First and foremost, on behalf of IBEW Local 2323 I want to sincerely thank all of our members for their courageous participation in our strike on August 6th. The Union realizes that this was not an easy decision for our members to make, with huge numbers of Americans out of work and the nation’s economy on the brink of another recession.
It is important to note, however, that nothing worthwhile ever comes easily or without a fight. We are not out of the woods with Verizon yet – far from it. We must continue the fight; now on the inside and not outside on the picket line. It is safe to say that the strike prevented Verizon from setting all of us back fifty years, as they bragged they would do.
We have returned to work via an agreement with Verizon under the terms of our previously expired Collective Bargaining Agreement indefinitely. All the Union and our members wanted throughout this process was to maintain our standard of living and to retain what we had. The return to work agreement does just that. The agreement is far from perfect, however, and our battle with Verizon has a long way to go. Many members across the footprint have not returned to work due to so-called strike related activities. None of these members are in Local 2323. These members are being held hostage by Verizon and their status is further complicating an already convoluted bargaining process.
The return to work agreement, besides extending our Collective Bargaining Agreement indefinitely, also ensures the retention of service pension credit or other benefits due to the strike, negates all unfair labor practice charges during the strike, and governs vacations and any other leaves during the strike. It also stipulates that members accused of misconduct during the strike do not have arbitration rights.
The agreement does give either party the right to terminate the agreement after thirty days after providing seven days written notice. Much speculation has risen over this, and for now it is nothing more than that – speculation and rumor.
There is no doubt that the major issues throughout bargaining remain on the table unresolved – movement of work, job security, transfer of calls, medical benefits and pensions. I would place the above in a separate category from the remaining issues on the table.
As evidenced by the relative roller coaster that our members seem to be on after our return to work – overtime, no overtime, a state of emergency in the Fiber Solution Center in accordance with Article P3.06, long term service difficulties, a waiver of overtime restrictions in accordance with Article P3.07 for SSTs – Verizon management appears to be seriously challenged and inconsistent.
There is no doubt that Verizon’s main initiative in this bargaining session is to shift some of the costs of medical benefits onto members and retirees. This is just as true post-strike. In addition, Verizon remains adamant that they plan to have one administrator – Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield – for all 135,000 Verizon employees.
One leftover piece of business for Local 2323 and our members from the strike is our initiative to get unemployment benefits for our members with the RI Department of Labor and Training. While by Rhode Island state law the claimant (you) must initiate the appeal. The Union has directed our attorney, Mark Gursky, to handle all appeals on behalf of the Local.
Rhode Island Unemployment’s speedy denial of our claim was unjust, and RI DLT still has not provided the Union with all of the factors they used to deny the claim. We are looking to get what the Company claimed to DLT. We will get that information as part of the appeal process.
Work safe and do nothing ——— but a quality job.