NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ–A strike that took nearly 40,000 Verizon Communications Inc. employees out of work since April 13 has officially come to an end.
“I expect that [Verizon] workers will be back on the job next week,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, in a statement on May 27.
The strike reportedly affected the company’s traditional landline phone business the most.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that [Verizon and its labor unions] have reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on a four-year contract, resolving the issues in the [weekslong, 45 day] labor dispute [and strike] between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management,” Perez said.
Perez added the two sides will now “reduce” the agreement to writing, and submit it to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions for ratification.
The company, which has about 178,000 total employees, has been hoping to shrink retirement benefits and cut healthcare costs. While some of the workers on strike also include those serving the internet business, only a fraction are in Verizon’s wireless division.
“We just want what we have, we don’t want anything more,” said one Somerset resident, a field technician for the company, who other strikers described as their “group leader,” and “voice.”
“We are fighting for the American way. If we don’t have jobs here in America then where are we going to go? Overseas and work?
The Verizon technician added: “We’re in it for the long hall, and it’s not as if [Verizon] is in a recession.”
Noting that the individuals authorized to speak were not on site outside the North Brunswick Verizon retail store on Route 1 South, a corporate location, the leader offered a handout outlining “An Important Message” from IBEW, Local 827:
“We, the employees and retirees fighting for good jobs, want to clear up the half-truths being peddled by Verizon,” begins the message.
It says that Verizon wants “flexibility” to send “more call center work overseas,” so that it would “THEN”:
- Close call centers and force employees to relocate their homes.
- Forciby assign technicians to work in other states for months at a time, rather than hire from the communities where the work exists
- Freeze pension benefits and divert funds away from workers and back into Verizon’s pocket.
- Reach dramatically deeper into the pockets of both employees and retirees to pay for healthcare and prescriptions. Verizon is self-insured!
Verizon agreed to add 1,300 new call center jobs on the East Coast and grant the very first contract to roughly 70 unionized workers in Verizon Wireless retail stores.
Although the wireless retail employees joined the CWA two years ago, they’ve been working without a contract since then. Some 100 wireless technicians are also happy they will now receive contracts.
Furthermore, the company will reverse several outsourcing initiatives — thereby creating new field technician jobs.
The new agreement, among other positives, also “guarantees that an increased percentage of customer service work will be handled by unionized workers,” says the CWA. Verizon will add 850 call center jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region, plus another 450 in the Northeast, according to the union.
“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,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This contract is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people.”
“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.”
Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.