|CWA Local 7800|
Hi everyone as you all know the District held a meeting in Denver this weekend with all the Local Presidents to discuss bargaining and mobilization as we continue to bargain with CenturyLink. I know that many folks are disappointed that we do not have a contract and from the updates that we see the end point is nowhere in the visible future. Committee will continue to work and discuss the contract but have also made a decision if no contract is reached by the 19th then they will recess until January 7th. We discussed several of the proposals on the table at length and most of that has been put out in the bargaining reports so today I will not get into specific proposals as those probably will be changing as time goes on.
I did want to share with you all what I can from the meeting in a written format. As far as future plans and the direction the bargaining team will be taking we will not be putting that in writing in any format and if we discuss in person again what will be shared will be limited. I would prefer folks come to the January membership meeting and will be a bit more forthcoming then I will be here and understand the difficulty in having one on one conversations with everyone in the bargained for group. My concern is that as we all know as information is passed from one person to the next the information almost always gets changed in one way or another. I do feel strongly though that I do need to report something to the membership as I know many are anxious to hear what happened as I was to attend and hear firsthand and to offer input and feedback from our members here.
Patience is a word we should get used to. We can look at recent negotiations that took place with Verizon and AT&T as examples it is unfortunate that both of those contracts took a long time to negotiate and settle. Verizon went on strike for 2 weeks and then went back to work and it still took a year to get a contract passed. AT&T while in some districts across the country has been able to pass a contract in others they are still negotiating again a year later. At CenturyLink is it possible we could be discussing the contract next October? It is, we hope not and the bargaining team doesn’t think it will take that long but at the same time no one is willing to speculate a time frame either. One reason is as of today both sides are still very far apart. Our bargaining team has also indicated that the company still has proposals that have not been put on the table and they have no idea what those will look like and or if the company has proposals that are not expected. One other piece of significance is that the company is also getting a lot of outside pressure to get this resolved from the markets. For anyone watching if you chart the company stock for the last 3 months is that the price is continuing to decline for those in the know they attribute it to the uncertainty of the negotiations. But I do feel pretty sure that the stockholders may be asking questions if the stock continues in a downward direction. Obviously it goes up and down on a daily basis but it is trending downward and somewhat significantly in the 90 day range.
The bargaining team and some have been doing this type of work for decades stated they had never seen a company bargaining team approach bargaining the way this company is choosing to do so. As an example typically when renegotiating you would start at or near the beginning and work your way through, here the company has chosen to start in the middle of the contract and work to both directions. We discussed what has been learned in this process about the new company and its management team and basically it has become very clear that the company does not understand our culture they don’t understand many of our expected customs or practices in either our union work or our company work for that matter. Many non represented folks who have been around for a long time are telling us they support us and are not happy with what CenturyLink is trying to accomplish through bargaining I have personal knowledge of that as well but it seems that is being expressed all across the district.
We also understand that the company had a plan for bargaining as well and they had some expectations. Quite simply they expected us to go on strike on the 7th of October and they would simply starve us to death on the picket line… (Nice Huh) I should put a little disclaimer here that those are probably not the exact words but the sentiment is the same. The company had a contingency plan for us walking on the 7th. We all know they had contractors in the wings they were ready for us to walk. For those who have asked why we didn’t maybe that played a role in the decision. The other thing we know and again from personal experience is that the company does not like when the members mobilize. It makes them nervous and they try to shut us down a lot as many of you have witnessed.
The Bargaining Team made it clear to us that they do have benchmarks in their minds of when certain decisions can and will be made. There will be many difficult decisions to make in the coming negotiations and we can’t expect 100% gain everywhere some decisions will have a negative effect to some or all of the membership. The question is at the end of the day do we gain a more substantial contract with better benefits and protections then what we have now overall. They made it clear to us that they have a plan to get this contract done. They made it clear to us that they have contengentcies based on events at the table. They made it clear while nothing the company does moving forward will surprise them that certainly doesn’t mean they expect the company to go in any particular direction or even if the company will make reasonable decisions. The Bargaining Team made it very clear to us that we have all the resources we need to be successful.
If we consider resources in a tool perspective the tools are wide ranging and can be used publicly and privately. Some tools require a lot of people to operate while others can be used with just a few folks. Some tools are very expensive and we have monies allocated while other tools can cost virtually nothing and yield the best results. Mobilizations we do are an example of the latter and we will continue to do them. Tomorrow (12-11-12) we will have a mobilization and we really would like everyone to participate we will be handing out information in the morning as we normally do on every Tuesday. We may have one next week but we just may wait until the team returns in January and pick up again where we left off we have not a made a decision on that right now but it could change depending on how the week plays out.
The bottom line here is that we need you all to stay engaged, continue to participate, and trust the bargaining team knows what they are doing and the district is making appropriate decisions. Many who know me understand that sometimes I don’t always agree with the District and that I will not hesitate to speak my mind when it’s important to the members of this local. I will assure you after the weekend I feel 100% the Team and the District are making appropriate decisions, they are working a plan and they are working for the benefit of the entire membership. I support them 100% and ask that you trust me in that decision and trust them. The question remains how long can we keep doing this? The answer is simple, “One Day Longer” then them.
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