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Verizon union workers go on strike

Verizon union workers went on strike Sunday, Aug. 7.

BY: Metro Source Staff | August 10, 2011

Motorists passing by the Verizon Wireless Store, located at 2410 Walden Ave., saw a sea of red Monday morning as approximately 40 IBEW, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and CWA, Communications Workers of America, locals 1122, 1115 and 1117, were on strike. The strike commenced Sunday, Aug. 7.

Monday marked the second day of the strike. Roughly 45,000 employees of Verizon Communications, Inc. across the country went on strike when no agreement was reached following the 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 7 deadline. 

Employees striking at the Cheektowaga Verizon Wireless store included linemen, cable splicers, FiOS technicians, central office technicians, inside business representatives and dispatch personnel handlers, to name a few.

Bargaining commenced between the unions and Verizon June 22. 

“They do not want to bargain with us at all,” said Tom Brehm, a FiOS technician and steward of the CWA Union for 17 years. “They have the same proposal on the table right now as they distributed at the bargaining committee in June. We’re hoping to be back with a contract. From my understanding, from my end, we are not necessarily looking to get anything more; we’re working with the company. The biggest thing we’re looking for is a fair contract like we had before. They put regressions on every single thing we ever had in the contact. We’re working for the middle class people.”

Mostly at stake is the issue of who should cover healthcare. Most of the union member employees do not contribute to their health insurance and Verizon is asking them to pay a portion of the healthcare premiums. 

Verizon is asking for its union workers to contribute to their health insurance because of the decline in their landline customers since cell phones and bundles including landline, Internet and television cuts from profits. In the current quarter, Verizon earned $3.2 billion and paid a total of $258 million to five top executives over the last four years.

Healthcare is just a miniscule problem in the contracts. There are still more than 100 concessions on the table. 

CWA and IBEW members from New England to Virginia voted at 91 percent to strike if a fair contract was not reached by Sunday’s deadline.

“I can’t tell you how long we’ll be here,” said Brehm. “How long do we expect this to go for? One day longer than them. It’s always been our standard answer.”

While on location Monday morning, the union members on strike stopped a Fed-Ex delivery truck from exiting the Verizon Wireless Store’s parking lot. Why? Fed-Ex is non-union and crossed the union lion. Fed-Ex was told not to cross the line. UPS, a unionized labor, won’t cross the picket line. The union strikers only held the Fed-Ex truck up for about five minutes. 

Verizon Wireless is not affected by the strike. To limit customer disruption, Verizon has activated a contingency plan. According to a press release on Verizon’s web site, the company trained “tens of thousands of employees, retirees and others to fill the roles and responsibilities of its union-represented wire line workers. As part of the company’s business continuity plan, these individuals will be reporting to their emergency work assignments, as scheduled, and will continue to provide customers with high-quality support and assistance throughout the duration of the union strike.”

“We are confident that we have the talent and resources in place to meet the needs and demands of our customers," said Marc C. Reed, Verizon's executive vice-president of human resources. "It's regrettable for our employees and our customers that the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have decided to walk away from the table instead of continuing to work through the issues. We will continue to do our part to reach a new contract that reflects today's economic realities in our wire line business and addresses the needs of all parties. It's also our intent that under a new contract, Verizon employees will continue to receive competitive pay and benefit programs."

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