The Electrical Worker online
December 2012

IBEW Verizon Employees Ratify New Agreement After Year in Contract Limbo
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Following intense contract negotiations that came on the heels of a two-week strike in August 2011, IBEW members working for Verizon in the Northeast ratified a new contract Oct. 19. The employees maintain the company’s landline infrastructure, the backbone of customers’ traditional telephone service, fiber-optic television and Internet.

The agreement guarantees the 12,000-strong IBEW work force an 8.2-percent wage increase compounded over the next three years of the contract, which expires Aug. 1, 2015. The agreement was made retroactive to Aug. 1, 2011, with no wage increases for that year. Members were also awarded an immediate $800 ratification bonus, and the negotiating committee was able to stave off many of the more austere health care proposals the company put on the table during talks.

"The ratification vote shows that our members listened to the union’s leadership when we told them that this was the best contract we could negotiate with Verizon at this point in time," said East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 Business Manager Bill Huber, who helped helm the negotiating committee. "They understood that we were facing a perfect storm of negative economic circumstances. Although this was not the best contract we had hoped to achieve, it was one that will allow us to live to continue to fight for our members and the customers they serve." Local 827 represents 5,500 Verizon employees statewide.

IBEW members joined about 35,000 Communication Workers of America members working at Verizon for a strike last year after the company and the work force failed to reach accord on a new collective bargaining agreement. Members returned to work after parties agreed to extend negotiations.

Members of the negotiating team said the company wanted drastic concessions from their employees—a position that played out over the next 15 months as contract talks turned increasingly arduous, prompting the parties to seek federal mediation in July. A tentative agreement was finally reached in September.

Boston Local 2222 Business Manager Myles Calvey said that the company—which continues to make record profits—was seeking to take advantage of the economic downturn in its efforts to force concessions from members.

"What we were facing was simply a typical American corporation in 2012 wanting to pursue profits at all cost over reasonable requests of its work force," said Calvey, whose local represents about 2,000 Verizon workers. Calvey is also the International Executive Council representative for the Second District. "The people at the top are very, very well taken care of, and this entire situation is a case study in why you need unions to be strong in this country if the middle class is going to survive."

IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill said that the process reflected the challenges workers are facing in the telecommunications industry nationwide.

"Now that this is over, our members are going to continue doing what they do every day: providing outstanding service for Verizon customers," Hill said. "Our members faced hard choices, but in the end united to protect the integrity of the collective bargaining process and our ability to fight for good, middle-class jobs at the company."

The contract covers members of 12 IBEW locals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


IBEW Verizon employees ratified a new contract in October.