Category Archives: VZ Bargaining 2015

We’re Not on Strike… Yet

The Leadership of the CWA & IBEW have decided not to go on Strike against Verizon… Yet.

At this time, your bargaining team has decided that working without a contract is the strongest tactic we have. We can decide to strike at any time. The key issues on the table remain job security, health care, retirement security, contracting out and off-shoring of jobs. There are several reasons why your union leadership has made this decision:

The company expects a strike and has been preparing for months. They have spent tens of millions hiring contractors, recruiting scabs, and training managers to climb poles and do the rest of our work. They have spent tens of millions in the media to portray themselves as the good guys. Why should we give them what they expect, and maybe even want? Let them pay the scabs and pay their hotel bills while we work.

The company is under significant pressure from elected officials and regulators because of their refusal to build out FiOS or meet the obligations of FiOS franchises they have already been granted. We are going to use this time continuing to build additional public pressure on the company.

Staying on the job enables us to send the message to the public and to elected officials that we want to provide the highest quality service to the public.

NO BUSINESS AS USUAL

We will not simply be working as usual. We will be doing informational picketing, rallying, seeking community and political support, pressuring company executives and members of the Board of Directors. In short, we will do all the things we normally do when we’re on strike.

  • Negotiations will continue.
  • You will still earn a paycheck.
  • All benefits, including health care and pension, will remain in effect.
  • The grievance procedure continues, but the company has the right to discontinue the arbitration procedure. Discipline can be negotiated at the bargaining table.
  • You have the right to participate in “concerted activity.” This means you can mobilize on the job, including filing group grievances, leafleting, informational picketing, etc.

We’re Not on Strike Flyer

CWA & IBEW LEADERS AT VERIZON ANNOUNCE PLAN TO STAY ON THE JOB & CONTINUE FIGHT FOR A FAIR CONTRACT

Despite $18 Billion in Profits in Last 18 Months, Verizon Still Insisting on Slashing Job Security, Health Care, and Retirement Security; Unions Will Continue to Fight for Good Jobs, FiOS Buildout, and Quality Service. With Company Refusing to Bargain Seriously, Union Bargaining Teams Leave Round-the-Clock Talks; Unions Remain Prepared to Bargain.

CWA Press Release
Aug 1, 2015

New York – Leaders of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced that 39,000 Verizon workers up and down the East Coast will work without a contract when their collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight tonight, and continue their fight for a fair agreement while on the job.

Working without a Contract – December 7th, 2011

The union leaders also announced that they will leave the sites of round-the-clock bargaining in Philadelphia and Rye, NY, where union and management teams have been meeting since June 22nd in what has so far been a vain attempt to reach a contract. The unions have informed the company, however, that they are prepared to schedule regular bargaining sessions, and urged the company to begin bargaining constructively.

“Despite our best efforts, Verizon refuses to engage in serious bargaining towards a fair contract,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One, which represents Verizon workers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. “Verizon has earned $1billion a month in profits over the last 18 months, and paid its top handful of executives $249 million over the last 5 years, but continues to insist on eliminating our job security and driving down our standard of living. We’re not going to take it, and we’re going to keep the fight going while we’re on the job.

“The company has barely moved off its initial June 22nd proposal that made outrageous demands of Verizon workers. If this company is serious about reaching an agreement, it needs to start bargaining constructively and now, “said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, whi​ch represents Verizon workers from Pennsylvania to Virginia. ​“Right now there isn’t even anyone across the table from us who’s got the power to make any decisions.”

Verizon has not significantly moved off its outrageous initial bargaining demands, made on June 22nd, which includes the following proposals:

  • Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
  • Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
  • Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs. This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of jobs in recent years.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Reducing overtime and differential payments.
  • Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides unpaid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

At the same time, Verizon refuses to build out FiOS to many underserved communities up and down the East Coast, and has abandoned upkeep of the traditional landline network, leading to extensive service problems for consumers. In these negotiations, the union members’ interest is linked directly to the public interest, since our jobs involve maintaining quality service on traditional landlines and building and servicing Verizon’s state of the art FiOS broadband network. Even in New York City, where Verizon pledged to make FiOS available to every customer by the end of 2014, the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications issued a report finding that the company was evading the buildout commitments it made under its 2008 video franchise agreement.

86% of our members have voted to authorize a strike if necessary, but we’re not going to walk into a trap set by Verizon. We’ll strike when we think it is the right time to strike, and that is not tonight,” Mooney added. “The ball is in their court – we are waiting for them to get serious.”

Background

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon. Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time.

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. This came on top of $4.2 billion in profits in 1Q2015, which means Verizon has made $1 billion in profits every month for the last 18 months. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it. During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year. The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service. The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process.

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.

In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services. Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement. Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions. On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline.

Strike Vote = Yes

See more photos here
Mass Rally NYC 7-25-15

Verizon Bargaining Updates here

CWA News
Jul 25, 2015

New York – At a rally today with thousands of workers and supporters, the Communications Workers of America announced that 86% of Verizon workers voted over the last two weeks to authorize a strike if necessary. The contract expires at 12 midnight on Saturday August 1 and covers 39,000 CWA and IBEW represented telephone workers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

“Our members are clear and they are determined – they reject management’s harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers’ health care costs, and slashing retirement security. Verizon made $9.6 billion in profits in 2014, and reported $4.4 billion in profits just in the 2015 second quarter alone. Their demands are completely outrageous and unwarranted,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One.

The union and its supporters also pointed to the company’s refusal to build out its state-of-the-art FiOS network and its lack of investment in maintaining the original copper network.

“On the one hand, Verizon refuses to build its high-speed FiOS network in lower-income areas. And on the other, they are systemically ignoring maintenance needs on their landline network,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, which covers Pennsylvania to Virginia. “This leaves customers at the mercy of a cable monopoly or stuck with deteriorating service while Verizon executives and shareholders rake in billions.”

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it. During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year. The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service. The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process.

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services.

In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services. Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement. Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions. On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline.

“The 2.5 million members of the New York State AFL-CIO will stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of CWA and IBEW in their fight for fairness,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “It is through their hard work and dedication that Verizon continues to rake in huge profits. Yet bargaining proposals offered by Verizon punish workers by taking away job security, reducing pension benefits, and increasing health care costs. The dedicated men and women of CWA and IBEW deserve better. Our brothers and sisters will have the full resources of the NYS AFL-CIO at their disposal until a fair contract is reached.”

Background

39,000 workers are currently negotiating new contracts at Verizon. Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time.

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing.

But at the bargaining table, the story is different. Verizon is demanding:

Elimination of long-standing job security protections including protections against layoffs and forced transfers.
Slashing retirement security.
Sharply increasing health care cost contributions. Higher deductibles, co-pays and premium sharing. Remove the union’s right to negotiate over retiree health care.
Vastly increasing ability to contract out of work.
Off-shoring call center jobs.
Elimination of cost-of-living raises.
Eliminate Accident Disability Plan for workers injured on the job.
Eliminate 20-year old Family Care Leave policy.

PSC Public Hearing on State of Telecommunications in NYS

Wednesday, July 15 at 7pm. WE NEED TO BE THERE!  Last year CWA, together with consumer groups, petitioned the PSC to study the impact of deregulation on the telecommunications industry. We all know what the impact has been!  The PSC has finally called for public hearings throughout New York State on the state of the copper plant, customer service quality, and the FiOS build, We need to make sure the PSC hears the real story of what is happening.

CWA representatives will be testifying, and we need a strong member presence at the hearings. This is our job and our future. We all need to be there! Wear red.

Wednesday, July 15 at 7pm
NY Institute of Technology on Broadway
1871 Broadway, between 61 & 62 St
NY NY 10023

Click here to download the flier.

Benefits Divide Threatens Labor Peace

The Wall Street Journal, By Vipal Monga and Kimberly S. Johnson,Tue, 30 Jun 2015
Many big companies are pushing to cut spending on employee benefits — from pensions to health insurance — and could face labor strikes as a result.

In all, major employers have about 400,000 union workers whose contracts are up for negotiation this year. They include the Detroit auto makers, whose workforces have a combined 140,000 members of the United Auto Workers; a group of railroad operators including CSX Corp., with 142,000 union employees; and telecom companies like Verizon Communications Inc., which is in talks with about 40,000 wireline workers.

Most labor talks involve some head-butting over benefits. But what’s different this time, corporate finance chiefs say, are a looming “Cadillac tax” on health-care plans and pension burdens that are dragging down profits.

At New York-based Verizon, executives want to “redesign and reshape” health plans in a bid to cut overall cost, said Fran Shammo, chief financial officer.

Verizon also aims to rein in pension expenses. Its obligations for defined-benefit pensions — the kind that guarantee retirees a set payout — totaled $25.3 billion at the end of 2014, up 10% from 2013.

The company began talks last week in Rye, N.Y., and Philadelphia with the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Neither union liked its opening offer, which included pension-plan changes, increases in employee health-care premiums, a 2% boost in wages this year and next, and a lump-sum payment of $1,000 per worker in 2017 in lieu of a raise.

“They’re going to be very difficult negotiations,” said Mr. Shammo.

Verizon said in a statement that its union health plans for a worker with one or more family members cost an average $20,000 a year, well above the $16,800 national average.

The unions say they made many concessions during the financial crisis, and with companies raking in record profits, don’t want to give up any more.

Quarterly earnings for S&P 500 companies almost tripled from the first quarter of 2009 and this year’s first quarter, making hardship a tougher sell.

“Workers have been told to toe the line, but corporate executives are not toeing the line,” said Candice Johnson, a CWA spokeswoman. The union points to the company’s top five executives, who receive $44 million in pay last year.

“As far as unions are concerned, the bad times are over,” said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial-relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. With the economy growing, they “will try to back out of concessions they made in the past,” he said.

But big employers are looking ahead to 2018, when a hefty excise tax kicks in on generous employee health-care plans. The tax is spurring them to consider moving workers to less costly plans, such as those with high deductibles. The tax, meant to help fund insurance for the previously uninsured under the Affordable Care Act, is 40% a year on the amount by which employer-sponsored plans exceed $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage.

The Detroit auto makers say health costs already are growing unsustainably fast, and they will be looking for ways to keep them in check. The three companies say they will spend over $2 billion on medical coverage for hourly workers in 2015, or at least $14,800 per active worker.

Bob Allard, who fixes machines at General Motors Co.’s powertrain plant in Toledo, Ohio, says he will vote against any cuts in health-care benefits. Since 2009, he has paid a $25 co-payment for primary-care visits. Before that, he paid nothing.

“I’m not giving another penny back,” said Mr. Allard.

According to Kristin Dziczek, at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research, Mr. Allard’s $28.79-an-hour pay rises to $55 an hour, if benefits are included.

Fredrik Eliasson, CFO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX, said his company will be subject to the Cadillac tax and has implemented consumer-driven plans and co-pays for prescription drugs to try to “ratchet back” costs. About 85% of the company’s workforce is unionized.

The labor talks offer companies an opening to reduce pension burdens, which have ballooned since the financial crisis, leaving many plans underfunded and weighing on profits.

At the end of last year, GM had a $76.7 billion pension obligation for its U.S. workers, 35% more than the auto maker’s market capitalization of $55.3 billion.

GM pared its pension obligations by $28 billion in 2012 by offering white-collar retirees lump-sum payments and handing responsibility for their pensions to Prudential Financial Inc. through a group annuity contract. But GM, whose talks with the UAW are set to start July 13, needs the union’s nod to do the same for its hourly workforce.

“This bargaining is absolutely critical” to the car companies, an industry official said.

The UAW, which represents workers at GM, Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV previously said it is prepared to strike as a last resort.

In the last round of talks, in 2011, the UAW agreed to move newly hired workers into defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s, making them responsible for investment decisions. Workers and retirees got no pension increases for the first time since 1950, when the auto makers instituted pensions.

Regional Bargaining Report #5, June 29 2015

CWA District 1 and IBEW met with the Company today in Rye New York where the Company made a presentation on Excise tax, which is a potential tax on health care plans related to the Affordable Care Act. Last week, in the Company’s propaganda they boasted about offering a wage increase to 38,000 workers. As usual, when dealing with this greedy corporation the devil is in the details. Here are some of the other things that Verizon has proposed:

JOB SECURITY- Remove the protections against layoffs and forced transfer.

NO COLA

CORPORATE PROFIT SHARING at risk if not settled by certain date. Eliminate the minimum payout.

DIFFERENTIALS AND PREMIUM PAY -Eliminate Saturday and Sunday Differentials and premium pay. Tour differentials only paid for time worked between 9pm and 6 am. Eliminate all but 10% differential.

SUNDAY TOURS- Include Sunday as part of basic work week.

OVERTIME – only paid after 40 hours worked. No payment of more than one and half time
(1 ½ X). Eliminate caps on Overtime.

TECH CHANGE NOTICE- reduce notice given to the Union of any major technological change

BENEFITS- the Company proposes major reductions in medical benefits including higher deductibles, co-pays, premiums and co-insurance. The Company also proposed to remove the Unions ability to negotiate retiree health care benefits. Eliminate Class II/Sponsored Child coverage.

PENSIONS- Eliminate the lump sum pension. In addition, employees would have to choose between keeping the defined benefit pension, capped at 30 years, or choose an enhanced 401K. If you choose the defined benefit pension there is no 401K match. If you choose the enhanced 401K your pension is frozen where it is now. 401K Plan changes- begin charging a quarterly administration and a $50 fee for processing new loans.

DISABILITY BENEFITS- Eliminate Accident Disability Plan. Establish a rolling 5 years period for 100% payment on Sickness Disability. Once 100% is used – members are paid 50% (currently full pay benefits recycle after being back at work for 13 weeks)

CALL SHARING- give the Company additional leeway to route calls out of our bargaining units and to contractors while giving contractors the handling of all new products and services.

TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENTS- Ability to transfer employees to any state in Verizon footprint.

TUITION ASSISTANCE- Expanding the list of “Excluded” studies

FORCE ADJUSTMENT PLAN- changes to the FAP that would eliminate job security provisions.

WORK FAMILY- Reduce funding by $900,000. Added limitations if not agreed to by a certain date.

FAMILY CARE LEAVE- eliminate

EXCISE TAX- Company wants ability to change medical plans, health care spending account or premiums to avoid excise tax without negotiating with the Union.

PRE TEST TRAINING – Eliminate

INCOME PROTECTION PLAN – Would require employees to sign a Disclaimer to receive an IPP.

This is not a Company facing a financial crisis. They are extremely profitable. This is not a Company coming to its union employees seeking ways to work together to face the challenges of the future. Their proposals seek to destroy our future.

We need to send a very clear message that this is not acceptable, that we will not be passive as they seek to gut our contract. MOBILIZE!!!

Regional Bargaining Report #4, June 26, 2015

CWA District 1 and IBEW Regional Bargaining Committees met with the Company today at the Rye Town Hilton in Rye, NY. The Regional Committee continued making proposals to the Company to improve the working conditions and quality of life for our members. We are waiting for information and data that we have requested from the Company.

Regional bargaining will resume and Local bargaining will start on Monday, June 29, 2015 in Rye, N.Y.

We need to continue to stand strong and get our message out that we are more committed than we’ve ever been to fight to protect our wages, benefits and working conditions.

Regional Bargaining Report #3

The CWA District One and IBEW New York/New England Regional Bargaining Committee met with the company today in Westchester, NY. The first session of the day focused on the questions the committee had for the company on some of their proposals.

During the second session, the Union Committee made it very clear to the Company with a proposal on job security how important this issue is to the Union and the Members. We pointed out examples where the Company has declared surpluses as they continue with their plans to contract out work our Members perform.

We need to continue to be united and mobilize so the greedy executives at Verizon understand we will do whatever it takes to gain a fair and just contract.

Regional Bargaining Report #2, June 23, 2015

In response to Verizon’s opening day bargaining position, Vice President Dennis Trainor said claims about the pay increases they put on the bargaining table yesterday are simply a smokescreen designed to hide the harsh reality of their concessionary demands; deep cuts to pension benefits, skyrocketing increases in medical costs , and the complete elimination of job security.

Despite $9.6 billion in profits in 2014 and $44 million in compensation to their top five executives, Verizon wants to eliminate middle-class jobs and let customer service deteriorate. Their proposals would slash thousands of jobs and leave our remaining members with a diminished standard of living at the end of any new contract.”

There was no formal bargaining session today at the Regional table. The Union bargaining committee spent most of today reviewing the company’s proposal from yesterday’s session.

Regional Bargaining Report #1

CWA Districts 1, 2-13 as well as IBEW New York (NY), New England (NE) and New Jersey (NJ) opened negotiations with Verizon today. CWA District 1 and IBEW NY and NE are negotiating for new contracts at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester County. CWA Districts 2-13 as well as IBEW NJ are negotiating for new contracts in Philadelphia. Dennis Trainor, Vice President District 1 gave an opening statement to the Company at the Regional Bargaining table in NY.

Dennis closed his statement by stating, “We are united in our commitment to grow with Verizon. The Company cannot keep claiming surplus after surplus while hiring more contractors or moving our work. It is not fair to our members and your employees to tell them there are too many of them but yet you need contractors to do their work.

We are united in our commitment to fight for fairness – we are the foundation upon which the success of Verizon rests.  We have helped to boost the company’s earnings and productivity even through a global recession.  It is now our turn to share equitably in that growth.

When workers at Verizon improve their living standards through collective bargaining, all of our communities also benefit. When CWA members succeed at the bargaining table, when we secure a better standard of living for our members, we help to boost the entire U.S. economy.

Verizon – it is time to stop the greed. Enough of the givebacks. It is time to negotiate a contract that is fair to your employees, one that protects good union jobs and that gives our membership the opportunity to grow with the company. Verizon – it’s time to set the right priorities in these negotiations. This means meeting its responsibilities to employees, as well as investors, executives and consumers.”

After opening statements, Verizon gave the Unions an insulting and retrogressive comprehensive proposal. The Regional Bargaining Committee has adjourned for today and will resume tomorrow to review the Company’s proposal.

The Regional Bargaining Committee attended a rally tonight at the Rye Town Hilton, which was hosted by Local 1103. The rally was a huge success and was attended by hundreds of CWA and IBEW members from New York State and New England.