Verizon Business Engineers Win IBEW Representation
in New England
December 8, 2008
Six Verizon Business building engineers are the latest Verizon Business employees to gain a voice on the job after they voted to form a union with the IBEW in November.
The engineers, who maintain buildings for Verizon Business in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut, were inspired to go union after more than 600 hundred technicians gained union representation under a three-year agreement reached by the IBEW and CWA with Verizon in August.
Verizon managers had vigorously sought to keep the former MCI, acquired in 2006 and renamed Verizon Business, nonunion. Several of the building engineers joined the campaign with their Verizon Business co-workers to “tear down the wall” separating them from their unionized counterparts.
When the August agreement recognizing the right of Verizon Business technicians to representation was reached, the engineers assumed they would be covered under it. But on the evening the pact was finalized, IBEW Lead Organizer Steve Smith, who was working closely with the building engineers, received some bad news. Verizon had made sure the engineers were excluded from the three-year agreement.
“These guys who had been deeply involved from the start with the union, were now on the outside looking in,” Smith said.
The engineers decided to petition on their own for representation, signing up nearly everyone in the unit. “We thought that with only six guys and overwhelming support, management would agree to let them join the union without a problem,” he said.
Instead the company flew in top executives for a closed door meeting with the engineers, lasting upwards of four hours. “It was a further lesson on how far Verizon will go to oppose unions,” Smith said.
Despite company intimidation, the engineers pressed ahead with the vote and are preparing to negotiate their first contract. “We would still like them to be covered under the same contract as the technicians, but management is going to fight us on that,” Smith said.
The workers, who were organized by the IBEW T-6 council, which covers Verizon members in New England, will be distributed among different IBEW locals through out the region.
photo by tim prendergast 2008