Bell Atlantic Workers Picket
CHELSEA J. CARTER
Aug. 10, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ Striking Bell Atlantic workers marched in picket lines today, the first business day of the walkout against the telephone company that stretches from Maine to Virginia.
``No Contract, No Peace,'' read signs carried by some pickets in Charleston, W.Va. At a picket line in New York, bottles and an egg were thrown.
Company and union officials continued meeting this afternoon in efforts to end their stalemate over a three-year contract for the Communications Workers of America, whose old contract for 73,000 workers expired Sunday.
Company officials were hopeful a deal could be worked out soon, said company spokesman Eric Rabe.
``We don't think that there's much more to do,'' Rabe said.
Earlier, company spokesman Steve Marcus said the company included a significant boost in benefits and wages, ``and it continues the best job security provisions in the country.''
Passing motorists honked and waved as several hundred CWA members rallied outside two Bell Atlantic offices in Charleston, W.Va.
``We have a lot of friends,'' said Jeanette Bowen, a 28-year Bell Atlantic employee in Charleston.
Eight pickets were detained by police this morning outside a Bell Atlantic facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The striking workers were accused of blocking trucks leaving the building.
Bell Atlantic serves 27 million customers in 13 Eastern states and Washington, D.C., with telecommunications, wireless communications, cable and digital TV and Internet and data services. The company, which recently announced plans to merge with GTE Corp., is a combination of the original Bell Atlantic and Nynex, two of the regional phone companies, or Baby Bells, spun off from AT&T in 1984.
The strike did not dramatically affect telephone service because of automation. But a call to New York directory assistance was answered by the recorded message: ``Due to a work stoppage, we are unable to provide an operator at this time.'' A call to a New Jersey operator, however, was answered almost instantly.
The company's 23,000 managers are working 12-hour shifts to fill in for the striking workers, Bell Atlantic spokesman David Frail said.
About 200 boisterous striking workers marched this morning outside a Bell Atlantic garage in lower Manhattan, carrying signs that read ``CWA fighting to keep jobs in New York.'' Bottles were thrown and at least one egg was thrown at a Bell Atlantic truck. Police reported no arrests.
Workers also picketed a Bell Atlantic building in Boston. ``I don't anticipate a long strike. They were so close Saturday,'' said Julie Comperchio, president of CWA Local 1302. ``I'm pretty optimistic.''
The strike also involved workers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The company also was negotiating with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. Most IBEW members agreed to continue working under their current contract, but said they wouldn't cross CWA picket lines.
The two unions say they are protesting forced overtime and shifting work to nonunion employees.
``I think I'm making a sacrifice now ... but I would like some security with my job,'' said Marlene Goodwin, a phone company employee in Philadelphia for 30 years who walked a picked line on Sunday.
The CWA also is concerned about making sure union workers are represented in new growth areas, such as Internet services, multimedia communications, data networking and long distance, said union president Morton Bahr.
Another Baby Bell, BellSouth Corp., averted a strike by CWA workers with a tentative agreement on a deal just before Sunday's strike deadline. The contract includes increased wages and pensions, creation of a board to examine bonuses for employees, rules for union jobs and training that would let workers shift to better positions.