Telecoms Take Hard Line on Union Contract Talks

By Seth Sandronsky

Communications Workers of America

Communications Workers of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Forty three thousand AT&T wireline employees, members of  Communications Workers of America, could be striking this summer if AT&T holds to its position that certain workers must take pay cuts and decreased health and retirement benefits.

The workers’ four CWA-AT&T contracts in the East, Midwest and West expired on April 7. Bargaining continues.

The economic gap is wide and speaks to the gulf between the 99% and top 1%. AT&T seeks changes to wages, costs for health care and pensions and workplace rules, according to Sara Steffens, a CWA staffer with District 9. Leaving one to conclude that lower-paid workers will likely bear the brunt of cuts, AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said, “We’re committed to working together with the union to bargain a contract that will allow us to continue to provide and protect high quality middle-class careers for our employees.”

The company is not proposing to cut the wages of call center representatives or network technicians, according to Richter. While declining to state the specifics of AT&T’s wage proposals, it appears that the company is seeking pay cuts for other CWA workers under new, lower-cost contracts. AT&T also seeks to change the benefits of employees covered under current CWA contracts. One benefit of no small matter is health care insurance. According to Richter, AT&T employees under CWA contracts have health-care costs “in the lowest one percent of surveyed companies.” Continue reading

A Lesson for Labor From Occupy Wall Street

 by Steve Early

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has given our timorous, unimaginative, and  politically ambivalent unions a much-needed ideological dope slap. Some might describe this, more diplomatically, as a second injection of “outside-the-box” thinking and new organizational blood.

Top AFL-CIO officials first sought an infusion of those scarce commodities in labor when they jetted into Wisconsin last winter.  Without their planning or direction, the spontaneous community-labor uprising in Wisconsin was in the process of recasting the debate about public sector bargaining throughout the U.S. So they were eager to join the protest even though it was launched from the bottom up, rather than in response to union headquarters directives from Washington, D.C.

This fall, OWS has become the new Lourdes for the old, lame, and blind of American labor. Union leaders have been making regular visits to Zuccotti Park and other high-profile encampments around the country. According to NYC retail store union leader Stuart Applebaum, “the Occupy movement has changed unions”—both in the area of membership mobilization and ”messaging.”

It would be a miraculous transformation indeed if organized labor suddenly embraced greater direct action, democratic decision-making, and rank-and-file militancy.  Since that’s unlikely to occur in the absence of internal upheavals, unions might want to focus instead on casting aside the crutch of their own flawed messaging. That means adopting the Occupation movement’s brilliant popular “framing” of the class divide and ditching labor’s own muddled conception of class in America.

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Two More Takes on Verizon

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 08:  Verizon Communicati...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In addition to Steve Early’s article on the challenges facing Verizon workers, we would like to recommend articles by two Talking Union contributors, Josh Eidelson and Mike Elk.

Josh Eidelson writes on the American Prospect website.

The strike was an impressive show of large-scale solidarity. At best, it may have tempered the company’s ambitions to undo 50 years of contract improvements in these negotiations, but it didn’t take the largest worker concessions—including increased health-care costs—off the table. The limits of this strike are a painful reminder that, even if workers can protect their current contracts, Verizon has been winning its 16-year war to reduce their relevance….

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CWA and IBEW to Resume Talks with Verizon

Following is a statement by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:

For release 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Members of CWA and IBEW at Verizon Communications will return to work on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at which time the contract will be back in force for an indefinite period.

We have reached agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed and how it will be restructured. The major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues now are focused and narrowed.

We appreciate the unity of our members and the support of so many in the greater community. Now we will focus on bargaining fairly and moving forward.

CWA and IBEW represent 45,000 workers at Verizon covered by this contract from Virginia to New England.

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45,000 workers on strike at Verizon

Communications Workers of America

Image via Wikipedia

COMPANY REFUSES TO BARGAIN SERIOUSLY, VERIZON PROPOSALS WOULD TAKE WORKERS BACK DECADES
Washington, D.C. — More than 45,000 workers are on strike today at Verizon Communications. Bargaining continues. Since bargaining began on June 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired, nearly 100 concessionary company proposals remained on the table.

As a result, CWA and IBEW have decided to take the unprecedented step of striking until Verizon stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.

Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle class workers and their families.

CWA and IBEW members are prepared to return to work when management demonstrates the willingness to begin bargaining seriously for a fair agreement. If not, CWA and IBEW members and allies will continue the fight. Continue reading