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Southern California Verizon Workers Strike Over Grievances

The walkout was over labor issues, with the main sticking points being pensions and health care, according to a union representative.

Contributed photo of Verizon workers striking over grievances, Oct. 29, 2013.
Contributed photo of Verizon workers striking over grievances, Oct. 29, 2013.
It's estimated that hundreds of Verizon's Southern California unionized workers walked off the job Tuesday over what they are calling "unfair labor practices" by the giant telecomm company.

"It appears to us the participation rate was very high," said Libby Sayre, area director for the Communications Workers of America, District 9, the union that represents the workers.

Sayre said the walkout was over labor issues, with the main sticking points being pensions and health care.

CWA District 9 includes California, Hawaii and Nevada. According to Sayre, there are approximately 5,000 members. Of the Southern California members who got news Tuesday of the grievance strike, Sayre said estimates are that approximately 90 percent walked off the job.

Verizon and the union have been in bargaining negotiations for more than a year, and on Oct. 25 it was announced the two sides had entered into federal mediation.

Sayre was still trying to determine how many workers may still be striking over grievances Wednesday, but Patch spoke with a local union representative who said workers were back on the job.

Rosa Bernal, secretary/treasurer for CWA’s Local 9588 - which includes cities across Southwest Riverside County and east toward the desert, as well as cities stretching northward into Ontario, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga - said Wednesday morning that workers, including herself, are back on the clock.

"The intent was to support our brothers and sisters," Bernal said of yesterday's grievance strike.

According to Bernal, Local 9588 has approximately 1,200 members and nearly 90 percent walked off the job Tuesday.

She said Verizon workers in the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, San Bernardino, and others, also walked off Tuesday.

It is not clear if workers will declare another walkout.

"It's a possibility," Sayre said.

Bernal said Tuesday night the walkout was triggered by an employee lockout at a Verizon facility in Camarillo, Calif., but Sayre denied that, as did a Verizon spokesman.

"Not true. There was no lockout," said Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville.

The employees who walked off Tuesday were a “small” group who support residential phone, Internet and TV customers; wireless was not impacted, McConville said. According to Sayre, the CWA union does not include wireless workers.

"A small percentage of our unionized work force in California did walk off the job. Verizon's position is that this is counterproductive to and harmful to our valued customers," McConville said.

According to Bernal, she believes customer service was impacted – she works at a Verizon call center in Pomona – but said the intent was not to harm customers.

Those who walked off Tuesday will not be paid for their hours off the job, Bernal said.

Reported by Patch editor Toni McAllister

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