CWA’s campaign against Verizon’s plan to sell 4.8 million landlines to Frontier Communications raised concerns among consumers and elected officials in 14 states.
A broad coalition of unions, consumer groups and community leaders joined CWA in standing up for quality jobs and service. Hundreds of CWAers attended lobby days, visiting Capitol Hill and lawmakers in West Virginia, the state hit hardest by the deal. Workers rallied, led petition drives, wrote letters and were a strong force at public service commission hearings in West Virginia, Ohio, Washington and other states.
The Verizon-Frontier SIF campaign enabled dozens of CWA locals and hundreds of members to get involved. It was especially critical for small units that don’t otherwise have the resources. “With the SIF, members took off work and got involved, by attending county commission meetings,” said CWA Local 2105 President Brian Bibbee, whose local represents 160 members.
Members spread the word in their communities, posting yard signs and hand-billing. “Many of our customers thanked us personally for letting them know what Verizon-Frontier was about,” Bibbee said.
Local 2001 members collected 7,000 signatures on petitions for West Virginia’s Public Service Commission and coordinated a campaign that sent 2,000 letters to Gov. Joe Manchin. “Until we came along, few people bothered to pay attention to business deals or PSC business,” Local President Lee Perry said.
Local 2109 has just 85 members but still sent a contingent to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate against the deal at FCC headquarters. Members also leafleted and posted signs opposing the deal along highways. “This deal affects our members, so we welcomed having the opportunity to do our part,” Local President Chuck Fouts said.
CWA persuaded enough state legislators and regulatory officials that Verizon and Frontier agreed to make concessions before their deal was eventually approved, including nearly $400 million in investments for broadband and improving the existing copper network. CWA District 2 also got Frontier to extend its members’ Verizon contract until August 2013, while improving job security and retiree health care.
Fouts admits that he opposed setting money aside for SIF campaigns when the idea was first proposed. “I’m a 100 percent supporter now,” he said. “We really need to credit the foresight of those who made SIF programs a reality.”