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Verizon strike continues here

August 20, 2000

Verizon strike continues here



By staff, wire services


WASHINGTON, D. C. - Striking Verizon workers in New York and New England are expected to be back to work today after tentative agreements on a new contracts were made Sunday ending a 15-day strike. However, local Verizon workers in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania still don't have a contract and don't know when they will.

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Negotiations between Verizon and the more than 35,000 remaining striking members of the Electrical Workers and the Communication Workers of America in the Mid-Atlantic States were continuing and expected to reach an accord early today, predicted Jim Smith, Verizon spokesman. A local union spokesman, though, wasn't as optimistic.

CWA workers at the Hagerstown Local 2105 office in Williamsport found out about the New York and New England agreement from on the Internet, said Jim Farris, union president.

He said he wasn't aware of the terms of the agreement or whether the strike was likely to end soon in Maryland.

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Workers in Washington County have picketed locations on Memorial Boulevard and Antietam Street since the start of the strike Aug. 6.

About 8,400 workers for the telecommunications giant in Maryland were on strike, seeking better benefits, job security and better working conditions. They're also pressing for an end to what they say is management's practice of compulsory overtime of up to 20 hours each week.

The CWA also contends that the unions that helped build the company into one of the most profitable in the country should be able to represent those workers in the wireless fields, fewer than 1 percent of whom currently are unionized.

The proposed three-year contracts cover more than 50,000 union-represented employees in New York and New England.

The agreement would provide a 12 percent increase in wages over the life of the contracts, improvements in pensions and other benefits and continuation of strong job security protections, said Lawrence T. Babbio Jr, vice chairman and president of Verizon in a press release.

As the strike continues, routine telephone line repairs have been postponed and people seeking numbers from 411 information lines are receiving recorded messages saying the service is unavailable.

Verizon was formed in the June merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE Corp.

Picketing CWA members were to have begun receiving their first strike benefit checks Sunday - $200 a week. The benefit check would have risen to $300 weekly if the walkout continued beyond 28 days.

Most affected by the strike were Verizon customers in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia - all formerly Bell Atlantic subscribers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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