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Union Scorns Bell Atlantic Proposal; Picket Line Accident Injures Man In NY

August 15, 1989

Undated (AP) _ A union official Monday blasted a proposal by one of four strikebound regional telephone companies, while a company car belonging to another ″Baby Bell″ was burned and a man was critically injured in a picket line accident.

Nearly 200,000 operators, clerks, installers and other workers stayed off the job in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Strikes began the weekend of Aug. 5-6 at New York-based NYNEX, Philadelphia-based Bell Atlantic and San Francisco-based Pacific Telesis. On Sunday, workers at Chicago-based Ameritech joined them.

Workers at the other three so-called Baby Bell companies have reached tentative settlements with the two big telephone unions, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

They are Atlanta-based BellSouth, which settled Aug. 5, and Denver-based US West and St. Louis based Southwestern Bell, which both reached settlements Sunday.

Officials at the four struck companies said customers were experiencing some delays in directory assistance, operator-assisted calls and repair services, but management employees were being trained to take up part of the slack.

″Four thousand people can’t do the job of 12,800, but they’re doing the best they can,″ said Eileen Dixon, a spokeswoman for Michigan Bell, an Ameritech subsidiary.

Libraries have reported a high demand from people wanting telephone numbers but unable to reach a directory assistance operator.

″One day last week I had the Manhattan white pages and the Philadelphia white pages out and didn’t bother reshelfing them between calls,″ Terry Tilden of the State Library in Harrisburg, Pa., said Monday.

Representatives of Bell Atlantic and striking workers met for about an hour Monday afternoon, and the company presented a revised proposal, said Kenneth Pitt, a company spokesman. The company was awaiting a union response, he said.

″We’ve been making progress, obviously,″ Pitt said. ″We’d like our people back and every day we hope it’s the last day of the strike.″

But CWA spokesman Jim Willer said the company’s health-insurance proposal was ″unacceptable.″ According to Willer, the company continued to demand that workers pay deductibles in addition to half the premiums for relatives other than spouses and children. The union refuses to pay any deductibles or premiums.

Willer said the company agreed to give an advisory committee on health benefits more power, but said, ″This obvious superficial attempt to settle the contract is yet another in a long list of insults.″

The issue of who pays for health insurance has been a key issue in several of the negotiations, as management has tried to shift some of the costs onto the workers.

A spokesman for Pacific Bell, a subsidiary of Pacific Telesis, said talks were planned later in the day. But no talks were scheduled at NYNEX or at the strikebound subsidiaries of Ameritech.

In the East, there were several incidents of trouble linked or possibly linked to the strike:

- A NYNEX picket, Edward G. Horgan, 34, was hospitalized in critical condition after he fell off a car that had brushed him on a picket line in the New York suburb of Mount Pleasant, police said.

Police Chief Paul Oliva said that an 18-year-old NYNEX employee was driving on the service road of a NYNEX facility when her car brushed Horgan, after he and several other pickets gathered around her car and yelled at her.

Horgan mounted the hood of the slowly moving car and pounded on the windshield, but slid off and hit his head on the pavement, according to the police account. The union disputed that, saying he fell onto the hood when the young woman accelerated. No charges were filed.

New York Telephone Co. President Fred Salerno appealed for calm after the accident and said he had asked the union to resume negotiations ″to try and calm the waters.″

- In Elmont, N.Y., police said a NYNEX car was burned shortly after midnight in a company parking lot. The fire, which police described as suspicious, also caused minor damage to a building nearby.

- Most of West Virginia was without long distance service for about eight hours beginning late Sunday when an aerial cable was damaged. Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone spokeswoman Roberta Fowlkes said vandalism couldn’t be ruled out as the cause of the outage, which affected 600,000 customers. Lines also were damaged in the Sissonville area, affecting local service.

Scattered incidents of strike-related vandalism were reported last week, including several incidents of damaged lines in New Jersey. Peter Ventimiglia, a spokesman for New Jersey Bell, said Monday that the company had counted more than 175 incidents of vandalism or sabotage last week, but no new incidents had been reported Sunday night or Monday morning.

The ″Baby Bell″ companies were formed in 1984 by the court-ordered breakup of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. AT&T reached union contracts earlier this year and was not directly affected by the strike.

The Ameritech walkout affected 35,000 CWA members and 12.3 million customers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Ameritech subsidiaries also employ 13,500 IBEW members, most of them in Illinois. That union advised members to follow their own consciences when deciding whether to work or honor CWA picket lines; it appeared Monday that most were going to work.

Pacific Telesis has 42,000 CWA members and 2,500 IBEW members on strike. It sewrves northern Nevada and all of California.

Bell Atlantic has 41,000 CWA workers and 11,500 IBEW members and provides service in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

NYNEX has 40,000 CWA workers and 20,000 IBEW members and provides service in all or part of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.

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