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Date: Sat, 26 Sep 98 11:19:53 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: USA: Connecticut Phone Workers Break Two-Tier Wage System
Article: 44011
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.16017.19980927181615@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 124.0 **/
** Topic: USA: Connecticut Phone Workers Break Two-Tier Wage System **
** Written 3:40 PM Sep 25, 1998 by labornet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 10:21 AM Sep 25, 1998 by scott@rednet.org in labr.newsline */
/* ---------- Connecticut: Telephone workers brea ---------- */

Connecticut: Telephone workers break two-tier wage

By Joelle Fishman, People's Weekly World, 26 September 1998

NEW HAVEN - The two-tier wage system was toppled by 6,300 telephone workers in Connecticut, as their militant and creative strike tactics won a new contract after less than a month on strike against Southern New England Telecommunications (SNET), which provides service throughout Connecticut.

With the ink still wet on the agreement, the company tried to deprive thousands of workers of their first day's work (and pay). The union's quick response, threatening to resume the strike, caused SNET to back down. The incident showed that winning the contract is only the first step and the union has scheduled a contract enforcement strategy session Oct. 17 to develop ideas about how we can continue to mobilize and build our new union, day to day on the job.

The settlement came on the eve of a nation-wide job action by 100,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at the Texas-based SBC Communications giant. SBC is in the process of merging with SNET.

Days earlier, 1,200 strikers marched through the streets of New Haven, wearing red T-shirts, chanting and shutting down traffic outside SNET headquarters. Strikers carried banners comparing the $7-an-hour wage paid SNET phone operators with the $948,269 annual income of CEO Dan Miglio.

Jeff Rechenbach, chief negotiator for SBC workers, pledged full support from every local union around the globe. We'll stay here until SNET learns that when they picked on you, they picked on all telephone workers throughout the United States, he said.

The New Haven march followed an earlier march on the State Capitol in Hartford, where Republican Gov. John Rowland declined to meet with the strikers. We'll remember in November, union speakers pledged to loud applause.

SNET workers, members of the independent Connecticut Union of Telephone Workers, had voted in July to affiliate with the CWA and the AFL-CIO. While the new relationship caused some confusion, the combination of local leadership and national experience gave a clear direction to the struggle for justice on the job.

The strategy and tactics of the strike, borrowed from the CWA's successful strike against NYNEX nine years ago, was key to the eventual victory.

The union utilized a web page, newsletters and weekly mass rallies to maintain involvement and unity. In addition, local unions and community supporters joined picket lines, donated food and contributed to the strike fund, all meant to make it possible for the strikers to stay out as long as necessary.

When strikers received their last paycheck, they immediately became eligible for picket benefits, food vouchers and other aid. These solidarity actions insured that no one was put in financial jeopardy and sent a strong message to the company.

At the time of contract ratification, labor and community coalition meetings had been scheduled around the state. A

massive consumer campaign to switch to other carriers was about to be launched.

The contract was ratified at a meeting at the Hartford Civic Center, ending a two-tier system for wages and benefits and moving pay at SNET closer to the rest of the industry.