AT&T, Verizon Contract Agreements With CWA/IBEW Workers Remains Elusive

Written by Seth Sandronsky. Posted in Labor, News

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Published on June 06, 2012 with 7 Comments

By Seth Sandronsky, via Pacific Media Workers Guild

June 6, 2012

Despite soaring revenues and profits, AT&T and Verizon continue to seek concessions from employee unions, a demand which has led to stalled contract talks and threats of strike action by Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

AT&T and Verizon reported first-quarter 2012 consolidated revenues of $31.8 billion and $28.2 billion respectively.

At Verizon East, 45,000 wireline employees in the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are facing hits to their pay and benefits, as do 43,000 CWA wireline employees at AT&T in the East, mid-West and West.

“If AT&T employees have to pay more for benefits then you can be sure that Verizon will be using that in bargaining against the union,” said Charles J. Borchert, Jr., a business agent with New England’s CWA Local 1298.

“Verizon continues to insist on givebacks on all fronts – health care, pensions, work rules and sick days,” added Pat Fahy, a union steward with New Jersey’s IBEW 827.

According to Rich Young, Verizon’s director of media relations, the company needs to lower its over-all costs to remain competitive in its wireline business, down 50 percent over the past decade, as businesses and consumers migrate to cable companies, internet and wireless providers. Therefore, Young said, Verizon’s union workers need to pay more for their health-care insurance to lower the over $4 billion annually the company spends on covering 900,000 current and retired employees. Verizon East’s union employees pay zero towards their health-care premiums, placing them in the company of one-half of one percent of Americans.

“We need to work with the unions to make Verizon more competitive,” he said.

Apparently, Verizon was competitive enough prior to the current contract talks with the CWA/IBEW to compensate CEO and Chairman Lowell C. McAdam a total of $23,120,499 in 2011, 679 times bigger than an average worker’s annual pay in 2011 of $34,053, according to an AFL-CIO searchable database.

Month two of working under expired contracts for 43,000 AT&T wireline employees in CWA has begun. As the parties remain at the bargaining table, AT&T does not seek wage cuts from workers, said Marty Richter, a company spokesman. Yet the company and union disagree on changes to health and retirement benefits.

The workers are covered by four CWA-AT&T contracts that expired April 7. Meanwhile, the CWA/IBEW has been negotiating for a year with Verizon, having walked off the job for 13 days last summer.

According to an industry expert, the prospects for AT&T and Verizon workers in the CWA/IBEW to bargain better contracts are less than rosy in the current anti-union atmosphere.

“We have seen workers settle for less at every negotiation during the last decade,” said Jeff Kagan, a telecommunications analyst. According to him, this does not mean that the company can reject being flexible in bargaining with unions.

“Generally both sides give in a little and they meet in the middle,” Kagan said.

An answer to the question of how to make Verizon management concede ground to the unions’ positions is unclear. Union mobilizations at Verizon shareholder meetings have been a tactic. Work stoppages have been another.

CWA Local 1101 is currently circulating a pledge for members to sign and send to Verizon. The rank-and-file pledge reads: “We will not allow the company to gut our contract and destroy our jobs. We are ready to strike to win a contract that: protects our job security; defends our pensions; maintains our healthcare benefits and defends good middle class jobs for the 99 percent.”

What does the CWA’s battle with Verizon and now a “second front” conflict with AT&T, mean to Verizon East workers’ prospects for a settlement?

“A second front can be helpful to Verizon because if AT&T goes out on strike then Verizon can go out at the same time and have many people out of work, during an election year,” Borchert said. “There are hopes that the Obama administration will step in and make the sides all get back to the table and bargain fairly.”

Close to 90,000 union workers would participate. There would be dramatic impacts to workers, businesses and consumers, and AT&T and Verizon.

In the meantime, AT&T and CWA negotiators continue to meet and bargain. AT&T seeks changes to wages, costs for health care, pensions, and current workplace rules, according to Sara Steffens, a CWA staffer with District 9. According to Steffens, it is “disappointing” that the company is bent on shifting its profits away from union wireline workers via contract give backs.

Asked to comment on parallels between CWA/IBEW’s East’s 13-day strike against Verizon last summer and CWA’s current conflict with AT&T, Steffens said: “It’s two different contracts, two different bargaining tables.”

Still, according to Steffens, the companies’ conflicts with the CWA/IBEW are part of a larger overall pattern of corporate America profiting then crying poor and trying to deny workers their fair share of the firms’ growth and success.

Seth Sandronsky

Seth Sandronsky is a freelance journalist working in Sacramento. His work has been featured on – the award-winning website of the Pacific Media Workers Guild – as well as in the Earth Island Journal, The Progressive Populist, Sacramento News & Review and Z Magazine. Sandronsky can be reached at

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Comments for AT&T, Verizon Contract Agreements With CWA/IBEW Workers Remains Elusive are now closed.

  1. Seriously,the above article states Verizon spends 4 billion a year (annually) on employee benefits.  Sounds like a lot of money, until you remember that the first part of the article said Verizon’s first quarter revenue was 28.2 Billion. And at&t is even better off.  Their first quarter revenue was 31.8 billion and although I don’t have the exact amount they spend for healthcare I can say that the at&t employees pay some of their healthcare benefits.  This happened during last contract negotiations when the company cried “poor” and the employees wanted to help keep the company viable.  In the meantime Randal Stephenson loses 4.2 billion in it’s failed bid for T Mobile.  Randal’s punishment?? He lost 2 Million in wages, geez big deal.  I bet if a rank and file employee lost money for the company they would lose their job!!! Needless to say, the employees of at&t and Verizon are not going to fall for the ruse again.  The wireline employees build the ENTIRE network for these companies.  Without the infrastructure the rest is just wireless phones without the wire.

  2. Hey Seth, Do more digging and you may find out that there isn’t much contract negotiations going on at all. It’s just another corporate stall tactic. Wait for the election. Union busting is the agenda here. Bargaining in good faith used to be a two way street not the corporate only way or the highway as is happening now. You make excellent points but corporate CEO’s don’t want to share a dime with anyone. As documented and proven CEO’s will blow serious amounts of money on misleading advertisement and cry about competitive losses if the union workforce won’t cave in to demands. The longer the negotiations go on the more each worker loses. Without even the basic cost of living increases of past contracts each worker is slowly losing the good fight. The health care issue is another misleading stall tactic. Union workers have already lost. We keep getting confused with Govt union workers. Dig deeper Seth and tell a well educated story of the facts that are in play and more will read your column.

  3.      I have a Federal law suit against Verizon,MetLife and the former crooked 1101 officals who lost the last elections. The new Union needs to file a class action law suit against MetLife/Travelers in Federal Court for how they treat the workers and their doctors. The Union needs to inform the workers that an IME (exam) is rigged and the doctor is paid alot of money by VERIZON (per CWA officals) to report that the worker is fit to return to work no matter how injured the worker is !  The Union also needs to inform ALL the workers their right through the CBA that they are entitled to a TMO once the rigged IME exam forces them back to work ! The Union also needs to inform ALL the workers about the “13 week re-cycle rule”. Go to your CHIEF STEWARD and have him/her explain this to you, it’s very important.

    • Facing some time off due to an injury on the job, will the 13 week re-cycle rule effect me and if so how?

    •  Can you go into detail about the 13 week re-cycle rule?

  4. Verizon wants to walk all over the people who built the company.We are fighting CORPORATE GREED and new yorkers( union and non) support US. Lowell McAdams only cares about Lowell McAdams  not Verizon or its workers.

  5. I was one of the 45,000 on strike for those 13 days and would have went 1300 days if necessary.  I have worked for 29 years for Verizon (NYT, Bell Atlantic, etal).  I will not concede to give backs, frozen pensions, health care premiums, sending our work out of the country.  Lowell McAdams has gotten pay increases.  We have not seen a raise in 18 months!  I will not give up my Middle Class Status while Lowell McAdams continues to keep his compensations and his high-class status.  If provoked, will strike again….