Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Will Verizon, the CWA and the IBEW Avoid a Strike?

My Dad worked for AT&T as a lineman/installer repairman and one of my strongest memories growing up is of my Dad on strike in 1968. I was 11 and thought having my Dad home all summer was the greatest thing in the world. He'd go picket a few hours and the rest of the day my two brothers, sister and Mom had him at home. Looking back it was probably a pretty rough summer financially for my parents - when you are on strike you do not get paid. I remember doing a lot of fishing which, to us kids, was a lot of fun but the more I think about it we were probably fishing to put food on our table! We also had a large vegetable garden - fresh fish, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, peppers, my father home almost all the time and the Red Sox the year after 1967 - it was a great summer.

The four of us kids also learned some valuable lessons about dedication, teamwork, commitment and holding to our beliefs that summer - my Dad could have decided to work and let his union brothers and sisters take the hit but he did not. We also learned a few new words including what a scab and a strikebreaker were.

Fast forward to last Saturday, a little before midnight, when the latest contract expired - Verizon, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) agreed to stop the contract clock and continue to negotiate. Issues on the table include job security, health care and what kind of work the unionized workers are doing - fundamentally the same issues my Dad struck for 40 years ago.

A strike this summer would be significant for the workers, the company and for all of us that live and work in Verizon country. The timing is never right for a strike but, with the massive roll-out of optical services and the convergence of voice, video and data over IP (Internet Protocol), the stakes are probably higher this round than they have ever been. Negotiations have continued over the past two days in an attempt to finalize a new contract and there has been little news. Talks continue right at the minute I'm writing this. Continued focused discussion with no media leaks.... I see this as good news and am thinking this one may just get settled without a strike.

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