CWA reaches tentative contract at Dex Media

Communications Workers of America (CWA) reached a tentative agreement covering 1,500 workers at Dex Media Inc., that provides for wage increases, improves job security and maintains fully-paid health care premiums. Portland-based CWA Local 7901 represents 275 Dex members from Southwest Washington to Medford.

CWA represents sales, operations, customer service, graphic artists and other workers at Dex Media. The company was formed by the sale of Qwest Communications’ directory services to two investment firms — The Carlyle Group and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe — for $7.05 billion. It publishes 272 white and yellow pages directories in the 14 states of Qwest territory.

The old contract expired Oct. 15, but negotiators worked several hours past the deadline to reach the three-year deal.

Union members kept up the pressure with rallies and solidarity work days, said Madelyn Elder, president of Local 7901.

Ballots were mailed to bargaining unit members Nov. 5 with a recommendation to pass. Ballots will be counted Nov. 25.

Non-commission workers will see annual wage increases of 3 percent, plus annual “team awards” ranging from a minimum of 1 percent to as much as 3 percent of earnings. The compensation plan covering sales workers was redesigned, with all workers to benefit from increases in the incremental salary structure, the union reported.

Another goal achieved was maintaining fully-paid health care premiums — with benefits to be provided through a point-of-service plan with some increases in co-payments for office visits and other services.

Job security gains include new provisions to restrict all contracting out if any workers are scheduled to lose their jobs through a surplus announcement.

“We’ve never had that clause in the contract before,” Elder said. “That’s a big, big plus.”

There were significant improvements in severance payouts as well. Those who voluntarily leave the company will receive $1,000 per year of service, capped at $15,000, which is $3,000 higher than the previous agreement. Workers who involuntarily leave the payroll receive $2,000 per year of service, with the cap set at the worker’s base annual salary.

“This is a great, great victory,” Elder said. “We are dealing with a company headed by some of the staunchest, anti-union Republican forces in the country, like James A. Baker III and George Bush Sr.,” Elder said. “We kept the pressure on every chance we got. We didn’t back down.”

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