Southern West Virginia Frontier workers unite for job protection

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Not far from picket lines formed by teachers and school service personnel, new groups have formed in locations across southern West Virginia.

Frontier Communications workers are frustrated after nearly ten months of negotiations between their company and Communications Workers of America (CWA) have not yielded any results. Worker contract negotiations have been ongoing since August 5, 2017.

The contract was first extended until November 4 then again until March 3. Around 1,400 across West Virginia and Ashburn, Va. decided to go on strike Sunday.

In uptown Beckley, a couple of Frontier workers gathered Monday along Neville Street. Kathy Stover held a sign and a bullhorn as motorists honked. She is concerned about Frontier’s cuts to nearly 500 jobs in West Virginia since taking over Verizon’s landlines in 2010.

“They promised to keep our jobs here. But instead, they have went to Wisconsin and other places, hired more people to do our jobs and now they want to do away with us. So we’re just trying to keep our jobs in West Virginia and hold the company to their promise.”

In addition to job security in the Mountain State, Stover said she and her co-workers have noticed a drop in satisfaction among customers in recent years. CWA said in a recent release that customer complaints have risen 69 percent from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 in 2017.

“A lot of customers are complaining about the quality of their service, but they’re (Frontier) not investing the money into rebuilding the outside plant,” said Stover. “If a guy’s got bad cable he’s working with there’s not much he can do for the customer.”

In Oak Hill Monday, a group of around ten workers gathered at the intersection of Main Street and Chestnut Avenue. Frontier Central Office Technician Mark Hess echoed many comments made by those in Beckley, adding the strike is not about pay or benefits.

“That’s mainly what the strikes over. We’re not really asking for anymore money or anymore benefits or anything like that. It’s mainly job protection.”

Hess added the ten month waiting period for a new worker contract has added further tension between Frontier and CWA. He and many of his colleagues are willing to stay out as long as it takes.

“Until either it gets extended or they resolve it, basically I guess we’ll be on strike until anything happens. One day they’ll be another generation of people here. Another generation will be taking these jobs that we have. They’ll have to do the same thing. Otherwise they’ll be getting pushed backwards pretty much.”

CWA represents roughly 700,000 men and women in the fields of telecommunications, customer service, media airlines, public service and manufacturing.

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