Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers have been striking in the Northeast since April 13th, after working without a contract since last August, but their unions have now reached a tentative agreement with the telecommunications giant and workers are expected to be back on the job as soon as next week. The walkout was one of the largest in Verizon's history, and the last time employees held a strike in the Northeast, it lasted for just two weeks.
Yesterday, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced that Verizon and the two striking unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, "have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management. The parties are now working to reduce the agreement to writing, after which the proposal will be submitted to CWA and IBEW union members for ratification."
Details about the agreement have yet to be released, but the New York Times reports that it will likely include a commitment from Verizon to create 1,500 new union jobs in the U.S., particularly at call centers, and to include 65 of the company's retail workers in the new contract. That'll mark the first time that the company's retail wireless workers have been included in a contract.
The standoff leading to the strike occurred because unions said that Verizon was trying to freeze pensions, shift toward hiring more contract workers and potentially pave the way for more layoffs, and raise the costs of healthcare to astronomical heights. The unions were also concerned with the fact that Verizon had been failing to keep its promise to install FiOS citywide, meanwhile "shedding workers" who install that service. Furthermore, they were concerned that the company was moving more and more jobs overseas, outsourcing work to low-wage contractors.
"The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people," said CWA President Chris Shelton in a statement. "This proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and protect the American middle class."
The resolution to the 44-day strike apparently came about in part because Verizon was starting to feel the economic impacts of a striking workforce. For weeks now, the company had been dispatching nonunion employees, who were focused on maintaining the existing network rather than performing new installations. On top of that, numerous politicians have expressed concern about the strike in recent weeks, with many municipalities in the Northeast siding with the striking workers.
In response to news of the strike's end, Mayor de Blasio said that "collective bargaining works—this agreement shows that when workers organize and are unified, good jobs are protected, working families can thrive and our communities become stronger. I look forward to seeing the workers back on the streets of New York City delivering for our city."