As of this writing negotiations are continuing between the Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and Verizon Communications management. Local and regional contracts covering some 78,000 telephone workers expired at midnight on Aug. 2.

In past negotiations, CWA hasn’t worked without a contract. This time, union negotiators decided to stop the clock shortly before the midnight deadline, despite persisting major problems in local negotiations with Verizon Wireless and on the key issues of job security and health care. “There’s been enough progress that makes it worth it to keep talking,” said IBEW spokesman, Jim Spellane.

Verizon management has incurred significant costs in preparing for a possible strike, training managers to do the jobs of unionized workers and the recruitment and training of replacement workers. The extension of negotiations has disrupted these plans, leaving would-be “scabs” in limbo. Management has been left guessing about when, and if, the workers will strike. In some cases, Verizon is shelling out money to pay and house scabs that they can’t use.

Verizon worker Ed Rosado described management’s predicament: “Today Verizon spent big bucks … tomorrow will be the same. And the day after that. Because in the end, Verizon doesn’t know when, or even if, we will walk. And in the end, if we don’t get a decent contract, walk we will.”

For workers on the shop floor, the watchwords are “mobilization on the job” and “no business as usual.” This has translated into informational picketing, rallies, working to rule and seeking community and political support. At a recent rally in Staten Island, N.Y., the unionized driver of a bus transporting a load of scabs allowed CWA International Staff Representative Larry DeAngelis to board the bus. After listing to his appeal, at least half a dozen people got off the bus, having been convinced not to scab.

The union’s strategy was summed up by CWA District 1 Vice President, Larry Mancino, who said, “We’re going to continue this fight and collect a paycheck. We will mobilize for as long as it takes to preserve our health care, our job security and our future.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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