Settlement ends Bell Atlantic strike

August 12, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Striking Bell Atlantic workers in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., were called off the picket line on Tuesday after the company reached a tentative contract settlement with union workers.

"We took the picket lines down at 11 or 11:30 a.m.," said Jim Farris, president of Local 2105 of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The local has about 200 members in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va, he said.

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About 150 union members in Frederick, Md., belong to Local 2100. They also abandoned picket lines at two locations on Tuesday, union local officials said.

The CWA Local 2105 had been running four picket lines - two in Hagerstown and two in Martinsburg.

Farris said that under terms of the agreement, the CWA agreed to send members back to work on their next regularly scheduled shift.


About 73,000 Bell Atlantic workers from Maine to Virginia, including 350 in the Tri-State area, walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday when talks on a new three-year contract broke down.

Also on strike against Bell Atlantic were members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Farris said although the union still has some problems with overtime and vacation selection issues, the company compromised in those and other areas in its proposed two-year contract.

Farris said a major selling point is a pay hike of 3.8 percent this year and 4 percent next year.

The proposed deal is particularly sweet for workers in his local, who were at the bottom of Bell Atlantic's regional pay scale, which is based on cost of living, Farris said.

Under the proposed contract, local workers will move up on the pay scale, he said.

Farris is putting terms of the tentative pact on a phone line tape that union members can call. He said he'll get pamphlets on the pact and then send union members paper ballots. Those ballots will be tallied and passed on to the national union, he said.

The entire process could take more than two weeks, Farris said.

A simple majority vote is needed to ratify the contract, he said.

"I think basically this will probably fly with the membership," Farris said.

During the walkout, management worked extra hours to fill in for union workers. For example, in Maryland 6,358 of Bell Atlantic's 14,000 workers are nonunion management workers, Arnette said.

The walkout involved workers in 14 Eastern states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

related story: Striking telephone workers cite overtime, vacation

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