Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-6 have announced that Verizon employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike in the event that union negotiators determine one is necessary after the Aug. 1 contract expiration. CWA will hold strike votes over the next 10 days and announce their results by the end of the month.
Dave Keating, business manager of IBEW Local 2325 in Worcester, explained that the decision to hold a strike authorization vote was prompted by the company’s refusal to move forward instead of backward in its stance. “The company’s comprehensive proposal does nothing but take from this membership," said Keating. They post profits in the billions but continue to look for more from our members. They put more money in their own pockets and erode the working conditions of our members. Enough is enough.”
Union leaders in both states emphasized the regressive nature of the company’s recent demands and the need for the union to stand up for middle-class jobs in New England. Eric Hetrick, business manager of Local 2322 in Middleboro, said the package Verizon proposed in June would “roll back 50 years of collective bargaining.” Hetrick added, “We cannot and will not let this company destroy good, middle-class jobs that support our communities. What we’re asking for is to be able to support our families and never have to worry about choosing between going to the doctor and paying the mortgage because the cost of healthcare is too high.”
With bargaining entering its fifth week, union negotiators say the company has proposed significant changes that would cut good jobs and allow unlimited contracting out in addition to slashing benefits like health care and retirement savings.
IBEW stated that workers are looking toward the future and fighting to prevent outsourcing and offshoring of good jobs, according to Steve Murphy, business manager of Local 2323 in Rhode Island. “They are also fighting for retirement security and quality, affordable healthcare against a back drop of excessive corporate greed and lavish executive salaries,” said Murphy.
Verizon workers say they are not just fighting to protect good jobs in their communities but to ensure the best service to customers. The company has neglected the traditional network while refusing to expand the fiber optic network, leaving residents, businesses, and municipalities with outdated technology and little choice for high speed broadband and video.
According to Paul English, a Verizon technician in Boston and a shop steward with IBEW Local 2222, “We are eager to do the work that our customers demand and want to provide high speed broadband in all of our communities. Unfortunately, the company wants to make changes that will slash jobs, move work out of state, and hamper our ability to provide quality service and close the digital divide for everyone.”
Leaders said that the result of the strike authorization vote sends a strong message to management. According to John Rowley, business manager of IBEW Local 2324 in Springfield, “With another overwhelmingly supportive strike authorization vote behind us, the business managers of the system council know that we have the support of the members for what lies ahead. It is not possible to reach a fair contract without everyone prepared to do what is necessary. I am thankful to the members for sending the message of solidarity to the bargaining committee. It sends a clear message to Verizon that we are ready.”