Labor Secretary Tom Perez said Friday that telecom giant Verizon and two unions representing its workers reached a tentative agreement that will end a massive, six-week strike.
In a statement, Perez said the parties had resolved their remaining issues "in principle," but were still hammering out the contract language. Once that is done, the unions -- the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- will submit the contract to membership for ratification.
"This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining," Perez said. "I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement."
Verizon technicians and customer service reps for the company’s wireline phone business first walked off the job in mid-April. By modern U.S. standards, the work stoppage is huge — including some 37,000 workers, stretching from the Northeast through the mid-Atlantic. It is the largest U.S. strike in five years and has begun to hurt business for Verizon, which owns AOL, The Huffington Post's parent company.
The two sides had already resolved questions over pay and benefits for workers, but were hung up on contract language that would enable Verizon to outsource work. The unions were adamantly opposed to giving the company that ability. It isn't clear yet how that issue plays in the tentative agreement.
A spokeswoman for IBEW confirmed that the tentative agreement was reached, but couldn't immediately comment on the contract language.
Lonnie R. Stephenson, IBEW's president, called the deal "mutually beneficial" in a statement, and said leadership would be providing the details to members in the coming days. CWA said that the contract accomplished "our major goals" and that the union would be ending its picket lines.
CWA said the deal with Verizon includes a first contract for a group of Verizon Wireless workers represented by the union. The wireless side of the company is overwhelmingly union-free, so the new contract would offer CWA an important toehold in a growing business for Verizon.
A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on the tentative agreement, saying only that Perez's announcement "speaks for itself."
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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