, picketed Verizon stores from coast to coast, passing out leaflets that explained the strike issues.

Those on the picket lines said that the information that potential Verizon customers received from strike supporters caused some to turn around and look for another wireless carrier.

Verizon tried to downplay the impact that the strike was having on service, but as one CWA local leader said, it’s difficult to imagine how Verizon could maintain its service after 45,000 workers walked off the job.

The New York Times reported that Verizon customers in New York City experienced significant repair and installation delays. One customer who heads a small investment bank told the Times that he was without service for nine days during the strike. Another potential customer tried to sign up for FiOS (phone service over the internet) and Internet service but was told that the next available installation date was December 30.

The Boston Herald  reported that Verizon put new installations on hold during the strike and that those who already had service experienced frustrating delays when repairs were needed. “I canceled my DSL and am looking for a telephone alternative,” said one angry Verizon customer to the Herald.

In the District of Columbia, the Office of People’s Counsel, an agency that represents energy and telecommunications services customers, received so many complaints about Verizon’s service during the strike that it filed a petition asking the DC Public Service Commission to convene a comprehensive review of Verizon’s quality of service in the DC area.

“We have received numerous complaints from consumers in Wards 4, 6 and other areas . . . relating consumer frustration with poor service and restoration response,” said Sandra Mattavous-Frye, People’s Counsel. “By encouraging the Commission to use the full breadth of its statutory authority, I believe the investigation will be able to address the condition of the telephone system infrastructure in the city and identify the types of corrective actions necessary to enable the provision of safe and reliable
service.”

While the mobilization efforts of the strike forced Verizon back to the bargaining table, the unions told members that the fight for good contract was far from over and urged members to continue their mobilization efforts. CWA members and supporters will continue to leaflet Verizon Wireless stores (CWA members and supporters will demonstrate at the Austin Verizon Wireless store, 9600 S. IH 35 on Labor Day at 3:00 p.m.) and engage in other demonstrations of unity on and off the job.

“Going back to work won’t curtail workers’ mobilization efforts as (we) continue to fight for a fair contract and highlight Verizon’s unreasonable demands,” read a statement to members on the CWA website, “Leafleting continues in front of Verizon Wireless stores across the country. Visit the Unity at Verizon website to join workers in their fight and click here to find them on Facebook.”