Verizon union workers are headed back to work on Wednesday having stood their ground in a 45 day old strike and negotiating a new contract in principle with the communications giant.
“This contract is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people.” – Chris Shelton, President CWA
After more than 10 months of talks and negotiations that saw no indication of the telecommunications powerhouse bending, more than 40,000 East Coast workers walked off the job in April. The discord between workers and employer grew as strong-arming tactics and the hiring of replacement workers fueled the fire for strikers who had already painted a picture of an employer not concerned with employee welfare. As no sign of agreement came and strikers maintained their picket lines, Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez stepped in, bringing the parties to the table and helping to negotiate a labor agreement that kept workers, jobs and retail contracts stateside.
“CWA appreciates the persistence and dedication of Secretary Perez, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director Allison Beck and their entire teams. The addition of good new jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and the country as a whole. This contract is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” said Chris Shelton, President of the CWA in a release. “It proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and advance the interests of America’s working people.”
In the northeast…
The strike affected technicians and retail workers from Massachusetts to Virginia. The contract in principlethat has yet to be vote ratified by the workers themselves, recognizes union membership for its retail workers who joined CWA two years ago.
“For the first time, Verizon Wireless retail workers have a union and a fair contract,” said Mike Tisei, a Verizon Wireless retail worker in Everett, Massachusetts. “For the wireless retail workers who joined CWA in 2014, that means a better quality of life and meaningful economic security for our families. Today is a great day for my family and working families along the East Coast, and it’s only possible because we stood together.”
The CWA statement released Sunday went on to list ten key factors won by union employees, including an 11 percent raise over the next four years, with compounded interest. Three percent is to be paid upon ratification of the contract, followed by 2.5 percent each subsequent year of the contract. The retail contract was said to be the “first contract ever” for more than 70 Verizon Wireless retail store workers.
“After more than six weeks on the picket line, Verizon workers won an excellent new contract that will protect good jobs and preserve our standard of living. The members’ unity and determination defeated company proposals to outsource and contract out work, and the new agreement will create 1,500 new union jobs up and down the East Coast,” said Dennis G. Trainor, Vice President of CWA District One. “Together, we are turning the tide from cutbacks against working people to building a stronger labor movement and strengthening the power of working Americans. And, for the first time in history, Verizon Wireless retail employees in Brooklyn, NY and Everett, MA will have a union contract that improves working conditions and gives workers a united voice on the job.”
Several call centers scheduled for closure in the Mid-Atlantic region, subject to offshoring of jobs will remain open under the plan, as well as three call centers in New York.
The contract, when ratified, guarantees that an increased percentage of customer service work will be handled by unionized workers. As a result, Verizon will add 1,300 call center jobs, 850 in the Mid-Atlantic region and 450 in the Northeast.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie R. Stephenson issued the following statement regarding a tentative contract between the IBEW, CWA and Verizon. “I offer my deep gratitude to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director Allison Beck for all their efforts to help us reach a fair and mutually beneficial agreement that gets our members back on the job. This tentative contract is an important step forward in helping to end this six-week strike and keeping good Verizon jobs in America.
“We will be sharing the details of it with our members for approval in the immediate days ahead. My thanks to our members, along with those of the CWA, who made numerous sacrifices to finally come to this point. They look forward to returning to work serving their customers, working under a strong pro-worker and pro-jobs contract.”
Verizon’s Chief Administrative Officer, Marc Reed, in prepared remarks said, “Verizon is very pleased with this ‘agreement in principle.’ The agreement is consistent with our objective of creating high quality American jobs and achieving meaningful changes and enhancements to the contracts that will better enable our wireline business unit to compete and succeed in the digital world. We also reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on contracts for about 165 Verizon Wireless employees. In the meantime, we look forward to having all of our employees soon back at work in their regular positions and doing what they do best – serving our customers.”
A complete list of the CWA bullet-points can be found here.
This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on May 30, 2016.