Hundreds of Boston-area unionized telecom workers voted unanimously on Wednesday, June 2, to support a grassroots campaign to make “tearing down the artificial wall separating the non-union Verizon wireless from the mostly union wireline side of the business” a top priority in negotiations for their next contract in 2011.
The resolution was advanced by two leaders of IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 2222’s regular membership meeting local’s new “Futures Committee,” which was established to develop new leadership at Local 2222 — based in Boston, Mass. — and within the larger labor movement.
“This is about all of our future as employees of Verizon,” Pat Atwell told members. “Verizon is rapidly moving into the high growth, high-profit areas of the telecommunications industry. But as they do so, top management is intent on leaving us – the union workers who built this company – behind.”
Atwell, a Verizon FiOS splice service technician, works out of the out of company’s Woburn garage.
Chris Morgan, a Verizon lineman out of Verizon’s South Boston garage, seconded the resolution, saying:
Five years ago, union membership at Verizon was about 70 percent of the company. Today we are less than 30 percent. Nothing is more important than reaching out to Verizon Wireless employees regarding the benefits of collective bargaining. We need to educate them and build unity in our company to achieve a strong voice for the good jobs that our communities need.
A similar resolution was also adopted by Communication Workers (CWA) Local 1400 at its May executive board meeting in Portsmouth, N.H. Local union leaders hope that the “Tear Down the Wall” resolution will spread to other telecom locals in both the IBEW and the CWA, and that it will also be adopted at the union respective national conventions.
During contract negotiations in 2008, union leaders succeeded in winning recognition and a first contract for a group of about 600 Verizon (former MCI) technicians. A smaller group of Verizon Business (VZB) techs in California also just won recognition with CWA. The VZB campaign could be a model (on a much smaller scale) of the campaign effort needed to win organizing rights at Verizon Wireless.
Rand Wilson is an organizer and chief of staff at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.