CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Communication Workers of America say they need to reach a new deal with Frontier Communications, considering the local contract that covers some 1,600 members in West Virginia is set to expire Aug. 2.
Negotiations begin next month, and 200 members of the CWA rallied outside Frontier headquarters on Thursday.
“We always go into (negotiations) open-minded. We’re hoping things will go well,” CWA representative Elaine Harris said. “It’s negotiations, so we’ll work through it.”
This is the first large-scale labor contract negotiated by the CWA since Verizon sold to Frontier back in 2010 as part of an $8.6 billion deal.
Harris said the point of Thursday’s rally was to make sure union members are ready to stand side-by-side.
“Unity, solidarity, camaraderie, that’s a good thing. Getting people together, talking, sharing, networking … it’s all good,” she said.
National and local labor leaders spoke at the rally. The membership was joined by the heads of several other unions.
Harris said the negotiation process can be stressful, which is why both sides have agreed to start talks in June. Members said the last thing they want to see is both sides run out of time.
While multiple items will be on the table, Harris said a priority will be placed on health benefits.
“What’s at the forefront of every bargaining table these days is how we can work to preserve the health care that’s there. That is so vitally important, not just to the active members, but to the retirees,” Harris said.
Dana Waldo, Frontier senior vice president and general manager, released a statement Thursday. It said in part:
“Frontier provides its employees with very competitive wages and benefits. Frontier once again will bargain in good faith, just as it has done in recent negotiations that led to contract ratifications in West Virginia with CWA Locals 2276 and 2001 and IBEW Local 317.
During the past three years, Frontier Communications has invested nearly $300 million to deliver unprecedented improvements and advancements to West Virginia’s communications infrastructure. We remain committed to that task.”