Union rallies for new Frontier contract

Local members of the Communication Workers of America urged Frontier Communications to agree to a fair contract in a rally in front of the Embassy Suites on Wednesday. The contract between the company and the union ended a year ago and has been extended several times; the latest extension expires on Saturday.

The contract between Frontier Communications and more than 1,500 employees who belong to the Communications Workers of America union expired a year ago. Since then, the contract has been extended several times while both sides try to hammer out a new deal.

The latest extension expires Saturday, exactly a year after the original contract ran out. On Wednesday, more than 35 CWA members rallied and held up signs outside the Embassy Suites hotel in Charleston.

The expired contract was originally signed by the CWA and Verizon, which sold its West Virginia operations to Frontier in 2010.

“Teams from the union and the company have been at the bargaining table for more than a year trying to hash out an agreement,” said a statement released by the union. “As part of the 2010 deal, Frontier promised improved customer service and more local jobs. CWA remains firm in its position that Frontier must honor those commitments it made to its customers, employees and the state of West Virginia.”

Dan Page, communications manager for Verizon in West Virginia, said on Monday, “We are continuing to bargain at the table and are hopeful to get an agreement in the near future.”

The existing contract covers former Verizon employees who became Frontier employees after Frontier bought Verizon’s land lines in West Virginia, as well as recently hired employees.

The purchase, part of a multi-state, $8.6 billion dollar deal originally made in 2009, was approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission in May 2010.

“We want Frontier Communications to agree to terms of a fair contract that includes fulfilling promises made — to former Verizon employees, the PSC and the people of West Virginia — when Frontier took over Verizon’s telephone land line operations,” said Ken Williams, president of CWA Local 2001 in Charleston. “We need a contract so our members can get stability back in their lives. We would like them to keep their commitments.”

Williams said several issues, including health care, are involved in the ongoing negotiations between union and company representatives.

Most Frontier employees standing outside the Embassy Suites wore red T-shirts stating, “Protecting American Unions — One Job at a Time.”

Bill Champe, a rally participant, said, “They are trying to crunch us back. This is endemic across the country,” said Bill Champe, one of the rally’s participants.

Today, Frontier Communications has 13,900 employees in 27 states. The company provides telephone and Internet services, as well as a variety of specialized computer and satellite services, to individuals, home offices, local businesses and national corporations.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.

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