Verizon Workers' Unions Delay Planned
Strike, Continue Talks
By Amol Sharma
The Wall Street Journal
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Unions representing workers at
Inc. delayed a planned strike, citing progress in their weekend
contract negotiations with the telecom giant.
A contract covering about 65,000 Verizon employees was slated to
expire at 12:01 a.m. EDT Sunday, but the unions and Verizon
agreed to "stop the clock" temporarily while negotiations
continue on Sunday.
The Communications Workers of America, which represents about
50,000 of the affected Verizon workers, released a statement
reporting progress on key areas of dispute, including
health-care costs for employees and job security provisions.
However, the union said "significant additional bargaining still
lies ahead before a settlement is possible."
Verizon released a statement saying it would "continue to
negotiate in good faith to achieve new contracts for our
The labor-contract discussions, which involve CWA and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, affect workers
in Verizon's landline division who are located in Northeastern
and Mid-Atlantic states.
They represent about 25% of the company's revenue, a spokesman
said. Overall, Verizon has 230,000 employees nationwide.
A strike would come at a critical juncture for Verizon as it
tries to rapidly deploy a fiber-optic network to power its FiOS
high-speed Internet and TV services. The telecom company
is just beginning to offer FiOS in New York City, a crucial
market in its battle against cable providers.
Most observers see a strike as unlikely. The last work stoppage
at Verizon was in 2000, not long after the company's formation
from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, when workers walked
out for 18 days. Nynex, another Baby Bell that is not part
of Verizon, had a 17-week strike in 1989.
One of the main hang-ups in the current negotiations has been
health care. Verizon proposes to require employees to contribute
toward health-care-premium costs, and to scale back retiree
insurance benefits. The unions have also complained that
Verizon is reducing their bargaining power by outsourcing more
jobs to non-union workers.
Verizon workers have rallied in recent days to show support for
a potential strike. Gail Maria, a Verizon retiree from Pennsylvania who is a member of the CWA and
whose husband is a current employee, said she doesn't want to
see the unions give too much ground in final negotiations.
"My husband and I do not want a contract with take-backs. We
have dedicated ourselves to this company," Ms. Maria wrote in an
Write to Amol Sharma at