Randy Yohe Published

Informational Pickets Go Statewide As CWA, Frontier Contract Negotiations Continue 

Cell phone or mobile service tower in forested area of West Virginia providing broadband service.steheap/Adobe Stock

The picket lines at Frontier offices from Martinsburg to Huntington are informational pickets. CWA Local 2001 President J.D. Thompson said reasons for the pickets were threefold.

“We’re letting the company know, hey, we’re still here and we’re not going away because we want a fair contract,” Thompson said. “It’s, of course, informational for the public, letting everybody know that we’re fighting right now. And last, it’s showing support for our bargaining committee that they’ve been putting in some long, hard days negotiating.”

About 1,400 Communications Workers of America union members, largely from West Virginia, are currently working without a contract. The contract extension reached during bargaining expired last Saturday. A status quo on work, wages and benefits is in effect while negotiations continue on a new agreement. 

When the original contract between the CWA and Frontier Communications expired on Aug. 6, the union said that major bargaining issues included job security provisions that kept jobs local and limited the use of subcontractors in expanding broadband in West Virginia.

A Frontier spokesperson said on Tuesday that job security concerns and what was termed “build exclusivity,” meaning that jobs from the $1.2 billion in broadband money would be only given to union workers, are not on the negotiating table, and “union employees will do the lion’s share of the new broadband connectivity work.” 

Frontier issued the following statement:

“We have been bargaining in good faith with CWA since June and are working with urgency to reach an agreement that continues to provide our employees with some of the best jobs in West Virginia. We provide a critical service to the state and will continue to rely heavily on our union employees to build out our high-speed, fiber infrastructure. We will continue to meet with CWA bargaining officials to come to an agreement that is good for our employees, our customers and our company.”

Both sides say medical benefits for active and retired employees remain in contention.

Thompson said he is not part of the bargaining team and not sure just where issues stand, but he remains concerned over the broadband work Frontier may issue to subcontractors.   

“We want our CWA members to be the ones that are actually installing and maintaining the network indefinitely with the infrastructure bill that was passed,” Thompson said.

The CWA Local 2001 website noted on Sunday, Aug. 20 that “The Committees made significant progress on Work at Home, progress on Jobs, continued progress on Active Benefits and are still actively engaged in bargaining on Wages and Retiree Benefits.”

The Communications Workers of America issued the following statement on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023:

“CWA members at Frontier care deeply about the communities they serve, and will continue to work without a contract as long as we see meaningful progress at the bargaining table towards the contract we have earned and deserve. The contract between CWA and Frontier Communications has expired as of 11:59 pm, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. Because there has been progress made in bargaining, we have agreed to continue to report to work and maintain the status quo while negotiations continue. More than ever, our customers rely on us to deliver quality services and solve problems to connect them to telehealth appointments, work-at-home capabilities and even online learning opportunities. A union contract protects both the rights of dedicated workers on the job, and the quality service that our customers rely on. As talks continue, we will evaluate the progress on a regular basis and take necessary action if negotiations are not productive.”