Amid reports of violence on the picket lines, the Communications Workers of America and the IBEW announced that their Verizon workers will return to their jobs on Tuesday, ending a two-week strike that was the country's longest in four years. "We have reached agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed and how it will be restructured," the CWA statement reads, "The major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues now are focused and narrowed."
Although a new contract has not been hammered out, the Times reports that the unions are backing off "because Verizon management had finally agreed to engage in serious bargaining…after the company had originally insisted on negotiating more than 100 proposals for concessions." 45,000 union members "from Virginia to New England" walked out on August 7 because Verizon asked workers to scale back their benefits due to sagging profitability in the company's landline business, despite strong profits overall.
Verizon wants "a pension freeze for current workers, fewer sick days, an end to all job security provisions, far larger employee contributions towards health coverage, and freedom to do as much outsourcing as it wants," among other things. No big deal, just a few minor changes! Striking workers, who are employed in the company's landline and FiOS Internet and cable divisions, forsook paychecks for two weeks and widely disrupted customer service to protest Verizon's positions.
CWA president Larry Cohen told the paper, "We don't consider this a victory in any way. We consider it progress toward a good process at Verizon." Hopefully for the union members, who have watched the rights of their peers across the country become endangered in recent months, negotiations have progressed beyond what is seen in this encounter between Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams and a protester on August 9.