CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 100 members of the Communications Workers of America rallied in front of Frontier Communications offices in Charleston on Thursday in a show of solidarity ahead of contract talks.
Negotiations will begin next month on a new contract for the more than 1,600 Frontier union workers across the state.
This is the first time this group of workers will negotiate a contract with Frontier.
Their current contract, which expires Aug. 2, was negotiated with Verizon prior to that company's 2010 sale of West Virginia landline operations to Frontier.
CWA international representative Elaine Harris said union officials wanted to use the rally to raise awareness of the negotiations and show the union was united in its efforts.
Harris said local union officials will start drafting proposals for specific items they would like to see in the new contract over the coming weeks before presenting a formal proposal to company representatives next month.
She said the key concern on workers' minds is the preservation of health care benefits.
"What's at the forefront of every bargaining table these days is how we can work to preserve the health care that's already there that's so vitally important not just to the active members, but the retirees," Harris said.
Also at the rally were representatives from the United Mine Workers and Teamsters' unions, who were there to show support for the communications workers' efforts.
CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney encouraged workers to be informed, involved and prepared during the coming negotiations.
"We're here fighting for West Virginia customers and West Virginia jobs to stay right here in this state," Mooney said.
CWA chief of staff Ron Collins said union members need to keep pressure on the company and elected officials to make sure the company delivers a contract that maintains the standard of living for workers and their families.