- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2000

The strike against Verizon Communications, the nation's largest local phone company, dragged on yesterday despite a settlement with about 50,000 workers in the Northeast.

Negotiators with Verizon and the Communications Workers of America remained at the table yesterday, unable to resolve issues concerning 37,000 striking workers in the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

"We're still trying to work out some remaining elements of our important issues," including mandatory overtime and pensions, said CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson.

Verizon signed an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the CWA for workers in New England, New York and New Jersey Sunday night.

"Quite frankly, we're puzzled by CWA's apprehension about accepting the proposal that we have" because it resembles proposals in other regions, said Harry Mitchell, a spokesman for Verizon.

But Ms. Johnson said workers in various areas had different needs.

"This really stems from the time there were two companies, so there really are two contracts," she said. Bell Atlantic bought Nynex which served the New York area in 1997, then purchased GTE Corp. to form Verizon on June 30.

Both sides were uncertain when they would be able to reach a settlement, but hoped the remaining strikers could go back to work soon.

About 50,000 workers in New York and New England returned to work with a three-year contract after the CWA and IBEW settled late Sunday with Verizon. Those employees will get a 12 percent pay raise over three years, improved benefits and job security, and 100 stock options this year, Verizon said.

The company also agreed to make it easier for some of its wireless unit's 30,000 employees to organize. Only 50 of the workers already belong to a union.

The workers may vote for a union by signing a card rather than the more time-consuming process of a secret ballot, the company agreed. It reserved the right to talk to employees about advantages and disadvantages of union membership. Verizon Wireless is a nationwide joint venture with Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.

Shares of New York-based Verizon rose 75 cents to $42.81 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. They have fallen 30 percent this year.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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