Washington nudges Verizon, striking unions back to bargaining table

051616blog verizon talks resume
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Representing a rare hopeful sign in what is now an acrimonious month-long work stoppage, Verizon management and some 40,000 striking employees have agreed to return to the bargaining table tomorrow after the weekend intervention of U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

From a Department of Labor press release:

Today, Secretary Perez met at the U.S. Labor Department with Lowell McAdam, chairman and CEO of Verizon; Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America; and Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The parties had an open, frank and constructive dialogue about finding a comprehensive way forward to resolve disputed issues and get people back to work. The parties agreed to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday to continue their discussion.

“The best way to resolve this labor dispute is at the bargaining table, and I am heartened by the parties’ mutual commitment to get back to immediate discussions and work toward a new contract,” said Secretary Perez. “I was singularly impressed by the parties’ appreciation that time is of the essence, and their strong commitment to use the collective bargaining process to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.”

The two sides had not been negotiating recently, at least not for public consumption.

The Communications Workers of America, one of the unions representing the striking workers, posted the Department of Labor press release to its Facebook page without comment. Rank and file members leaving comments on that post did not express much optimism regarding resumption of talks. A request for comment from the union has been made,

Strife between striking workers and their replacements has been commonplace. Reports of alleged vandalism to Verizon equipment continue to mount. Also, police say a Verizon worker picketing in Westborough, Mass.,  was struck by a pickup truck operated by a replacement worker from Florida who was driving on a suspended license, allegedly while intoxicated, at shortly past 8 a.m.

Industry experts are warning Verizon’s business customers that they should be on the alert for negative impacts on their accounts and services, as Verizon employees normally attendant to those accounts and services are now busy replacing the strikers.

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