By Michael Hill
A ribbon in the sky welcomed 40,000 East Coast Verizon landline workers back to their jobs this morning as their union leaders were all smiles after a proposed agreement ended the 40-plus day strike.
What did you win in this strike? “I think a really fantastic victory,” said Communications Workers of America New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein.
Verizon declined to speak on camera but issued a statement saying, “This agreement achieves our goal of creating high quality American jobs and seeking meaningful contract changes to help make our wireline business successful.”
Negotiators for Verizon and the unions’ for its call center and tech workers barely held talks during the strike until U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez intervened. The unions say they believe that led to what analysts consider a rich deal for workers.
The tentative four-year agreement calls for a 10.5 percent raise, Verizon adding 1,300 call center jobs and 100 tech jobs, Verizon withdrawing pension cuts and caps, unionizing workers at Verizon wireless stores and workers paying more for their health care.
“The support of the membership I felt like the corporation thought they were going to fold after a strike for those many weeks, but they stayed strong and working together with the CWA and the IBEW, the nation was watching it. This is a strike that will go down in history,” said IBEW Local 827 President and Business Manager Robert Speer.
“This strike was about job security. It was about off-shoring and losing jobs and forcing out middle class workers and we on all of these points we protected these jobs, we protected the middle class standard of living of these jobs and amazingly we got jobs back,” Rosenstein said.
Verizon’s statement says, “These employees are the best in the industry at what they do and it’s great for our company and customers to have them back. Our management workers did a great job filling in but we’re happy to have everyone back in their regular roles doing what they do best: serving our customers.”
Analysts however have said Verizon’s replacement workers could not keep up with satisfying service calls and last month company executives acknowledged those replacements could not keep pace with installing their fiber optic system, causing a big drop in new signups and analysts to cut Verizon’s revenue forecast as stocks took a big hit.
The unions say ballots are being finalized and going out in the mail and they’re confident workers will ratify the agreements.
“People are always trying to tell workers that they can’t win. And this shows that if you’re united and you fight, you can win and you can win over very powerful forces,” said Rosenstein.
The deadline for vote results is June 17.