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October 2022

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New Verizon Contract Gives Members Wage Increase, Added Benefits

IBEW members employed by Verizon joined with their counterparts from the Communications Workers of America to overwhelmingly approve a 3-year extension of their collective bargaining agreement with the telecommunications giant, ensuring labor peace for the next four years.

A tentative agreement was announced on July 7 and approved by IBEW and CWA members afterwards. The current agreement, which was scheduled to end on Aug. 5 of next year, is now extended until Aug. 1, 2026.

Boston Local 2222 Business Manager Myles Calvey, a member of the International Executive Council who has taken part in multiple contract negotiations with Verizon, hailed the agreement, especially provisions that called for additional wage increases and allow call center employees work-from-home flexibility.

He also saluted CWA representatives for presenting a unified front with the IBEW throughout the negotiations. The two unions have long represented Verizon employees throughout the upper Northeast and New England. The IBEW currently has about 8,000 members employed by the company.

Calvey was joined on the negotiating committee by Syracuse, N.Y., Local 2213 Business Manager Barbara Carson and East Windsor, N.J., Local 827 Business Manager Robert Speer.

"The company worked with us and it's a concession-free contract," Calvey said.

Added Carson: "We didn't lose anything and got unprecedented raises."

Verizon employees covered by the deal will receive a 1.25% raise this year in addition to the wage increases they were already scheduled to receive under the extended contract. They also received a $750 ratification bonus and will receive an additional 1% increase next year in addition to their scheduled wage increase. Verizon agreed to return to a cost of living adjustment in 2025.

Call center employees will continue to work remotely, a practice started during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a huge win for Carson's local, which mostly consists of Verizon call center employees.

Another win came with the online chat feature, which more customers are using instead of speaking to a representative over the phone. For the first time, Verizon agreed to allow IBEW and CWA members to work in that area, which Carson hopes leads to additional jobs.

That's especially important following a wave of retirements this year when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Rate — commonly called the GATT rate — climbed to its highest level in some time, she said. The rate determines payments to Verizon's defined-benefit pension programs, and that increase in funding prompted more employees than usual to retire.

"We've been losing members at a terrible rate," Carson said. "Now, we're guaranteed to get some new hires. Hopefully, the work we're getting will justify even more in the future."

Speer noted the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden last year ensures plenty of work is coming to all unionized telecommunications workers, including those at Verizon.

Combined with the increase in pay and improvements in the pension and health insurance costs, that made it the right time to extend the deal, Speer said. By the end of the contract, members who are fully taking advantage of their health care benefits will only be paying about $300 per month on a family plan, he said.

"It's a win for us and a win for Verizon," said Speer, whose local represents technicians employed by telecommunications companies throughout New Jersey.

"If your employer is doing well, your membership should be doing well," he said. "I think both sides are going to be doing good with the infrastructure bill and the work we're going to get from that. This will give us more members making good salaries."

After a contentious relationship for several years, which was punctuated by a 49-day strike in 2016, the IBEW and CWA have developed a more fruitful partnership with Verizon since. Much like this year, the collective bargaining agreement was extended in 2018 following productive discussions with no hint of any job action.

Many observers credit that to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, who took over after the 2016 strike and has shown more willingness to work with unions, as well as a commitment to continue the uninterrupted buildout of the 5G network.

"It's a win-win for us and also for Verizon," Speer said.

Verizon also is taking part in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which gives low-income Americans a $30-per-month discount on their internet services. It was part of the infrastructure bill.

"Congratulations to our negotiating committee and all our members employed by Verizon," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "This agreement provides substantial improvements in pay and benefits and is another reason why we worked so hard to help the Infrastructure Act become law.

"Verizon and our other telecommunications partners are expanding services to all Americans and doing it with good-paying, union jobs."


IBEW members employed by Verizon, along with their counterparts from the Communications Workers of America, voted overwhelmingly to extend their collective bargaining agreement with the company earlier this year.

Credit: Creative Commons / Flickr user rwcar4

A Majority of Workers Support Unionization

Most U.S. workers support having a union in their workplace, a new study shows.

"More and more, workers are fed up with the status quo," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "And those workers are finding that joining together in union is the best way to go in order to truly have a voice on the job."

Unions seem to be having a moment, albeit a mixed bag of one. While union membership rates remain at a multi-decade low, a recent CNBC-Momentive survey found that 59% of workers across the U.S. support increased unionization efforts at their jobs. It further reported that 46% of workers say that labor unions are mostly good for working people, more than twice the number who say they're mostly bad. The survey also found that, while Democrats were about twice as likely to have a positive view of unions as Republicans, close to half of GOP voters say they support increased unionization.

"This really isn't the partisan issue that many assume," said Laura Wronski, senior manager of research science at Momentive, to CNBC.

The CNBC-Momentive study is the latest in a string of studies and news stories about working people joining together at work. Recent findings from Pew and Gallup also showed increased support for organized labor. Gallup's poll from September 2022 measured 71% support for unions, the highest it's been since 1965.

Taking a different angle on the issue, Pew found earlier this year that 58% of U.S. adults say the large reduction over the past several decades in the percentage of workers represented by unions has been bad for the country. And another Pew survey from 2021 found that 55% of U.S. adults say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country.

Furthermore, a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute found that unions don't just help their members with pay and benefits, they help communities as a whole, and even support democracy.

"In the same way unions give workers a voice at work, with a direct impact on wages and working conditions, the data suggest that unions also give workers a voice in shaping their communities. Where workers have this power, states have more equitable economic structures, social structures and democracies," the authors wrote.

All of this comes at a time when workers across industries are pushing for more rights at work. From Starbucks baristas to Amazon warehouse workers to big tech employees, people are speaking up and doing the hard work of organizing. In fact, during the first nine months of fiscal year 2022 (which began October 1, 20221), union representation petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board increased 58%. And by May 25 of this year, petitions exceeded the total number filed in all of 2021. At the same time, perhaps unsurprisingly, unfair labor practice charges have also increased 16% — from 11,082 to 12,819.

"As exciting as the public opinion shift is towards unionizing, the challenges remain the same. The employer's playbook continues to be effective. They use the fear of the unknown to influence their workforce," said IBEW Director of Professional & Industrial Organizing Jennifer Gray. "Our No. 1 job is to prepare the workers and keep them focused on the goal. Where we are able to do this — we win."

Much of this new organizing is also being done by young workers. ABC News reported that, between 2019 and 2021, the overall percentage of U.S. union members stayed flat but the percentage of workers aged 25-34 who are members rose by 68,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

ABC News also spoke to Derrick Pointer, a lineman and Tallassee, Ala., Local 904 member. Pointer wasn't sure he wanted to join the union at first, but decided to do so to take advantage of the training it offered. Now he makes just over $42 an hour and has generous benefits, including COVID sick leave. The amount he pays in dues is well worth it, he said.

"More and more working people are discovering what our members already know, that the union is worth every penny," Stephenson said. "From livable wages to being able to give back to your community, unions make the middle class stronger, and that benefits everyone."


Gallup polling shows Americans' approval of unions at 71%, its highest level in more than 50 years.

Source: GALLUP

How Oregon's Union Apprenticeships
Increase Diversity in the Trades

Oregon's union apprenticeships are outpacing their nonunion counterparts when it comes to diversity and inclusion, says a recent study.

"Diversity, in leadership and in the rank-and-file, makes us richer both in talent and in community," said Bridget Quinn, Portland, Ore., Local 48's workforce development coordinator. "Union programs encompass brother and sisterhood, a real looking-out for others. Nonunion programs lack that connection. They're more business-focused than people-focused."

The study, conducted by Larissa Petrucci through the University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center, found that union apprenticeship programs are more diverse than their nonunion counterparts and have higher success rates all around, especially for women and people of color.

In particular, Petrucci found that women and people of color are significantly more likely to complete their programs when it's a union apprenticeship as compared to a nonunion one. They are also more than twice as likely to enter a high-wage trade if they go through a union apprenticeship.

Construction is the third-fastest-growing industry in Oregon and the state's Employment Department is predicting 11,900 new construction jobs over the next decade, all while 17% of the workforce nears retirement, reported the Portland Business Journal. As such, recruitment to the trades is becoming increasingly vital.

"In order for the trades to continue to grow, we have to look outside of the typical groups that have been sought after to produce our workflow," said Local 48 Daytime Instructor and Outreach Coordinator Kennitha Wade.

Among Petrucci's findings is that more women and people of color have enrolled in apprenticeship programs over the last decade. In 2020, 11% of all newly enrolled apprentices were women, a 57% increase from 2011, and 31% of newly enrolled apprentices were people of color, a 55% increase from the same time period. And most of these groups were in union programs. In trades represented by both union and nonunion programs, unions graduated a significantly higher proportion of apprentices, boasting a graduation rate of 58% compared to 36% for the nonunion alternative.

One thing that Local 48 and other union apprenticeships do to help historically underrepresented groups is to offer support. This can take a variety of forms, from mentoring to interview preparation, and this extra attention can often be the difference between completing a program and not, Wade said.

"This trade can be brutal and when you feel like you do not belong on a job site, it's easy to believe what people tell you and leave. It's easy to want to escape the negative environment that sometimes exists on construction sites," Wade said. "With the union, there are support groups and spaces made available for people to talk to others they can identify with, where they can share experiences and get advice."

That support can come in the form of groups like the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, RENEW/NextGen (the IBEW's young worker-focused group) and women's committees like Local 48's Sisters in Solidarity.

"Groups like the EWMC are essential," said Wade, who also serves as her chapter's president. "The EWMC sees the value in diversity and provides members a place to speak freely and get feedback without judgment. When people have that, they are more likely to share some of the hardships they face and get help from other members."

Local 48's diversity and inclusion efforts also include partnerships with area organizations like Oregon Tradeswomen and Girls Build Summer Camp, as well as with pre-apprenticeship programs.

"I think it's critical to have partnerships," said Sisters in Solidarity Chair Dolores Doyle. "We can't reach everyone. And groups like Oregon Tradeswomen do really good work. They always send us their best."

Local 48 also offers customized communication to all women and applicants of color at each stage of the application process, which includes resources and introductions to mentorship groups like the EWMC and Sisters in Solidarity.

"These groups are very important," Quinn said. "They play a key role in applicant mentorship as well as with retention."

Doyle, an inside electrician for 22 years, says that it's also important to have buy-in from both the union and the contractor side.

"It shouldn't be just one voice. It has to come from multiple sides," she said.

Quinn says that the solid relationship between Local 48 and its NECA chapter, which includes a jointly-run pre-apprenticeship program, has helped to develop a strong outreach program as well.

"There is a lot of willingness on both sides to try new things," Quinn said.

Doyle says that while major strides have been made, there's still a long way to go. For instance, Local 48 offers paid maternity leave and reimburses child care costs through a flex plan, but many women — who tend to bear a disproportionate amount of childcare duties — still have to get their kids to a childcare site that fits with their early work schedule.

"It's better than it was 20 years ago, but we're still living in a world where some women have to get their kids up at 3:30 a.m. to get them to day care by 6 a.m. so they can get to work on time. Most men don't have to deal with that."

Despite the obstacles that still need to be faced, Doyle and Wade both praised Local 48 for its efforts at recruitment and retention of historically underrepresented groups.

"This is a really great career for people," Doyle said. "The more we can do to help women and people of color be successful, the better it is for everyone, including the union. We want the IBEW to have as big an umbrella as possible."

Local 48's work in this area serves as an example of IBEW Strong, the international union's initiative to be more inclusive throughout its ranks and branches. IBEW Strong takes the objective of the union, to organize all electrical workers, and puts it into practice with its stated declaration of working toward human justice, rights and dignity. Across the U.S. and Canada, the IBEW is making strides to welcome all workers regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or other identity.

"The job that we all have is to make sure that anyone who wants to work in our field, no matter their background, knows that they have a home in the IBEW," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "It's how we grow to meet the demands of the new economy, and it only makes us stronger. Local 48 is a great example of how to do just that."