Some 45,000 Verizon workers represented by Communications Workers of America will vote on July 25 whether they would strike or not if the union and management cannot come to agreement on a new contract.
CWA, along with International Brotherhood Electrical Workers, have been in negotiations with the profitable telecom since June.
Union leaders say the corporation's proposal is a huge step backwards for active workers and retirees. The proposal shifts thousands of dollars of expenses onto workers' and retirees' backs in health care, wages and other benefits hard-won over the last five decades, like double time on Sundays and night differentials.
"They have taken every single thing we've bargained for in the last 50 years, and said they want it back," said CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton in a passionate and militant speech at the union's convention July 12. (Story continues after video.)
Meanwhile, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg took home $27 million last year alone, plus a gold-plated health care plan.
Verizon put a "medical plan on the table that will cost retirees $6,000 a year, for some retirees that's their whole pension. ... We're not going backwards, goddamn it, we're going forwards," Shelton said.
"What's at stake here brothers and sisters is our members' very lives, because they want to take away their health care so that retirees and active members alike will not be able to afford health care and they may die in the process. Well I'm not in the business and you're not in the business of killing our members, are you?" he rallied.
"No!" the crowd responded unanimously.
On July 30, Verizon workers on the East Coast and New England will rally at Verizon headquarters in New York City to send a message to the company that union members, "won't go back."
Photo: CWA members rally at the opening of bargaining talks in June at Verizon headquarters in New York City. (Dawn Sickles/CWA 1101)