Workers reach tentative agreement with Verizon

Stephon Johnson | 6/2/2016, 11:37 a.m.
After months of bickering, picket lines and accusations, Verizon and its workers agreed on a tentative four-year deal.
Verizon workers on strike Bill Moore photo

After months of bickering, picket lines and accusations, Verizon and its workers agreed on a tentative four-year deal.

Announced by negotiators from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America, the terms of the proposed agreement include Verizon management’s promises that no additional jobs will be outsourced overseas and to increase in-calls routed to domestic call centers. According to the unions, this change will create 1,300 new call-center jobs (850 in the Mid-Atlantic Region and 450 in the Northeast).

“This was the major issue for my members: protecting American jobs and keeping them here at home,” said Local 827 Business Manager Robert Speer, who represents IBEW Verizon employees in New Jersey, in a statement. “This agreement makes a lot of progress in reversing the outsourcing trend.”

The four-year agreement also includes wage increases of 3 percent for the first year and 2.5 percent each year after, the retaining of health benefits, no cap pensions and three 1 percent increases over the life of the agreement. Verizon management also agreed to drop the demand that technicians be available to travel outside their home areas for up to two months at a time.

“I offer my deep gratitude to Secretary Perez and Director Beck for all their efforts to help us reach a fair and mutually beneficial contract that gets our members back on the job,” said IBEW President Lonnie R. Stephenson in a statement. “I also thank every Verizon worker who stayed strong on the picket line and at the bargaining table to get us to this agreement, which is a win for working families everywhere.”

As the AmNews reported last month, 37,000 Verizon technicians and customer service representatives in the Northeast walked off the job a month ago, pushing for a better contract with Verizon. Management said their “best final offer” was a 7.5 percent wage increase, the continuation of the company’s 401k match plan and “layoff protection.” CWA officials said that the layoff protections to workers would come with the provision that the company could cut into job security protections, which could lead to pushing unionized workers off the job.

It got to the point where the U.S. Department of Labor released a public statement expressing a desire for a resolution of the dispute between the two parties.

Elected officials were quick to express opinions on the situation.

“Collective bargaining works,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This agreement shows that when workers organize and are unified, good jobs are protected, working families can thrive and our communities become stronger. I look forward to seeing the workers back on the streets of New York City delivering for our city.”

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders weighed in on the agreement, praising the workers for standing on principle and fighting for their rights.

“This strike has been emblematic of the growing gap between our largest corporations and front-line workers when it comes to living standards and employment security,” said Sanders in a statement. “I was proud to stand with these workers before and during the strike, and even prouder of the thousands of volunteers from our campaign that joined demonstrations and picket lines for the last six weeks.”