Though the agreement between the striking unions and Verizon is still tentative, the nearly 40,000 workers who have been on strike since April 13th will return to work by Wednesday at the latest.
The Communications Workers of America union, which, along with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents the striking workers, announced the return to work this morning, citing "big gains" for workers in the new agreement with the telecommunications giant. The strikers, who number 36,000 in the Northeast, will be back on the job on June 1st, though those who work overnight shifts will start earlier, returning for their shifts tomorrow night.
The precise details of the agreement will be presented to union members for ratification after they return to work, but CWA has already revealed that Verizon will add 1,300 new call center jobs on the East Coast and grant union workers a 10.9% raise over the next four years, including 3% upon ratification and 2.5% on each anniversary of the contract. Workers will also get a $1,250 signing bonus in the Mid-Atlantic ,and a $1,000 signing bonus plus $250 healthcare reimbursement account in the Northeast, plus at least $700 in corporate profit sharing payments each year over the next four years.
"The addition of good new jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and the country as a whole," said CWA President Chris Shelton.
The Northeast walkout happened after failed contract negotiations, and after workers had been on the job without a contract since August. The unions were concerned that Verizon was trying to freeze pensions, pave the way for layoffs, and raise healthcare costs. They also objected to the company moving more jobs overseas and outsourcing labor to low-wage contractors, and were upset that the company had failed to keep its promise of installing FiOS citywide while "shedding workers" who were trained to install that service.
The contract, if ratified, will also be the first contract ever for nearly 70 people who work in Verizon Wireless retail stores in Brooklyn and Everett, Massachusetts.
"For the first time, Verizon Wireless retail workers have a union and a fair contract," said Mike Tisei, a Verizon Wireless retail worker. "For the wireless retail workers who joined CWA in 2014, that means a better quality of life and meaningful economic security for our families. Today is a great day for my family and working families along the East Coast, and it's only possible because we stood together."
Still, some workers objected to the fact that they were expected to return to work without seeing the details of the contract that they're expected to ratify: one NYC worker said that they received text messages telling them to take down the picket lines and return to work on Wednesday, while another argued, "Would you lease a car for three years without seeing it first? The only thing we are being told is that we are going to have to pay more for our medical."
Additional points of the agreement, according to CWA, are assurance that three of the five call centers that have been threatened with closure will remain open, while union workers in the other two centers will be offered local jobs; a 25% increase in the number of unionized worker crews doing pole work in New York State; a withdrawal of all proposed reductions in pensions; termination of a performance supervisory program in NYC that workers found abusive; and the withdrawal of proposed cuts in accident and disability benefits.
"This tentative contract is an important step forward in helping to end this six-week strike and keeping good Verizon jobs in America," said IBEW President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "We will be sharing the details of it with our members for approval in the immediate days ahead."