Two weeks after their collective bargaining agreement expired, 39,000 unionized Verizon workers the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states continue to work without a contract as bargaining between the workers’ unions and Verizon continue.
Union leaders told members that a strike is still possible, but when and if a strike does occur, it will take place when the unions have a tactical advantage.
“We are disgusted by Verizon’s attitude at the bargaining table. Their greed knows no bounds,” said the leaders of unions’ bargain team in a message to their members. “But we are not going to let our anger allow us to walk into a trap. It’s quite possible that Verizon is trying to provoke us into a long strike in order to try to break us. They have spent tens of millions of dollars preparing for a strike, training managers, hiring scabs and contractors, advertising against us on TV and radio. So your leadership has decided that if and when we strike, it will be on our terms, on our timing.”
Verizon despite making $18 billion in profits over the last 18 months is demanding concessions that include higher health care costs for workers, less job security, and more outsourcing of union work.
For the time being, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the two unions representing the workers, are taking other actions to strengthen their position at the bargaining table.
Among other things, the unions are reaching out to Verizon’s customers.
In a recent radio ad sponsored by CWA, the unions criticize the company for poor customer service.
“Can we count on Verizon to provide high speed internet and reliable phone service to customers and maintain good jobs for working families? Check the facts,” says the ad’s narrator. “Despite profits of $1 billion per month, millions of people can’t get FiOS and risk losing reliable phone service because of poor maintenance while Verizon outsources thousands of jobs and cuts workers’ take home pay.”
FiOS is Verizon’s voice over internet broadband service, which the company has decided not to extend to certain communities in the Verizon service area because the company believes that doing so would cut into the company’s profits.
FiOS could improve the quality of telephone service in these communities, where telephone service has deteriorated badly over the years because Verizon is not adequately maintaining the copper cabling used to deliver traditional telephone service.
An editorial in the South Jersey Times said that South New Jersey is “the epicenter of discontent with (Verizon).”
According to the editorial, Verizon will be installing FiOS in upscale suburban neighborhoods and dense urban enclaves, but everyone else in South New Jersey is “stuck with deteriorating landlines that won’t be upgraded with anything comparable.”
Residents of rural New York voiced similar complaints at a recent hearing held by the New York State Public Service Commission in Poughkeepsie, New York. They were joined and supported by CWA members.
At the hearing, commission members heard complaints from community officials who criticized Verizon’s decision not to extend FiOS while allowing traditional phone lines to deteriorate.
Jim Gescheidle, executive vice president of CWA Local 1120, told the commission that the reason that Verizon’s telephone service is deteriorating is that “there are too few workers to do the work.”
Gescheidle went on to urge the commission to fine Verizon for its poor service.
The unions also have been mobilizing their members to show Verizon management that the workers are united and willing to fight for a fair contract.
Workers Verizon’s Silver Springs, Maryland, call center are holding “Militant Mondays” to demonstrate their unity. At the first Militant Monday, CWA Local 2108 members showed up for work wearing red and military camouflage.
The unions are also reaching out to elected leaders and asking for their support.
At a recent rally in Rockland County, New York union member were joined by local office holders and members of the legislature in urging Verizon to negotiate a fair contract and to make high speed internet service available to all of its customers.
In Dover, Delaware, CWA Local 13100 were joined by Mayor Robin Christiansen at a rally at a Dover Verizon office.
Union members have been busy collecting statements of support from other local, state, and national elected officials.
IBEW and CWA are urging other unions to help them stand up to Verizon by spreading the word about Verizon’s unreasonable stance at the bargaining table and its lack of concern for its customers.