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Strike may affect Tahoe telephone workers

Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports

Staff and wire reports

The Communications Workers of America announced Wednesday its intention to start a four-day strike Friday involving 102,000 union employees of SBC in 13 states.

On Tuesday, CWA gave its final strike notice to SBC Communications Inc., meaning the union’s SBC workers could walk off the job until May 25.

CWA president Morton Bahr said negotiations with the nation’s No. 2 local phone provider had stalled over several issues.

A strike would likely affect phone service in SBC’s 13-state coverage area, which includes California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Connecticut.

An SBC district representative, who serves a region including El Dorado County, said Wednesday the company is not expecting any disruptions in the work flow.

Vanessa Smith told the Tahoe Daily Tribune of a contingency plan put in place since February that would cover the work stoppage, the last one occurring in 1983.

SBC’s plan involves managers who were trained in their departments to handle the workload of 13 union employees out of 100 in El Dorado County.

The San Antonio-based company says it has contingency plans for management employees and retirees to handle key duties in case of a walkout.

“We want to be able to reach a settlement without a strike, but SBC plays a big part in that,” CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson said. “The company has to meet us halfway, and certainly we hope this can still happen.”

Late Tuesday, the union said on its Web site the two sides remained far apart on a number of issues, including health care.

Among key issues, SBC wants employees to pick up more of the cost of health care plans.

CWA members are seeking access to the growing number of jobs in Internet data services.

The union’s rank and file voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize a strike, which would be the first against SBC since the early 1980s. Negotiations started about three months ago to replace the contract, which expired last month.

In 2003, SBC was by far the most profitable of the four so-called “Baby Bell” phone companies, earning $8.5 billion on revenue of $40.8 billion.

CWA is the nation’s largest communications and media union, representing more than 700,000 workers.

– Staff writer Susan Wood contributed to this story


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