SBC, CWA Reach Agreement

The union wins major gains from the phone giant after a four-day walkout

SBC, CWA Reach Agreement
Photo By John Anderson

Telecommunications giant SBC Communications Inc. on May 25 reached a tentative agreement with the Communication Workers of America, the union that represents nearly 100,000 SBC employees in 13 states, hours after the end of the CWA workers' four-day strike. Labor negotiations had dragged on for months before the CWA walkout, designed to bring public attention to the core issues that were stalling the negotiations.

At issue were health care costs – workers wanted to avoid high out-of-pocket expenses – and the outsourcing of jobs in SBC's emerging technologies, like broadband, to India and the Philippines. "SBC is trying to confine union workers to the core telecommunications business, with no access to jobs in new growth areas," reads a CWA newspaper ad that ran in 20 major daily newspapers on May 20, a day before the strike. "Frontline union employees helped build SBC into the nation's most profitable telecommunications company, with profits of over $8 billion a year. We deserve a share of that success."

And now it looks like they'll get it.

The new five-year contract features an across-the-board 2.3% raise each year, and unionized employees will have access to jobs in emerging technologies and will work with SBC to bring home tech-support jobs that have already been outsourced overseas. "This agreement helps ensure that American workers and their communities benefit from the promise of new information technology jobs," CWA President Morton Bahr said in a press release. Moreover, the San Antonio-based telecom company has agreed both to forswear layoffs for the life of the contract and to rehire hundreds of workers recently laid off from SBC Southwest and SBC Midwest (the former Southwestern Bell and Ameritech divisions).

SBC will also continue to cover all costs for the employee health plans, and while workers will have to cover increases in co-payments for prescription drugs and emergency care, SBC has agreed to offer current employees and recent retirees cash bonuses of up to $2,500 to offset the higher costs. "SBC now has a labor agreement that provides us greater control over our cost structure and flexibility to meet our competitive challenges, while continuing to provide the outstanding wages and benefits that are hallmarks of this company," SBC Chairman and CEO Edward E. Whitacre Jr. said in a press release. "It is time now for the SBC family to come together quickly and rededicate ourselves to being the best communications company we can be."

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SBC Communications, Communication Workers of America, CWA, strike, labor negotiations

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