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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Annandale-based union prepared for strike against Verizon

Unless Verizon Communications comes to an agreement with the 45,000 unionized workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, the Annandale-based Communication Workers of America Local 2222 is gearing up for a strike next week.

“They want to freeze our pensions, tie wage increases to evaluations, and require employees to pay a lot more for health care,” says Jim Hilleary, president of CWA 2222. The company also wants to cut sick leave and cap overtime.

On July 30, 91 percent of CWA workers covered in a contract set to expire on midnight, Aug. 6, voted to strike if there is no agreement.

Local 2222 represents about 1,150 members in Northern Virginia and the state’s Blue Ridge region, extending to Culpeper and Winchester, including about 850 members who work for Verizon. The local’s headquarters is at Evergreen Lane in Annandale.

If the union goes on strike, Hilleary says customers can expect delays in service and repairs, and new installations would probably halt. Phone and data service would not be affected, but restoring service after outages due to storms would take longer.  

Hilleary calls Verizon’s demands “unreasonable,” noting “this is not a financially troubled company.” He says Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam makes $7 million a year and the company made $19.5 billion in profits over the past four years. “It’s nothing more than corporate greed,” he says.

“We sacrificed wages over the years to maintain benefits,” he says. The last strike by CWA 2222, in 2000, lasted 17 to 18 days.

According to a July 28 article in the New York Times, Verizon’s wireline operations, including home phones and FiOS, are struggling, while its wireless division is thriving.

“We’re hopeful we’ll get a contract. We don’t want to strike,” says Hilleary, but the two sides “are still a long way apart.”

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