CWA members at Verizon West are gearing up their mobilization to support the fight for a fair contract as negotiations for 5,500 workers continued this week past the Mar. 13 contract expiration.
CWA and the company remain far apart on several key issues including pay and health care. Both parties have agreed to extend bargaining talks. Negotiations began Feb. 1.
Management is demanding big cutbacks. It wants workers to take pay cuts, to be replaced by higher commissions for selling Verizon's triple-play bundle of Internet, television, and phone services. At the same time, Verizon has a big marketing campaign underway urging customers to dump their landlines and switch to Verizon Wireless; that directly hits the commissions of customer service reps.
District 9 Vice President Jim Weitkamp said the proposal "represents a new low in bargaining by Verizon West." CWAers at Verizon West are engaged in an extensive mobilization campaign, and hundreds of stewards and rank-and-filers have attended mobilization training that began last fall.
Last week, nearly 500 CWA activists turned out for candlelight vigils outside company facilities in Long Beach and Oxnard, and workers have been carrying their message for a fair contract inside the workplace, wearing red, and flashing tiny strike signs mounted on coffee stirrers.
In another Verizon unit, ballots will be counted next week in the contract ratification vote covering 1,400 CWA members at Verizon Midwest. The proposed 3-year agreement provides wage increases of 2.75 percent in each contract year, increases pension benefits, and holds the line against increases in health care benefits while adding new improvements in mental health and substance abuse coverage.