October 2010

Fla. Verizon Workers Ratify Three-Year Contract, Build Membership
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Further tearing down the wall between union and unrepresented employees at Verizon, thousands of IBEW members in Florida overwhelmingly voted in late August to ratify a new three-year contract guaranteeing better benefits and working conditions.

Labor leaders were also able to bargain 85 previously unrepresented Verizon Business technicians into the contract that covers 3,500 Tampa Local 824 members throughout the area. A large percentage of the new members were employees of MCI until Verizon acquired the company in 2006.

"These newer members were working without union protection, side by side with our union brothers and sisters in the field, but they didn't have the pensions or medical benefits that their co-workers had," Local 824 Business Manager Robert Prunn said. "We're happy to bring these talented workers into our local union."

About 85 percent of the local's membership voted in favor of the agreement. The contract provides the new members with better health care benefits—including dental coverage—pension and 401(k) contributions.

Joe Torpey, a Verizon Business technical specialist with 33 years in the industry—including with MCI and other companies—is one of the local's proud new members. "I am absolutely pleased to be a part of the IBEW," he said. "The process of getting into the union was easy, and this will save my family hundreds of dollars in medical insurance costs every month. I couldn't be happier." Torpey said he wants to be as involved as he can in the union.

Prunn said that bargaining in the new members was an important step in continuing to fight for workers' rights at Verizon, where the company's nonunion Verizon Wireless division has been growing, while the number of employees assigned to traditional copper landline jobs has been shrinking.

"Getting these new members into the fold is crucial to cut off the bleeding of our work going nonunion on the Verizon Business side," Prunn said. "We're getting a piece of it back, and the fight will continue."

Torpey's bargaining unit is the first to gain IBEW representation since a successful 2008 contract agreement was reached between Verizon, the CWA and the IBEW.

The contract takes effect on December 26.

"I'm pleased to welcome these new members into the Brotherhood," IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill said. "Congratulations to Local 824 and Verizon for working together toward an agreement that will continue to benefit customers and workers."

Verizon Business technician Joe Torpey is one of the newest members of Tampa, Fla., Local 824.