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Verizon enduring massive worker strike after possibility of mediation fails

Verizon workers in Pennsylvania were among a group of nearly 40,000 workers nationwide who went on strike last week amid failed negotiations to renew a new contract. The strike may be among the largest of its kind, and yet Verizon reportedly prepared well to handle it. Sources say the company trained managers and contractors to take over the work left undone by striking employees, giving it the ability to hold to a harder line in negotiations.

The strike is based on concerns that the company is seeking greater worker contributions to health care benefits, more flexibility in temporary relocation, transfer of jobs overseas and an end to pension increases. These are rather standard issues that would form the basis for worker strikes. Such issues are, by nature, polarizing for companies and their workers. 

Verizon has been unwilling to accommodate the requests of unionized workers, but the company did apparently say that it would be willing to engage in federal mediation to avoid a strike. The Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service apparently consulted with the company to inquire about the possibility, though the unions involved in the dispute have said the inquiry was not authorized by them. In fact, the union has somewhat scoffed at the possibility of mediation, calling it a “distraction” from the problem of “corporate greed.”

Labor disputes can be very difficult to work through, for a variety of reasons. Mediation can be a great tool to address issues in labor disputes, but it isn’t foolproof. Success requires a mediator who is able to bring both sides of a dispute into respectful communication about their respective interests and potential options for a satisfactory resolution. 

Source: Bloomberg, “Verizon Open to Mediation to Avert Strike of 39,000 Workers,” Scott Moritz, April 12, 2016. 

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