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Frontier workers rally ahead of negotiations

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.

He also said the company needs to honor its promises to build the broadband infrastructure in the state.

"Frontier has an obligation to the workers that provide the service to the communities, but they also have a responsibility to these communities as well," Collins said.

"Frontier must keep the promise to deliver high-speed Internet to all communities across West Virginia," he said.

Frontier has already reached agreements with members of two CWA locals as well as members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Dana Waldo, Frontier senior vice president and general manager for West Virginia, said the company was able to reach agreements with those groups and expects the same for the next round of negotiations.

"Frontier provides its employees with very competitive wages and benefits," Waldo said. "Frontier once again will bargain in good faith, just as it has done in recent negotiations that led to contract ratifications in West Virginia with CWA Locals 2276 and 2001 and IBEW Local 317."

He also said the company would continue to invest in improvements to communications service across the state.

"During the past three years, Frontier Communications has invested nearly $300 million to deliver unprecedented improvements and advancements to West Virginia's communications infrastructure," Waldo said. "We remain committed to that task."

With several months to go before the current contract expires, Harris said she was optimistic an agreement that works for both the company and the union members could be reached.

"We always go into these negotiations with an open mind," Harris said. "We're hoping things go very well."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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