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Pittsburgh-Area Comcast Techs Win Progressive New Contract

November 10, 2011

A CWA unit of Comcast technicians near Pittsburgh ratified a favorable new contract Tuesday, the latest victory for workers who time and time again have shown the anti-union cable giant that their solidarity is unbreakable.

Less than 24 hours after negotiations wrapped up, the South Hills unit of CWA Local 13000 voted to ratify the three-year contract by a 6-to-1 margin. It includes annual raises with an extra pay bump for lower-wage workers, a signing bonus, changes in GPS monitoring practices, better procedures for overtime and holidays, and other progress.

Comcast Techs in Pittsburgh

At a contract ratification party Nov. 8, former anti-union agitator Carl Cupp, center, thanked CWA Local 13000 members for fighting Comcast on his behalf. From left in back are Matt Keddie, Mark Onofrey and Sam Rocca.

"We had no givebacks, no concessions," unit President Sam Rocca said, recalling how company negotiators asked Monday what it would take to get a contract that members would ratify. Union negotiators "shot for the moon, and we landed among the stars," he said.

The South Hills unit, one of three CWA units at Comcast near Pittsburgh, has a long history of resolve. It took them five years and four elections to get their first contract in 1999, and in the years since, the company has routinely tried to get South Hills and the other units decertified.

Rumors of a South Hills decertification campaign began again this fall, two months before the contract's Nov. 7 expiration. "Sam and his council met it head-on," said Marge Krueger, CWA District 2-13 administrative director and chief negotiator. "They put together a petition with a photograph of their Verizon brothers and sisters rallying in New York, and explained to their co-workers that this is what unity looks like."

Before a decert attempt could even get off the ground, 48 of the 58 South Hills members signed the petition, which hung on a union bulletin board. "It sent a strong message," Krueger said. "The company knew they could waste their time, but ultimately we were going to win."

The contract's supporters even included technician Carl Cupp, who, in four decades at Comcast and its predecessors, had never signed a union card. In past years, Comcast rotated him among worksites to sign decertification petitions and vote "no" in representation elections. The company rewarded his loyalty earlier this year by cutting his quality control job and telling him he could leave or go back to work as a service tech, meaning he'd be climbing poles in his late 60s.

CWA went to bat for Cupp, demanding Comcast honor contract language that requires the company to offer employees in his situation a buyout. The union got him 44 weeks of pay, a retiree health and cable package, and other benefits.

At the contract celebration Tuesday night, a humble and grateful Cupp thanked his new friends. Rocca said, "He stood up and said, 'The company did nothing for me. When I needed help, it was the union that helped me out.'"

Contracts for the three Pittsburgh-area Comcast units expire six months apart. The Alle-Kiski unit ratified a contract last May and bargaining for Corliss will begin in spring 2012.