July 20, 2015
By Diane Meade
Boston, Massachusetts — 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 should Verizon not negotiate in good faith and an agreement not be reached August 1st.
The IBEW and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) together represent nearly 6,000 employees in the two states, among a total of 38,000 across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Negotiations between the company and the two unions began on June 22. CWA will hold strike votes over the next several days and announce their results by the end of the month. A strike authorization vote is a necessary precursor to a work stoppage, but does not require the union members to actually strike.
Union negotiators have expressed frustration as bargaining enters its fifth week. 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.
“Despite weeks of negotiations, we are no closer today to an agreement than we were on June 22,” said Myles Calvey, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2222 and chair of the System Council T-6, which represents seven local unions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “Of course, we hope a strike is not necessary and that we reach a fair agreement by August 1 that protects good jobs and quality service for our customers. However, our members have voted to authorize a strike by a resounding 96% in the event that our bargaining team decides it’s necessary. This is another tool in our arsenal in the event that Verizon maintains their unwillingness to reach an accord by August 1.”
A strike authorization vote sends a strong message to management says John Rowley, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2324 in Springfield Massachusetts. “With another overwhelmingly supportive strike authorization vote behind us, the leaders 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 and a clear message to Verizon that we are ready.”
Verizon workers are not just fighting to protect good jobs in their communities but to ensure the best service to customers. The company is refusing to expand the fiber optic network, leaving residents, businesses, and municipalities with outdated technology and little choice for high speed broadband and video.
“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,” said Paul English, a Verizon technician in Boston and a shop steward with IBEW Local 2222,
IBEW System Council T-6 is comprised of seven local unions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island representing 5,000 Verizon employees. They are IBEW Locals 2222, 2313, 2321, 2322, 2323, 2324, and 2325.