Verizon Unions Win Model Paid Leave Policy for Coronavirus—Will Other Unions Demand the Same?

A striking worker holds a sign saying "CWA and IBEW Demand Good Jobs at Verizon" during the 2016 Verizon strike.

CWA and IBEW have negotiated paid leave for Verizon workers who can’t work during the coronavirus outbreak, including those who need to stay home to care for their kids due to school or daycare closures. Photo: CWA District 1

The unions representing 34,000 workers at Verizon have negotiated paid leave for union members who can’t work during the COVID-19 outbreak. Will other unions fight for these benefits to protect members?

Like many health care workers, UPS drivers, and grocery workers, telephone workers are on the job as essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

But the Communications Workers (CWA) and Electrical Workers (IBEW) have negotiated paid leave for Verizon workers who can’t work during the coronavirus outbreak. (Read the Letter of Agreement posted on the CWA website.) The agreement includes:

Paid Leave If Diagnosed with COVID-19: CWA and IBEW members at Verizon diagnosed with COVID-19 will get a paid leave-of-absence of up to 26 weeks at regular hourly pay from the first date of absence until the person is medically cleared to return to work.

Paid Leave If Directed by Doctor to Stay Home: Union members directed by a doctor to stay out of the workplace due to an underlying health condition (their own or a household member's) will get a paid leave of absence up to 8 weeks at the regular hourly rate and up to 18 additional weeks at 60 percent pay.

Paid Family Leave for Childcare: CWA and IBEW members who can’t work because they are needed to care for a child whose school or daycare has been closed due to COVID-19 will be offered a paid leave of absence of up to 8 weeks at the regular hourly rate and up to 18 additional weeks at 60 percent pay.

Paid Family Medical Leave: Union members who can’t work because they are needed to care for a person medically diagnosed with COVID-19 who is unable to provide self-care will be offered a paid leave of absence of up to 8 weeks at the regular hourly rate and up to 18 additional weeks at 60 percent pay.

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Other unions should be demanding the same benefits from employers. Unfortunately, in many cases they’re not. As Teamsters for a Democratic Union points out, “The paid leave won by the union at Verizon surpasses anything even raised by our International Union for Teamsters working in parcel, trucking, grocery, food, beverage, waste, and other essential frontline services that put workers at risk.” It’ll require pressure from below to get union leaders to fight for these demands to defend workers and the public during this crisis.

Workers without a union in their workplace could also organize around these demands—but winning them often means bold action by workers themselves.

Both union and non-union workers will have to put up a hell of a fight to get employers to agree to a policy similar to the one at Verizon—but CWA and IBEW’s win shows it’s possible.

Stay tuned at labornotes.org (or follow us on Facebook and Twitter) for stories about workers organizing for paid leave, health and safety, and more.

What demands is your union making on your employer in response to the coronavirus? Have you won any agreements? Share contract/MOU language or organizing updates with us. Write to: dan[at]labornotes[dot]org.

This piece was modified slightly from the original article by Teamsters for a Democratic Union.