Union workers in Clarksburg join picket lines as negotiations with Verizon stall

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A group of 28 employees at the Clarksburg Call Center were among tens of thousands of Verizon employees to begin picketing across the east coast Wednesday morning.

CWA union members stand outside of the Verizon call center in Clarksburg
CWA union members stand outside of the Verizon call center in Clarksburg

After 10 months of negotiations with the company, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers called for its members, around 36,000 in number from Massachusetts to Virginia, to initiate a strike at 6 a.m. and walk out.

“We’re just asking to keep what we have, to give us job security, to keep the jobs where they’re at in the U.S. and not outsource the jobs and have all the members keep their benefits where they can put the money back in the communities where we live here locally,” said Chris Moore, local president of the CWA Local 2011.

Union representatives say they are unhappy with Verizon’s attempt to cut employee health benefits and pensions, efforts to send 5,000 call center jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic and failure to expand it’s FiOS service as promised, among other grievances.

The current contract expired in August and workers continued at their jobs on a “good-faith agreement” with the same benefits.

A new contract has been unable to be negotiated as the company says it needs to make cuts in order manage more costly

Workers gather along the street outside of the Verizon Call Center in Clarksburg
Workers gather along the street outside of the Verizon Call Center in Clarksburg

health care for retired and current workers, while needing “greater flexibility” over employees.

While the company has shown a decrease in profits from “wireline” sales, union members claim the company is still pulling down record high profits through other avenues.

“Verizon, over the last 15 months is profiting $1.5 billions per month,” Moore said. “They, over the last several years, have paid their executives $250 million in raises and benefits.”

Wednesday’s walkout is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be the largest work stoppage since Verizon workers picketed in 2011.

The CWA members in Clarksburg plan to stick it out until a “fair contract” is negotiated.

“We will be picketing from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, which is the operating hours of this call center,” Moore said. “At the other locations through Pennsylvania, Virginia and D.C., for example, they also have the outside technicians, so they will be picketing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Workers picket for a "fair contract" outside of the Verizon building in Clarksburg
Workers picket for a “fair contract” outside of the Verizon building in Clarksburg

The unions are hoping to that customer complaints from disrupted service will put pressure on the company to negotiate in their favor, but Verizon representatives claim there will be no effect.

In preparation of the strike, the company states it has trained non-union workers to perform all operating duties until negotiations are completed.

Now that the strike has officially started, unions across the country have voiced their support for the CWA and the IEBW.

Locally, Moore said they have received some initial support as well.

“I received a phone call today from an individual that works for Dominion, their contract is expired as well, and [the union] has given their support. We’ve received support from the local Carpenter’s Union as well.”

Community support was evident as well Wednesday morning as an individual who felt struck by the issue dropped off a stack of pizzas for the picketers.

Negotiations between the unions and Verizon are said to be ongoing.

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