CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — About 1,400 union members at Frontier Communications have gone on strike in West Virginia and parts of Virginia after a contract extension expired.
The Communications Workers of America says its members in District 2-13 went on strike early Sunday. Negotiations between the union and company have been ongoing since last May and a contract extension expired Saturday.
The strike involves Frontier workers throughout West Virginia and in Ashburn, Virginia.
"We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities," said Ed Mooney, Vice President of CWA District 2-13. "Going on strike is never easy. It's a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far — we know it and Frontier's customers know it. It's time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia."
According to Communications Workers of America, analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission shows that complaints have increased steadily over the past three years, rising 69% from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017. They say since Frontier acquired Verizon's landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has cut over 500 good, middle-class jobs in the state.
"We're taking a stand," said Johnny Bailey, President of CWA Local 2226 in Bluefield, WV. "Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we're back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests."
Frontier Midwest Region Senior Vice President Greg Stephens says the company would like to continue contract negotiations "and resolve this matter quickly."
In response to the strike, Frontier told WHSV's sister station, WSAZ, they have activated their strike contingency plan. Members of the management team, outside contractors and representatives from other Frontier organizations will continue to provide West Virginia customers with service. They say they are working to minimize disruptions to customer service.
The statement from Frontier reads, "Frontier is one of West Virginia's best employers. Average annual wages for the Company's union employees exceed $64,500, and more than half of all union employees earn more than $75,000 per year. For comprehensive family medical coverage, most employees pay less than $150 per month for family coverage, with no annual deductible and low co-pays. Including employee benefits, the Company's average employee cost per CWA member is more than $100,000."
Several picket locations have been set all across West Virginia.