For union leaders like Jim Gardler, president of Communications Workers of America Local 13000, an important issue is union jobs. Even though unions are being forced to accept cutbacks, they generally still have and have had higher pay and benefits. To Gardler, these workers are holding the line on wages and benefits for the entire middle-class, which is why his members are out on strike against Verizon Communications Inc.
Gardler says the company wants more flexibility to put non-union technician subcontractors around the state. He said the union has already been flexible. After a spate of arbitrations which the company lost, Gardler said his union, which represents workers in Pennsylvania, allowed Verizon to use non-union contractors, as long as the first 504 technician jobs in Pennsylvania were held by CWA workers. Just before the employees went out on strike, the 500 union technicians were augmented by at least 200 non-union ones.
On the table, Gardler said, is a proposal to do away with the 504-job limit. The result, he said, is obvious. The higher-paid union workers will be replaced with lower-paid technicians and all the workers, union and non-union, Verizon and non-Verizon, will lose clout in the market.
I asked Verizon spokesman Rich Young about this. Here's his response:
"We are not commenting on specifics at the table. The negotiating process is very fluid. Something on the table today could be modified, agreed to or taken off the table tomorrow. Nothing is final until an agreement is in place and the contract is ratified.
"Many of the rules, provisions and agreements in the contract were put in place decades ago when Verizon and its predecessor companies with the sole or dominant providers. Many of these rules are no longer applicable in today’s highly competitive marketplace."