Unions Rally, Vowing Strike at Verizon
By Javier C. Hernandez
New York Times
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The unions representing 65,000
workers on Saturday resounded a pledge to strike if demands for
higher wages, caps on health care payments and limits on
outsourcing jobs are not honored.
With one week to go before a contract expires, several thousand
telephone workers affiliated with the
Communications Workers of America
International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers gathered at Verizon
headquarters in Lower Manhattan.
They chastised Verizon executives for proposing sharp increases
in health care payments and reductions in coverage for retirees.
Some held signs reading “Hands Off Our Benefits,” vowing to take
to the picket line on Aug. 3 if the two sides did not reach a
Joe Connolly, president of Local 1101 of the C.W.A., said that
the union was pushing for a 5 percent annual wage increase,
larger pensions and expanded medical benefits. “Right now,
employees have to make a choice: Are they going to eat or
get benefits?” Mr. Connolly said.
In light of the slow pace of negotiations, a strike was likely,
he said. “There’s been nothing resolved on any level at
Eric W. Rabe, a spokesman for Verizon, however, remained hopeful
that a deal would be reached. He declined to comment on
the specifics of the negotiations. “I think everybody
recognizes that it is in the interests of all sides to get the
contract resolved,” Mr. Rabe said.
A major point of contention between the unions and Verizon is
the outsourcing and subcontracting of jobs. Union members
have said that work like telephone technical support and laying
new wires should go to union laborers. But Verizon has
said that awarding some jobs to outside firms gives the company
the flexibility to create, for instance, a new call center on
the spot, or to quickly find laborers for a one-time