Verizon workers ratify new contract after victorious strike

Three weeks after the end of a 45-day strike, members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states ratified a four-year collective bargaining agreement with Verizon.

CWA Vice President District 1 Dennis Trainor called the strike “an incredible victory for the nearly 40,000 courageous workers who put everything on the line to protect the good jobs for their families.”

“It was a tough strike, but this contract, which secures good jobs in our communities and preserve workers’ standard of living shows what can happen when we stand together,” said Ed Mooney, vice president CWA District 2-13. “I am so proud of our members for standing up for themselves, our communities, the customers and their families.”

Because union power has been greatly weakened during the last 30 years, a union official claiming victory in a strike can mean anything from, “we returned to work without making any significant concessions” to “we survived.”

But in this case, the outcome looks like a solid win for labor.

Verizon wanted to outsource more work, close 16 call centers, eliminate jobs, and make the jobs remaining less secure.

The new contract maintains all the call centers except for two small ones in New York (where workers will be placed in other jobs at the company), creates 1300 new call center jobs, returns outsourced pole maintenance work in New York to union workers, and maintains job security provisions including no involuntary layoffs, forced transfers, or job classification downgrades.

Verizon wanted to freeze pensions and force workers in the defined benefits pension plan to choose between the defined benefits plan or 401(k) savings plan.

The new contract maintains the current pension plan for those enrolled in it and increases pension payments by 1 percent each year over the next three years.

Verizon wanted to eliminate corporate profit sharing for workers.

The new contract preserves profit sharing and sets a $700 yearly minimum.

Verizon proposed a 7 percent pay increase over the four-year term of the contract.

The new contract calls for a 10.9 percent increase over four years.

The one area where Verizon made some headway was health care.

The new contract requires higher health care premiums for workers, but the wage increases will offset the higher costs with enough left over for a decent take-home pay raise.

Conventional wisdom held that winning a strike at Verizon would be difficult if not impossible.

Almost all of the company’s union workers work in the wireline division while most of the company’s revenue is generated by its wireless division.

Verizon’s technology investments also appeared to give it an edge in the strike.

The Washington Post reported that “a decision Verizon made at least two years ago to cut the human out of many customer interactions is blunting some of the strike’s effects. . . . The technology-driven shift. . . could give Verizon a greater ability to withstand one of the biggest walk-offs in company history.”

But as it turns out, the wireline division is still an important generator of revenue and Verizon’s technology turned out to be a poor substitute for the skilled hands and minds of the company’s union workers.

One important job done by union workers is the installation and maintenance of FiOS, Verizon’s voice over internet service that customers use to access telephone, internet, and cable service.

Replacement workers couldn’t keep up with the demand for new FiOS installation. As a result, one analyst estimated that the company would lose up to 150,000 customers during the strike.

Also, replacement workers weren’t able to keep landline telephone service intact.

In one instance, the Homestead, Pennsylvania police department reported that its telephone system was unavailable because replacement workers were unable to repair it.

““We can’t talk to anybody,” said Homestead Police Department Chief Jeffrey Desimone to KDKA, a CBS affiliate in Pittsburg, during the  strike. “Our phone lines have been down for over two weeks actually. Can’t seem to get any help.”

A month into the strike, Verizon warned investors to expect a steep drop in revenue because of the strike.

One Wall Street analysts said that the strike would trim Verizon’s yearly earnings by $200 million.

The strike was also having an impact on the national economy. A poor May jobs report was blamed partially on the strike.

US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez took interest and called the two sides together for mediated negotiations.

Perez told the two sides that he didn’t care what the final agreement looked like only that the two sides reach an agreement in a hurry.

The mediated talks not only resulted in a contract for wireline workers, they produced new contracts for the small number of Verizon wireless workers who belong to CWA, which could be significant going forward.

About 100 union wireless technicians in New York won gains that include the same raises and signing bonuses as the wireline workers, a new parental leave benefit, and improved standby pay.

Verizon retail workers in Brooklyn and Everett, Massachusetts, who recently joined CWA, ratified their first collective bargaining agreement with the company.

The new agreement establishes a guaranteed base of $2000 for performance pay, a grievance procedure that includes arbitration, restrictions on subcontracting, and the right to swap schedules.

These gains for wireless workers could be the most important result of the strike.

The wireless workforce is overwhelmingly non-union, and Verizon would like to keep it that way.

The new contract gains could encourage more wireless workers to unionize.

How effectively the union organizes these workers will have a big impact on the next round of bargaining four years from now.

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Tentative agreement announced in Verizon strike

Unions representing 39,000 striking Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states on May 27 announced that they had reached a tentative agreement with the company on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The workers, who belong to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers(IBEW), have been on strike for 45 days. If the agreement is ratified, the strikers could return to work next week.

No details of the agreement have been released, but CWA President Chris Shelton said that tentative agreement achieves “our major goals of improving working families’ standard of living, creating good union jobs in our communities, and achieving a first contract for wireless retail store workers.”

“The addition of new, middle-class jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and our country as a whole,” said Shelton. “The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people. This proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities, and protect the American middle class.”

Since the strike started, members of the two unions have taken an aggressive stand to protect their jobs, which Verizon was looking to eliminate by outsourcing work and consolidating call centers.

Workers not only picketed work sites, they held demonstrations at Verizon stores, thousands of them converged on Verizon’s headquarters in New York, and they conducted outreach campaigns to win the support of consumers and elected officials.

Verizon tried to maintain a semblance of normal service by using managers and replacement workers to provide services.

The company even paid for replacement workers to stay in hotels during the strike.

Alex Gourevitch writing for Jacobin reports that, when union members learned where the scabs were staying, they arrived at the hotels early in the morning blowing horns, ringing bell, and chanting loudly.

The disruptions caused some hotels to stop allowing Verizon to use their premises as a base of operations.

The courts finally issued injunctions to stop the workers from demonstrating at the hotels, but the workers maintained their solidarity on the picket lines, and the strike began to takes its toll on Verizon.

The Montclair Patch reported that Verizon customers in New Jersey complained about serious service problems during the strike.

“It as been nothing short of a nightmare,” said one dissatisfied Verizon customer, who was trying to get her phone fixed. The replacement worker who was sent to fix her phone, “didn’t have a clue as to how to fix my phone, so they called two more techs to come and help. They were at the house from 2 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the four of them completely botched my phone and made it even worse.”

The strike also appeared to be affecting Verizon’s bottom line.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam on May 24 told investors to expect lower second quarter earnings because of the strike.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one analyst estimated that the strike would reduce company revenue by $343 million during the company’s second quarter reporting period.

Three days later the tentative agreement was announced.

Negotiations for the new contract began last summer, but dragged on until April when the company decided to test the resolve of its workers by forcing them to go on strike.

The company demanded that the unions accept its concession demands, or the company would begin requiring technicians to accept job assignments that would keep them away from their homes for months at a time.

The unions refused to budge, and the strike began on April 13. A few days later, Verizon announced that its concession-laced contract proposal was its last, best final offer.

The move was an attempt by the company to stampede union members back to work, but the strikers held firm.

In a few more weeks, government officials began to worry about the strike’s impact on the larger economy, and US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez summoned union leaders and company executives to Washington for a face-to-face meeting.

After the meeting, the two sides announced that negotiations would resume, and a day later, Perez said that a federal mediator would help the two sides reach an agreement.

The subsequent negotiations took 13 days before a tentative agreement was announced. When it was announced, the unions said that they would take down their picket lines.

One important result of the strike is that 65 Verizon wireless workers, who joined CWA in an attempt to improve their working conditions won their first collective bargaining agreement.

The company had steadfastly refused to recognize the new union bargaining component because it wanted to keep its wireless division union free.

The new contract for wireless workers will likely encourage other Verizon wireless workers to join the union.

Union fact finders confronted by SWAT team; unions return to bargaining table with VZ

A week after a union fact-finding team was confronted by a SWAT team carrying automatic weapons, US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez called leaders of the unions representing 39,000 striking workers to Washington DC to meet with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.

As a result of the meeting, the two sides agreed to return to the bargaining table on May 17.

Secretary Perez said that time was of the essence for the two sides to reach a “mutually beneficial resolution to the strike.”

The unions have established a website where strike supporters can show their solidarity by donating to a fund that provides financial assistance to striking workers.

Members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) who work for Verizon in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have been on strike since April 13.

They want to protect their good-paying jobs and maintain some control over job assignments that affect their home life and the quality of their life away from work.

Verizon wants to close call centers, offshore more work, and impose work rules that would force workers to accept work assignments that require them to live away from home for months at a time.

CWA recently learned that Verizon has already begun the process of offshoring more customer service jobs.

According to CWA President Chris Shelton, Verizon call center workers in the Philippines contacted CWA to inform the union that Verizon was routing customer service calls to call centers in the Philippines.

The Philippine workers, who are paid $1.78 an hour, said that they were required to work one to two hours of overtime five days a week and a sixth eight-hour day without being paid for overtime.

McAdam had previously denied that the company was extensively offshoring customer service calls; although he did admit that a few business calls for service were being routed overseas.

CWA sent four representatives on a fact finding mission to uncover the truth.

They talked to workers at the Verizon call centers and found out that they were indeed paid $1.78 an hour and were working unpaid overtime to handle the upsurge in calls from Verizon’s US customers.

When the fact finding team visited a Verizon office in Alagang and asked to speak to company representatives, they were confronted by armed security personnel and local police carrying automatic weapons.

The fact-finding team returned to their car, but as they were driving away, their vehicle was pulled over by a police vehicle.

Masked SWAT team officers, dressed in black, and carrying automatic weapons exited the vehicle and confronted the union fact finders.

After several harrowing minutes, the union fact finders were allowed to leave.

“When our members uncovered how Verizon is padding its incredible profit margins by replacing good paying American jobs with poverty-wage jobs abroad, Verizon sent armed guards and a SWAT team after them,” said Shelton.

Verizon has reported profits of $39 billion during the last three years, and its first quarter, pre-strike profits for 2016 were $4.3 billion; however, the company warned investors that the ongoing strike would likely lower profits in the second quarter of the company’s fiscal year.

Commenting on Verizon using armed guards and police to confront union fact finders, CWA District 2-13 Edward Mooney said that “Verizon is going to great lengths to try to hide their strategy of outsourcing middle-class American jobs in favor of poverty wages abroad.”

Mom explains to Verizon CEO why she is on strike

Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s CEO, is a dollar and cents kind of a guy.

Over the last three years, Verizon booked profits totaling $39 billion, but that’s not enough dollars and cents for McAdam–he wants more.

To get more, he is demanding that Verizon’s union employees, who belong to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), accept steep cuts to their health insurance plan, allow Verizon to close some of its call centers and move some of those jobs overseas, and accept job assignments that would require them to live away from their families for months at a time.

As a result of McAdam’s demands, Verizon’s union workers went on strike nearly four-weeks ago.

A few days into the strike, McAdam, whose 2015 compesation was 243 times greater than the average Verizon employee, visited a CWA picket line in DeWitt, New York and told those on the picket line that he didn’t understand why they were on strike–it didn’t make dollars and cents to him.

A video showing McAdam’s befuddlement went viral, and Amanda Poe, a CWA member who works for Verizon in Willmington, Delaware, wrote him a letter explaining why she is on strike.

The letter contains a powerful message that even a clueless multi-millionaire should be able to understand.

Poe, a single mother of two teenage daughters, said that the strike is about more than dollar and cents; for her, it’s about being able continue being a good mom.

One of her daughters was born with a severely cleft palate and lip that required several expensive surgeries. The operations have been a success, but years later her daughter continues to receive expensive follow up treatment.

Fortunately, Poe has health insurance, won by her union through hard-fought struggles, that has covered most of the expenses.

But Verizon, even though it is flush with profits and facing a profitable future, wants its striking workers to accept steep health care cuts.

“Changes to the health care coverage offered by Verizon could prevent us from getting the help (my daughter) needs to compete her health care plan,” wrote Poe to McAdam. “Affordable health care is not an option–it is a necessity. Is she worth it? Absolutely.”

Verizon also wants to close call centers such as the one where Poe works.

If McAdam shuts down her call center, Poe may still have a job, but in order to keep her job, she will have to commute hours a day to keep it.

Instead of spending time with her daughters at home and during their extra-curricula activities, Poe will be driving to and from work.

“Changing my work location would take away much of what I hold dear — spending my time with my children. I am sure that is not the intention of the move, but please realize it is the result. I am not just a number Mr. McAdam. I am someone’s mom.” wrote Poe.

Poe was joined by thousands of other Verizon striking workers as they took to the streets to explain to McAdam and his Wall Street bosses why Verizon’s workers are on strike during a nationwide day of action on  May 5.

In New York, 2000 Verizon workers marched to Verizon wireless store on Wall Street to demand a fair contract.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, 250 Verizon workers and supporters demonstrated at Verizon’s annual shareholders meeting. Fifteen union  members and community supporters were arrested in an act of civil disobedience to protest Verizon’s greedy contract demands.

“As long as corporate executives put short-term profits ahead of the workers who make those profits possible and the communities they promised to serve, the calls for a change of course at Verizon will only grow stronger,” said protester Bianca Cunningham before she was arrested,

Cunningham is a former Verizon Wireless worker who was fired in September while helping her fellow employees form a union.

In all, 400 actions, mostly at Verizon wireless stores across the country, were held to demand a fair contract.

As part of the day of action, the striking unions set up a website where you can show your support for Verizon workers standing up to corporate greed by donating to a solidarity fund.

Money in the fund will help workers facing financial difficulties while they remain on strike.

Verizon workers strike for jobs, better customer service, and their families

When negotiations between striking workers and Verizon resumed on Friday, April 15, the two unions representing the 39,000 striking workers came ready to negotiate a fair contract that could end the two-day old strike, but Verizon management had other priorities.

Instead of bargaining, Verizon executives demanded more concessions from the unions, then left the meeting to get an early start on their weekend.

The unions, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers (IBEW), rejected the new concession demands and the ones that Verizon has insisted on during the last ten months of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement that covers Verizon union workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

“Workers already have put hundreds of millions of dollars in health care cost savings on the table,” said Ed Mooney CWA vice president for District 2-13. “We simply cannot compromise on contract changes that would ship more work overseas and have our families separated for months at a time.”

While Verizon executives were turning their backs on their workers, they appeared to be turning their backs on customers as well.

The New York Times reports that “Verizon’s wireline customers can reasonably expect a deterioration of service (during the strike).”

All but a handful of the strikers work in Verizon’s wireline division, which provides landline telephone services to homes and businesses.

Their skill and expertise keep landlines at homes and businesses operating.

Skilled call center representatives are also on strike. They expedite customers’ calls for help and service.

Verizon reports that it has trained 10,000 non-union staff to replace the 39,000 strikers during the strike, but it’s difficult to see how this under-staffed cohort of strike breakers can maintain pre-strike levels of services.

“There will almost certainly be some functions which may be slower or unavailable during the strike, because they require specialized skills or there just aren’t sufficient alternative resources available to fill all functions,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research to the Times.

But this won’t be the first time that Verizon has put customer service on the back burner.

In 2004, Verizon promised to extend FiOS, its fiber optic service, to 18 million people living in communities without this service. Doing so would have extended broadband internet service and improved landline service to these communities.

More than a decade later, millions of these potential customers are waiting for that promise to be fulfilled.

As a result 14 mayors of cities that have been passed over by Verizon, recently wrote the company a letter criticizing the company’s decision to ignore their communities.

Verizon also failed to extend FiOS to under served communities in New York City.

According to Counterpunch, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication reported last year that Verizon had not met the terms of an agreement with the city to expand FiOS in the city’s five boroughs.

And both unions report that Verizon is not maintaining its copper wire network, which makes wireline service possible to millions of customers.

Verizon has snubbed customers in other ways.

For instance, it has outsourced 5,000 call center customer representative jobs to other countries.

Rosemary Batt, a professor at Cornell University who studies the impact of offshoring call center jobs, told the Times that, “turnover is lower and performance and customer satisfaction are substantially higher when (call center work) is done in-house (rather than offshore).”

“You need a more sophisticated work force that’s trained and committed to the company to do (customer service) well,” said Batt to the Times.

Preserving the in-house call-center jobs that remain at Verizon is one of the main goals of the strike.

Without the union, (more)  jobs would be off-shored in a heartbeat,’ said Keith Bonasoro  a striking IBEW member to the Boston Globe. . . “What we’re doing here is we’re protecting American jobs. They (Verizon) want to constantly off-shore, outsource good middle-class jobs that support our community. There’s growing public sentiment against corporate greed.”

In addition to offshoring jobs, Verizon, which reported $39 billion in profits during the last three years, wants to outsource more work to low-wage contractors, close and consolidate call centers, and make wireline technicians work away from home–sometimes in other states–for up to two months at a time.

Closing and consolidating call centers and making technicians work away from home for extended periods of time will make family life more difficult for workers and their loved ones.

Verizon also is refusing to negotiate a new first contract for Verizon wireless workers who recently joined CWA and wants to raise health care costs of Verizon retirees.

“Our families and our customers deserve more from Verizon” said Isaac Collazo, a CWA member from Brooklyn. “Through our hard work, Verizon is making record profits while our families are left with threats to our jobs and our customers aren’t getting the service they need. Striking is a hardship for our families, but we need to remind Verizon executives that the people who build their profits are a critical reason for the company’s success.”

Strike at Verizon set for April 13

CWA and IBEW, two unions that represent 39,000 Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, announced that the unions will strike Verizon beginning at 6 A.M. on April 13 unless a fair new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The strike will be the largest work stoppage in the US since the same Verizon workers went on a two-week strike in 2011.

Bargaining representatives for both unions said that Verizon’s greed is the cause of this strike.

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 vice president Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”

CWA and IBEW have been bargaining with Verizon for ten months. In August, their collective bargaining agreement expired, but the unions agreed to continue negotiations in hopes of finding common ground that would make a fair agreement possible.

In March, the unions proposed a path for addressing the company’s critical needs including health care cost savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Instead of responding to unions’ proposals with proposals that addressed the union workers’ critical needs, the company continued to demand steep concessions.

In addition, Verizon told union negotiators that unless the unions accepted these concessions by May 20, the company would start transferring technicians without their consent to any place where Verizon does business in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

The transfers would last for up to two months. During that time, workers would be forced to live away from their homes and families.

“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Virginia, who has been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”

In addition to asserting more control over their employees time away from work, Verizon is demanding concessions that, according to the unions would “gut job security protections, contract out more of our work, freeze our pensions at 30 years of service, and shutter call centers and offshore the jobs to Mexico and the Philippines.”

Verizon also wants to eliminate profit sharing and raise health care costs for retirees. In addition, the company refuses to offer wage increases and benefit improvements to it unionized Wireless workers.

Verizon is demanding all these concessions at a time when the company is extremely profitable.

During the last three years, the company booked profits of $39 billion. During the first three months of 2016, Verizon has averaged $1.8 billion a month in profits.

Verizon executives have been amply compensated for the company’s profitability.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam was paid $18 million last year, 200 hundred more times than the average Verizon worker.

Over the last five years, Verizon’s top five executives were paid $233 million.

Shareholders have also been treated generously.

“Last year alone, Verizon paid out $13.5 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to shareholders. But they claim they can’t afford a fair contract,” reads a message that CWA sent to members about the upcoming strike.

“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, vice president, CWA District 2-13. “This very profitable company wants to push people down.”

Mooney also criticized Verizon for not fulfilling its promise to expand its fiber optic network (FIOS) to communities that are not adequately served by high-speed internet service and for not maintaining it copper wire network that enables land line services to homes and businesses.

Verizon doesn’t just want to push down its workers it also wants to “push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”

Union retirees fight corporate raid on their pension plan

Retired union members who worked for Western Electric, Lucent Technologies, and/or Alcatel-Lucent have spent February trying to stop a corporate raid on their pension fund.

The retired workers, who belong to the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have been writing letters to Congress, holding demonstrations, and getting the word out about a transfer of assets from their pension fund that took place in November.

Alcatel-Lucent transferred the retirees’ assets to complete a merger deal with Nokia, the Finnish telecom hardware manufacturer.

“Nokia recently purchased Alcatel-Lucent,” reads a letter that the retirees sent to members of Congress. “Positioning themselves for the acquisition, the company moved 20,000 retirees and $3 billion in assets from the workers’ pension plan to their underfunded, mismanaged management pension plan.”

While they were working, the union retirees built telecom equipment first for Western Electric, a subsidiary of the original AT&T.

When a federal judge ordered the dissolution the original AT&T because it was a monopoly, Western Electric spun off and together with Bell Labs became Lucent Technologies, which in 2006 was purchased by Alcatel, a French company.

The new company renamed itself Alcatel-Lucent.

Nokia in April 2015 began the process of buying Alcatel-Lucent.

The underfunded managers’ pension fund was a stumbling block for the completion of the deal.

Nokia was spending $16.6 billion to purchase Alcatel-Lucent. To convince Wall Street that the purchase was a good deal, Nokia had to promise among other things that the merger would result in $1 billion in cost savings by 2019.

Shoring up an unfunded pension fund with company funds would be sending the wrong message to Wall Street, so Nokia, which was advised by JP Morgan during the acquisition negotiations, and Alcatel-Lucent agreed that Alcatel-Lucent would take care of the problem.

In November, Alcatel-Lucent shifted $3 billion worth of assets from the Lucent Technologies Pension Plan (LTPP), the union retirees’ plan, into its underfunded pension plan for managers.

Unlike the managers’ pension fund, the union retirees’ pension was fully funded and, in fact, had excess funds.

CWA and IBEW reacted immediately by filing a petition in federal court for a temporary restraining order to prevent the transfer.

The judge denied the petition, but the unions filed suit in December to reverse the transfer.

In the meantime, the unions have been organizing a campaign to raise public awareness about the raid.

Most recently, the retirees held demonstrations to publicize the raid on their pensions.

At a demonstration in Omaha near the site of a former Western Electric plant, retirees told Omaha.com that the raid on their pensions was unfair.

“Theirs is running dry, and now they want to make it up by taking from us,” said Ray Sempek, a retired Western Electric worker to Omaha.com.

 

At a demonstration in Columbus, Ohio, Cloyce Myers said that the raid puts his pension plan at risk.

“I don’t like it all,” said Myers to the Columbus Dispatch. “They’re taking $3 billion out of our pension. . . . That’s jeopardizing our pension, our health insurance and our death benefits.”

As Myers points out, the health of the pension plan isn’t the retirees’ only concern.

“Years ago, CWA and Lucent management worked together to change the law and make it possible to use excess pension funds to help cover retiree health care costs,” said Lisa Bolton, CWA vice president for Telecommunications and Technologies.

CWA’s and Alcatel-Lucent’s current collective bargaining agreement, which expires in 2019, and a stand-alone agreement between the union and the company both allow for excess pension funds to be used to  subsidize retiree health care benefits.

But transferring funds out of the LTPP puts the health care subsidies and other benefits in jeopardy.

“The transfers, if allowed to proceed, would result in a significant reduction of the amount of excess funding of the LTPP, . . . (which) jeopardizes the ability of the Company to continue subsidizing promised post-retirement health benefits,” reads the union’s suit challenging the transfer of funds.

The transfer will lead to the “likely reduction, or eventual loss, of retiree health subsidies,” continues the suit.

 

The company should be using its own funds to shore up its other underfunded pension plan. said Bolton  “Instead,  Alcatel-Lucent wants workers and retirees to make those contributions. It’s the worst kind of corporate raiding.”