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IBEW Members Vote To
Authorize Verizon Strike

July 18, 2003

IBEW members across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic could be picketing Verizon instead of servicing phone lines next week if talks do not start yielding results.

Three-year contracts for IBEW and Communications Workers of America locals representing approximately 75,000 members expire on August 2, and all have voted to authorize a strike, including 27,000 IBEW members in New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Each IBEW local held separate strike authorization votes by meeting and mail ballot over the past four weeks. The last one to declare support for a strike, Local 1944 in Pennsylvania, favored a job action by more than 5 to 1 in mail ballots that were counted on Wednesday, July 23.

Job security and health care are shaping up to be biggest issues in talks that started around local and regional tables on June 16. So far, IBEW and Communications Workers of America negotiators have characterized the talks as slow.

"There are a lot of demands on the table on both sides," said Business Manager Dominic Turdo of Local 827, which represents approximately 7,000 Verizon workers in New Jersey.

During talks last month, Verizon proposed language that would have required major diminishments in health care, job security and transfer of work guidelines. These retrogressive proposals have not been welcomed by members familiar with the exorbitant salaries of top company executives. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg was paid $30 million in salary plus bonuses, and stock options worth nearly $60 million over the past few years.

Three years ago, the unions representing workers across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic struck for two weeks before a new contract was reached. "It wasnt until we started striking this company that we gained the benefits we have today," said Local 2222 President Ed Fitzpatrick in Boston.

But as members mobilize for a strike, the news this week has not been all bad. An arbitrator ruled in favor of labor in the first of several grievances filed by the IBEW and CWA last week over the layoffs of 3,500 members. That decision prompted the company to rehire approximately 1,000 IBEW members who were terminated last December. Those workers in New England, New Jersey and New York, who will be reinstated with back pay, will return to work by the end of the month.

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